Tag Archives: middle east

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.


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.


  • 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


  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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Filed under Caravan Serai, Middle East, Vendors

Vendor of the Month: Melitour


Melitour is a family business run by Meli and her daughter Asli, offering private and group tours that combine sightseeing and trekking with cultural education. Most of her tours feature her homeland of Turkey, but she also coordinates travel opportunities throughout Central Asia, Mongolia, China and the Arab World.

turkey 3


Meli has spent 39 years working in guided cultural tours, her experience and efforts have culminated in some incredible, authentic and exciting tours. Her genuine, gracious, and erudite guides are selected for their years of experience and all possess deep appreciation for their country. And there’s a bonus: tips, excursions and bathroom entrance fees are all-inclusive!

turkey 1


Meli goes an extra mile making sure her guests are welcome and well-educated. She helps you understand modern Turkey, its unique blend of old world tradition and up-to-date values, and is well-versed in Anatolian history, Islam, Sufism and Turkish cuisine. If nothing else, her clients’ feedback are praise enough: “If you want to be a traveler, and not just a tourist. If you want to broaden your knowledge and understanding of an ancient people and their fantastic history” (Janice B., CA). She has also worked with Rick Steves on videos in Turkey, and comes annually to the USA and Canada to conduct presentations on her tours.

turkey 4


She also offers special interest tours: past themes have included pottery and tiles, cruises, viewing 2006’s solar eclipse in Turkey, riding the Black Train, and yachting on the Turkish Riviera and the Greek islands.

For some firsthand accounts of a Melitour, check out: http://ltburgess.tripod.com/

Willamette International Travel is proud to have been working with Meli for years now. Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

turkey 2





Meli also holds cooking classes and dinners on her farm not far from Ephesus and Kusadasi. Check out one of the farm’s Turkish delights, Karniyarik—split belly eggplant:



1 lb small eggplant, peeled in stripes lengthwise

½ ground meat

2 onions, cubed

½ bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 tomato, petite diced

1 tomato, sliced in half moons

Green banana peppers, as many as eggplants

Ground pepper, salt, 2 tbs olive oil, frying oil

1 cup hot water



  1. Put the eggplants in salty water for 10 minutes. Heat vegetable oil in a deep pot, dry the eggplants and fry them.
  2. Drain excessive oil by resting them on a paper towel, then place in an oven dish.
  3. In a deep frying pan, heat olive oil. Add onions and stir for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add ground meat, cook until the meat soaks all the juice it releases.
  5. Add diced tomato, stir until cooked.
  6. Turn off heat, add chopped parsley, salt and pepper.
  7. With the help of two spoons, slit eggplants into two, leaving tops and bottoms attached.
  8. Stuff eggplants with ground meat mixture.
  9. Place a slice of half-moon-shaped tomato and a green pepper on top of each split belly eggplant. Pour 1 cup of hot water on top and bake in a preheated oven at 400F until green peppers are nicely baked.
  10. Serve with rice and yoghurt.



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Filed under Turkey, Vendors, VOTM

Vendor of the Month: Caravan-Serai


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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Filed under Vendors, VOTM