MADI ABDO PHOTOGRAPHY

MiddleEastern Food: Project

The Middle East, intended here in its broad sense, including the Arab world, Israel, Turkey and Iran, is a very important region for the economic stability and peace of the world. Many of these countries have some common culinary traditions, probably due mainly to their common ethnicity and culture, although some might have their unique dishes. Despite the fact that the preparation and consumption of food in these countries might be greatly affected by religion, nevertheless, there are a number of dishes that are much appreciated across the ethnic and religious differentiations. For instance, the olive oil is equally highly valued by the three Abrahamic faiths, namely, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Here are some beautiful Middle Eastern food images that might tell people all over the world something about the culture of a region, on which the attention of the world seems focused. The people of the Middle East may have different religious, ethnic and language backgrounds, but, in spite of that, the traditional foods of their various communities may have more in common than one might otherwise have expected. The lack of very big differences between the cuisine habits of the various people of the region might be partly due to the shared common food products of the region.

Here I have captured olives (zaytun), some of which are grinded in a granite pestle, together with some of the spices very popular in the Middle East, such as, green cardamom (hayl), cinnamon sticks(qirfa), ground cumin (kammun) and chilli (filfil har). In the Middle East olives are known as the “sultan of the table” and are highly regarded, since being blessed in the holy books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The side top light illuminates the upper areas of the pestle while leaving the pestle’s shadow visible on the shimmer silver paper on which the items are placed.

This is an image that I have captured showing a dish of semolina couscous mostly served with either meat or vegetable stew. Couscous is a North African stable food that spread to the whole Middle Eastern countries and beyond, possibly with different names and ingredients. For instance, ptitimis toasted pasta shaped like rice or little balls, that outside Israel is known as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous. Ptitim is popular among Israeli children, who eat it plain, or mixed with fried onion and tomato paste. The top light has created the shadow of the dish on the surface on which it is placed, which also reflects the line patterns on one side of the dish. Some under lit kitchen items are placed at the background to raise the interest of the viewers and get them concentrate on the dish.

This is a picture that I have taken of a bowl of grilled prawns served with various spices, which is highly popular in some Middle Eastern countries, especially Egypt. The top light that I have used seems to have allowed me to get a well-defined image of the food, while leaving the shadow of the bowl visible on the below tray. To get the viewers attention focused on the prawn bowl, I have mostly cropped out the other items at the other side of my target.

This is a picture that I have taken of a plate of chicken pasta with olive and onion that is popular in the Mediterranean areas of the Middle East. The colour pattern of the rag on which the plate is placed is beautifully reflected on the plate’s outer surface. The top light source seems strongly illuminating the pasta plate, while the background is left somewhat blurred, to facilitate the viewers attention being concentrated on the pasta plate.

A delicious dish of curry fish popular in the Arabian Gulf with the name of Samak Quwarmah. The strong top light has made possible to beautifully capture the translucent multi-coloured items. To get the attention of the viewer focused on the main dish the other food items at the background are cropped out, showing only a small fraction of them.

This is a plate of falafel balls (ta’miya in Egypt), with lemon that I have captured at close range. Falafel is a ball or patty made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, that are very popular all over the Middle East and is often considered a national dish of Israel. The top light used seems hitting more the balls at the far end than those closer to the camera, which might have made possible to get this varied colour gradations, as well as some shadows.

This is the picture that I have taken of a shawarma, a sandwich-like of wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, beef, or a mixture thereof, which is a fast-food stable across the Middle East, Europe and the Caucasus. Shawarma is generally served inside various types of breads, with salads, tomato and cucumber. I have placed my two pieces of shawarma on lettuceleaves in order to create affinities and contrasts between the lettuces and the breads the meat portions are wrapped with. The background is a bit blurred,unlike the shawarma wraps, which seem well defined and with a lot of texture.

A delicious image of armut tursusu (sweet and sour pears) plate popular in the Middle East, especially Turkey. It is mainly made of large fresh peeled and cut in half vertically pears that are cooked,after adding berries and some spices, in water with cider vinegar and honey.The light hitting the items covered with honey allowed to get this sharp,beautiful and translucent image.

Tea and coffee are very popular drinks all over the Middle East, and in given occasions are served in special ceremonial fashions and in accordance to some established traditions. Here I have captured one of these occasions where tea is served, not on a table, but instead on a floor covered with handmade carpet, with translucent sweets and a candle. The metallic kettle reflects the dim side light, which seems has created better degree of texture. I have chosen a minimum field of depth to get the viewers concentrate their attention on the items.

This is a picture that I have taken of a small plate of Middle Eastern sweet cake made of semolina or farina and soaked in syrup thatin some Arab countries is known as basbousa or hareesa, and in Turkey as revanior ravani. Near the basbousa there are a heavily ornamented cup of traditional mild Middle Eastern coffee (qahwa) and prayer beads that might indicate that basbousa might be appropriately served in certain religious occasions. I have tried to get a small depth of field by focusing on the well- lit front basbousa and the areas closer to it, unlike the background, which is therefore less sharp.

Plates of the delicious Hallab sweets popular in the Middle East place don top of each other so that the top light would get shadowed some areas of the second sweet plate as well as the surface on which they are placed. It seems interesting how the surface on which the sweet plates are standing is beautifully reflecting the shape of the immediate plate and some of its sweet sin different colours. It is also amazing to see the sweets of the bottom plate reflected on the smooth surface below, since everyone would have assumed that,given the plate is bigger than its sweets, it would therefore prevent the image of the sweets reflected on the below surface.

This is the picture that I have taken of a chocolate ice cream, which is very popular in some Middle Eastern countries, like Lebanon. The ice cream is inside a transparent red coloured glass, placed on a stand that has some ornamental patterns designed with the use of liquid chocolate. The top light hitting the ice cream seems to have accentuated the red colour of the glass.

Here I have captured a plate full of baklava, a rich sweet made of various layers of filo pastry and filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. Baklava is popular in the kitchens of many countries of the formerly Ottoman Empire, with names and flavours that may change from one area to another. I have tried to get a small depth of field to concentrate on the front areas of the baklava plate, thus leaving the back sections as well as the background relatively less focused and less sharp.

Delicious plates of tiramisu cakes that are popular in Lebanon and served in special occasions, such as, weddings and birthday parties. The top light that strongly hits the cake layers allowed to get the picture of the front plate of cake more sharp and with better textures, unlike the plate at the back, which is outcropped in order to get the attention of the viewer concentrate on the target. The fork near the cake layers seems reflecting the above light.

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