“Why are they starring at us?” I asked after trying hard for a while to ignore that. “Because of my long hair and my earrings…” he answered.
He wears, indeed, his hair to his shoulders and has two earrings. We was used to that after having lived the last 15 years in Israel.
We had just parked the car in Nazareth, on a narrow and dirty street, and were heading to the Basilica of the Annunciation. It was my first stop to one of the famous Christian locations in this Holy Land (please apologise my irony, but I find Israel far from being ‘holy’). The ‘Merry Christmas’ sign that crossed the main road at the entrance of the city, the numerous shawarma places along the road, the Arab aspect of the place sure made me see how far away the legends are from reality.
“We could eat here, right?” I asked with great hope, as the place seemed entirely civilised in a dusty and crowded way: old chairs sat on some sort of a terrace, the bar appeared to have survived some kind of wars plus all the tables inside were empty.
But we first visited the church. Then, because we were closer to the main road, we have tried our luck with the regular shawarma places. I have even applied one of my regular techniques, asking the concierge of a hotel (those of you who visited Israel are now laughing, I now…) where is there a decent place for dinner. The long haired guy spoke Hebrew, but even so the situation didn’t improve, only my hunger got stronger.
We went back to that Deewan Al-Saraya Restaurant and entered; it looked all right. I asked if we can eat (it was around 6 o’clock in the afternoon). The big-bellied guy smiled and answered in perfect English: “But of course!” And just like that we have entered a trip to remember.
He was the owner – Abu Ashraf – member of one of the oldest families in Nazareth, in his 60’s now, proud of his legacy. He owned the restaurant; he cooked by himself and had help from his very quiet son (about 20 years old) and charmed us with his wonderful stories.
The place was nicely decorated – some years ago. Now it was a bit crowded, but still tasteful. We loved his food – which he prepared on a small stove behind the bar –, the story about the love of his life – a girl he needed to leave because of family pressure, the atmosphere – something of an old Italian restaurant in a small village (but do not mind me, I’m in love with Italy) –, and the price.
We have left with some flyers (in Italian – nice touch, right?), a very nice story in our head, his big smile wishing us good-bye and good luck. If you get there, tell Abu that you have heard about his place from that couple of Romanians who reunite after 30 years; he will remember us.