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A-Sham: More than just a food festival in Haifa

Relishing the human spirit with Palestinian chicken, Mediterranean goulash, mint lemonade, and the 'bread of the dead'

This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of the A-Shams Arabic food festival in Downtown Haifa — a new Haifa annual tradition to go with Haifa’s now thriving downtown culinary and cultural scene.

Every day, new restaurants, bars, and artisan shops are popping up, lining the recently renovated pedestrian walkways with a colorful and upbeat vibe that is reflective of a new era. Festivals such as this one urge curious minds to hit the pavement and explore the alleyways and streets that carry a renewed and vibrant atmosphere, now synonymous with our beautiful little Mediterranean port city.

A-Shams is also indicative of the unique quality of co-existence that exists here in the city. In a place where Jews, Christian, Muslims, and Druzes do more than just live side by side, this moment in time commemorates a coming together to celebrate something that we can all get behind — delicious food that has been prepared with love and good will.

“Musakhan”, a dish of pita that has been smothered in olive oil and caramelized onions, and topped with stewed chicken and sumac spice, from Chef Yaqub Hiat of Sharabik Restaurant- served at Venya Bistro Bar. Photo by Tamar Arava.
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“Batata Harrah”, a popular Levant dish comprised of fried cubed potatoes, chickpeas, garlic, coriander, red peppers, and chili, from Chef Ala Musa of El Marsa Bistro-served at Morel Tapas and World of Wine. Photo by Tamar Arava.
Jewish and Arab women from the Sindyanna fair trade cooperative, practicing traditional basket weaving together.
Galilean raw honey, za’atar spice, and artisanal olive oil, being sold by the women of the Sandyanna of Galilee pop-up boutique, a cooperative that supports fair trade products.
“Hubiz Alamuat”, also known as “Bread of the Dead”, is a sweet yellow bread flavored with milk, cardamon, and Nigella seeds. Prepared by Chef Eldad Shmueli of Elhanan Bread Culture, and sold at Maafiat HaBankim, it represents what the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs considered the origin of life.
Housewares inscribed with Arabic text at
Housewares inscribed with Arabic and Hebrew sayings at Futna pop-up boutique.
Food truck in memory of the beloved
Food truck in memory of the beloved Nadima Sabiti-“The Mother of Wadi Nisnas”-the famed Haifa neighborhood that is known for its delicious Arabic treats
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Rice with vermicelli and toasted almonds, topped with a goulash of Mediterranean vegetables, from the “Nadima” food truck.
Homemade mint-lemonade from the "Suidan Naama" food truck
Homemade mint-lemonade, and a lot of love at the “Nadima” food truck
Bags of exotic spices, and tea blends at El Kablawi Spices pop-up shop.

Whether you prefer savory or sweet, or you simply crave connection of the human spirit, Haifa continues to be the place to go to fulfill your appetite. And if your heart is won over through the stomach like mine is, then the city and all of its little wonders is sure not to disappoint. Join us later on in the month for the Holiday of Holidays celebration, or just any time of the year, to experience what I mean.

About the Author
Jessica Halfin is owner and operator of Haifa Street Food Tours, through which she gives culinary tours to tourists in the beautiful coastal city of Haifa. She is an American immigrant to Israel of 10 years, an Israeli-trained baker and gourmet cook, and self-proclaimed “foodie.”
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