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Conscientious Traveler: Caravan-Serai

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This Month: Caravan-Serai

Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler–-our monthly series in which we showcase a fantastic travel organization that supports humanitarian and/or environmental work. This month is all about Caravan-Serai!

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based tour operator that guides clients through the Middle East and North Africa, as well as parts of Iran, Caucasus, Cuba and now even an Arctic Adventure Cruise (ask WIT for deets). They are our go-to affordable experts in the Middle East, and we’re proud to feature them as one of our top recommended vendors. Travel with them include reputable guides, accommodation, most meals, and some flight connections.

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Salaam Culture Museum: A Way to Give Back

So where does the Conscientious Traveler come in? Rita Zawaideh, owner of Caravan-Serai, is also the Founder of Salaam Cultural Museum. The SCM is based out of Seattle and they regularly host a variety of educational exhibits, lectures, publications, seminars and folklore evenings. Stop by if you’re in the Pacific Northwest! (3806 Whitman Ave. N., Seattle 98103)

Through her work running tours and the museum, Rita has always aimed to promote cultural understanding of the Arab World. Over the years, the museum has refocused its efforts as a humanitarian organization. The philanthropic SCM Medical Missions is dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to people affected by disaster within Middle East and North Africa.

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In the past few months, SCM have shipped out blankets and school supplies to Syrian refugees; run clothing drives in partnership with Value Village thrift store; volunteered at refugee camps in Greece. In 2013, SCM opened up the Malki Children’s Center in Amman, educating refugee children ages 6 to 12 who have been traumatized by war.

Their program for Humanitarian Goods involves a team of volunteers who knit warm clothing and make arrangements to ship them to Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Click here to learn more or to donate. You can also volunteer to assist in clothing drives or even as an humanitarian volunteer in Greece.

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Winter Recipes: Shushbarak

Every year, Caravan-Serai shares unique holiday recipes from the Middle East that we love. Here is a special dish from this winter’s roundup.

 

All photos courtesy of Caravan-Serai
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Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Sambousek

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Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Sambousek: Bread pockets filled with zataar or cheese

This is a tasty appetizer and really easy to make in advance. The sambousek can be frozen after they are cooked, then thawed and warmed in the oven before serving. The first part is the basic dough mix, then the cheese and zataar fillings. Also, when we made them at the Petra Kitchen, we cut the dough into circles using wine glasses as the cookie cutters, and placed them on a cookie sheet liberally coated in oil and cooked them, open faced, in the oven. This is just an alternative method, and might be easier if you are making a large batch.

Sambousek Dough

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup warm water
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. pinch of sugar
  5. 2 tsp active dry yeast
  6. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Dissolve the yeast in 4 tsp of warm water and mix until until smooth
  • Sift sugar, salt, flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle
  • Pour yeast water, oil ad remaining warm water into the well in the center of the bowl
  • Mix by hand until smooth
  • Transfer dough to a floured flat surface and knead well by hand
  • Place mixture in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled in size.
  • Return dough to floured surface and knead well again.
  • Divide dough into smaller balls and roll flat into circles and use cutter to cut into smaller circles with the cutter
  • Using a fork, lightly prick the dough on one side

Zataar or Thyme Filling (Sambousek b’zatar)

  1. 6 Tbs crushed dried thyme
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Mix thyme/zatar with oil
  • Place a teaspoon on to each dough circle
  • If you are going to fry these in a frying pan, fold the dough over and seal the edges. If you are going to bake them on an oiled cookie sheet, you can leave them open
  • Fry or bake until lightly browned
  • Serve hot

Cheese Filling (Sambousek b’jibn)

  1. 1/2 cup grated Gruyere or feta cheese
  2. 1 cup grated white cheese
  3. 1 onion finely chopped
  4. 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • Mix stuffing ingredients together and stir well
  • Place a teaspoon of stuffing on each circle
  • If you are going to fry these in a frying pan, fold the dough over and seal the edges. If you are going to bake them on an oiled cookie sheet, you can leave them open
  • Fry or bake until lightly browned
  • Serve hot

