Middle East

100 Women 2014: Cooking in Iraq, Egypt, Gaza and Yemen

Asia Thabet Rafaan cooking in Yemen Image copyright ASIA THABET
Image caption Asia Thabet Rafaan said some of the vegetables in her local market disappeared after violent protests in Yemen

For many women in the Middle East, making the daily meal is an essential task. But how do they go about their daily life while war rages around them?

As part of the BBC's 100 Women series, mothers in Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and Gaza talked to the BBC as they prepared a typical meal for their family in extraordinary circumstances.


Sanaa, Yemen: Asia Thabet Rafaan and Maha al-Hakimi

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Maha al-Hakimi said she was too scared to go to the market to buy fish after a deadly suicide bomb attack

Maha: Every Thursday, which is my best day, I wake up early to make breakfast for my little family - my husband and my four-year-old son Ayman.

Thursday is always the day we eat fish.

Image copyright Maha El Hakimi
Image caption Maha's market was bombed

But on this day we couldn't go out to buy fresh fish from our favourite market as the news of a deadly suicide bomb in the centre of Sanaa scared us and forced us to stay at home.

A few hours later and despite the difficulties, my husband still tried to buy fish from other markets. He passed different checkpoints and was finally able to buy 1kg of fish.

At 12:30 I started cooking fish with different types of spices: cumin, Adeni pepper, black pepper and olive oil. I also made side dishes like salad and soup.

I had a delicious lunch with my family but we were really sad about the victims of the deadly attack.

Asia: I am a working woman so I have to organise my day to be able to fulfil my family tasks in addition to my job.

My husband and I put aside an exact amount of money each month for the food and the daily expenses.

For our lunch today, I am cooking chicken and pasta with tomato sauce.

Image copyright Asia Thabet
Image caption Asia cooked chicken and pasta with tomato for lunch

In the morning we have breakfast together, then we go out to buy the groceries.

The market is near my house. I find everything I need there. But the market sellers told us it was in the middle of where the violence erupted.

The protests and clashes caused a rise in the tomato prices and some of the vegetables have disappeared.

We have lunch together with our daughter Nirvanaa after I have finished cooking.


Baghdad, Iraq: Samia Kaml Farhan

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Residential areas in Anbar and in areas like this, in Baghdad, have been bombed by Sunni militants such as Islamic State (file pic)

We are a big family. I have two sons and two daughters-in-law to feed in addition to my husband and me.

I am from Ramadi in Anbar, but we had to leave after Islamic State members in the area killed one of my sons, Mohammed, and bombed our homes.

We are now in Baghdad where we rent a house. I take the money for our food from my husband, who gets a pension of $600 (£375) every two months.

Neither my husband nor my elder son Ahmed works.

Lunch costs us around $50 (£31). Today I am cooking chicken, beans and rice.

Ahmed goes and buys the vegetables, chicken and the groceries we need. Then my sons' wives and I cook together.

We finish cooking and wait for my son Abdel-Qader to come back from the school, then we sit together and eat.


Gaza: Jawaher Sokar, in Tell al-Hawa

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jawaher Sokar lives on food aid, canned meat and bread, after her house was destroyed during the war with Israel

I am from Shejaiya, an area that has been destroyed during the war with Israel. Our house has been hit by a rocket. I have six children.

My husband took us to stay in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) shelters in schools in Tell al-Hawa.

We live in a school classroom with another two families in the same room. We separate the classroom into three spaces using bed sheets.

I don't cook and we don't have any income now. My husband doesn't work and we don't receive any aid apart from the canned food, such as meat and sardines, which we receive from the agency.

They come every day at 14:00 local time and give us canned foods and 20 breadstuffs.

We then eat together and store the rest of the food in case any of us gets hungry before they come the next day.

My children don't go to school on a regular basis as it depends on the availability of transport. One day there is a minibus and another there is nothing.


Cairo, Egypt: Rasha Aboelsoud

Image copyright Rasha Aboelsoud
Image caption Rasha Aboelsoud says there is no market in her town so her husband buys food each fortnight from the city

In Egypt, the main meal of the day is lunch. I am married and have two children but I am the one who cooks for the family. I am an engineer but currently I am on maternity leave.

As I write this, I am cooking roast beef and basmati rice.

In my neighbourhood, 15th of May City, there is no market. Instead there are vendors who appear on occasion but I can't depend on them to get my food.

Instead, I ask my husband to go every two weeks to buy the groceries and the meat from one of the big markets nearer to the city centre. He drives there.

I decide what basics we will need and when he returns I divide the groceries and put each meal separately in the freezer.

On the day I just unfreeze what I will cook.

My kids and I have a late breakfast, then I start cooking lunch. Then we wait for Mohamed, my husband, to come back from work so we can have lunch together at 19:00.

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