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample Tour through Israel would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

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12 Days of Holiday Cooking

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Welcome to the 2014 12 Days of Holiday Cooking from Caravan-Serai Tours!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

 

Lentil Soup ~ Shourbat Abas

1 Cup brown lentils
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 up olive oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
a dash of pepper
croutons for garnish

  • Rinse lentils and drain
  • Place in a saucepan with the water over medium heat and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for half an hour
  • Remove from heat; strain/mash lentil and water mixture through a vegetable strainer
  • Return pureed lentil mixture to pot and cook over medium heat and stir in cumin, salt, and pepper
  • Brown the chopped onion in oil or ghee, then add to the lentil mixture
  • Cook the lentils and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the soup with chopped parsley and croutons

This makes a great first course, is easy, and requires very few ingredients! It’s also great on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample 9-Day Tour of Jordan with Caravan-Serai would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

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Rice Pudding with Caravan-Serai

Happy December! It’s that time of year again: each winter, our friends at Caravan-Serai publish a series of Middle Eastern recipes guaranteed to delight! Try this specialty, Roz bil Halib, or Rice Pudding with Pistachios.

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Most cultures have some form of rice pudding. What makes this particular dish different is the addition of pistachios and rose or orange blossom water. There are two versions here – try them both this holiday season. This is a dish to make in advance.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups milk (low-fat or whole)
  •  1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  •  1 cup short-grain rice
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1/2 cup dried apricot, chopped
  •  1 – 2 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
  •  2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
  •  1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine milk, condensed milk & rice & bring to boil over medium heat.
  2.  Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3.  Add cardamom, vanilla & 2/3 of the apricots, & cook until rice is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in zest & cream, if using it.
  5. Garnish with pistachios & the remaining apricots, & serve warm or cold.

If serving cold, press parchment/baking paper directly onto surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming, & chill at least 3-4 hours (or overnight if desired).

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Arab World such as Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins. Thematic tours are occasionally offered, like the Persian Gardens of Iran, yachting in Turkey, or desert trekking in Morocco. Read more about them here: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/vendor-of-the-month-caravan-serai/

For a great firsthand report from one of our client’s tours to Iran, check out the link: http://www.wittravel.com/reports/Iran_April08.pdf

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Vendor of the Month: Caravan-Serai

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This month we are featuring one of our spectacular escorted tours, Caravan-Serai! This tour company provides travels to destinations in the Arab World such as the popular Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, as well as off-the-radar locations such as Yemen and Algeria. You also have the option of exploring non-Arab countries such as Armenia and Iran.

Caravan-Serai Tours is owned by Rita Zawaideh, born in Jordan and educated and living in Seattle. She is proud of her tours that offer fun, safe, exciting, and educational views of her home region. Their Saudi Arabia tour was once named “Tour of a Lifetime” by National Geographic Traveler Magazine.

Named after the “inns” of the Silk Road, Caravan-Serai Tours is based in Seattle but hosts employees from all over the world whose goal is to unveil the “enigma” surrounding this part of the world. Groups generally run from 10-16 people, allowing for intimate excursions to the wonders and sites this region has to offer. The Arab World has long intrigued the West, with its stunning Islamic architecture, beautiful calligraphy, arabesque patterns and ornate tilework—as well enchanted us with its food: tzatziki, lamb kebab, fresh flat bread. As the birthplace of civilization, this region still retains most of its ancient ruins, timeworn metropolises, and mausoleums.

Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins. Thematic tours are occasionally offered, like the Persian Gardens of Iran, yachting in Turkey, or desert trekking in Morocco.

Caravan-Serai and Willamette Intl Travel work hand in hand to give you a travel experience unlike any other! They will assist you with pre/post trip concerns, prepare travel documents, and coordinate to make your tour hassle-free and delightful.

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to Iran, check out the link: http://www.wittravel.com/reports/Iran_April08.pdf

Willamette International Travel is proud to work with Caravan-Serai Tours! Call us for a booking at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com

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