Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Lights and Lepina

Ramadan began on Saturday. The minarets are all lit up with flags fluttering from them and the sense of community around the mosques is palpable. It is a time for practicing Muslims to show their devotion by observing a fast (no eating or drinking) during daylight hours. This being the summer, it is quite a long day; starting about 5.45am and the evening call to prayer is currently around 8pm. The tradition in Bosnia is for small intimate mosques (not for them the huge mosques of the Middle East) and they play an important role in many communities as the obvious meeting point where everyone gets together for a good old chitchat of an evening. I often see a small bunch of people sitting under the pergola outside the mosque opposite, passing the time of day.

Although Tuzla is well mixed, with several churches and orthodox churches, it is predominantly a Muslim city. You'd not really know it to visit. Alcohol is widely available and women can be (very) scantily dressed. Although it is not unusual to see a woman in a head scarf, it is by no means the norm either. I've always had the impression that Tuzla is Muslim in the way that England is Christian. Although the culture is formed by the religion, the number of actively practicing Muslims seem relatively small. Many people I know go to the mosque only at Bajram (Bosnian equivalent of Eid, at the end of Ramadan) much like many people go to church only at Christmas. Everyone seems to join in with the bits of the culture that they like, including the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats who usually join the party at Bajram.

For us, non Muslims, Ramadan brings with it a real treat. Lepina bread, best described as quite like naan bread but a bit more bready, is widely available, freshly baked, at all the local shops from 3pm (which strikes me as so unfair to those fasting, when they must be at their most hungry everywhere they go they must be able to smell freshly baked bread, which would finish me off in seconds). Lepina is absolutely delicious; best eaten when they are warm, with cream cheese. The boys can't get enough of it. Neither can I. And having eaten lepina all over the country, I can confirm that the best lepina of all comes from Tuzla.

12 comments:

TheMadHouse said...

Hmm - I love bread, any bread (although my waistline doesnt love it as much as I do). My mouth is watering and tummy rumbling at the though of Lepina. I love your blog, as it is a peek on something new and exciting

nappy valley girl said...

Sounds delicious. Must be hell for the people baking the bread, too, if they can't eat anything till evening.

Mud in the City said...

so many people have such a negative view of ramadan, thinking of it as basically masochistic torture for a month. But working in a predominantly Muslim company has let me see the positives, the sense of community and family you describe and the cleansing element many of my colleagues mention.

Not that I coiuld resist the smell of freshly baked bread though!

Gringa-n-Mexico said...

How interesting, and yummy it sounds too. :) I feel like a voyer here in Mexico sometimes during thier various holidays. It's facinating to see the different things humans do, but I don't like to get caught with my mouth hanging open and staring. :P

Potty Mummy said...

That bread sounds great. I've just had a 'falling in love bread' moment myself in Moscow; have you ever tried Kachapuri (sp)?. Yum. There are definitely some things worth moving east for. And I loved the postcard post, by the way - especially the one to your boys...

Half Mum Half Biscuit said...

I love the way your blog is a window into a different world. I love hearing about your 'everyday' moments - because from here they are far from everyday.

Mamma Po said...

Wow, I can almost taste the lepina bread, all the way over here on the Isle of Wight. What a wonderful culinary insight into another culture's traditional foodstuff. Love it. And now that you've thoroughly whetted my tastebuds, do you know of anywhere in the UK that imports (or bakes!) the stuff???

clareybabble said...

Can they not even have a glass of water?
If I smell fresh bread in Tesco I can't resist it!

Tuzlanka said...

We start fasting at 4 am :)
I love your blog, makes my day every time I stop by. There is one unusual thing about lepina, the recipe is always the same but it's most delicious during Ramadan. This goes for all "lepina makers" in BiH.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Madhouse - I love bread too, it is my staple diet. Glad you like my blog, seems so funny to me that you find it new and exciting. Now we've been here for a year it seems very normal and every day. Britain seems quite exciting for me now (especially the thought of a really good glass of chilled chablis...)

NVG - it is soooo good. I can't tell you how good. I was wondering about the chefs the other day, so much of cooking is done by tasting to see whether you need more of x or y - do you think the chefs get dispensation for little tastes whilst they are preparing the evening feasts? I shall have to ask someone.

Mud - how fascinating! I wonder who you work for? A lot of people have talked about how they get into the fasting and really enjoy it (I was going to write a post about it further on into ramadan).

Gringa - I'm long past caring about my mouth hanging open and staring. I figure people do that to me so I'll do it back!

Potty - Eastern Europe. It's the new Tuscany. Or maybe not. But it is fascinating. I can't wait to hear about your adventures in Moscow. I think Bosnia and Russia have some big similarities so I'll be reading your blog with interest.

HMHB - like I said to Madhouse. I've forgotten that these moments are not everyday, because they are for me. It is so lovely for me to be reminded that they are not, and that people like reading about them. Thank you!

MP - I'm not sure, but I shall ask. There is a Bosnian blogger in Dorset - jaradne - she might know...

CB - as I understand it, people fasting drink nothing. But obviously people who are sick, pregnant etc. are exempt. I have to admit my knowledge of Islam is patchy at best, so I should probably find out more.

Tuzlanka - hello! Aren't we having wonderful weather at the moment (sorry uk readers currently under a severe weather warning). Is it really 4am? All I know is that it is way before I'm prepared to get up. The Ramadan lepina has those black things on it that make it so good. I'm glad you like my blog. Please do let me know if I start making mistakes about Bosnia, its culture or Tuzla. Thanks!

enci said...

awww this makes me miss lepinja and cevape!

Anonymous said...

there are a lot of websites where people ask for cevapi lepina and if they can have a recipe for it. Well, that's like asking for a pepsi or coke recipee, cause that's what makes good cevapi and no cevapi maker or restaurant owner will ever give you one...the real cevali lepina one. Just saying there's maybe the way they make it, or put in it that no recipe on any website will ever reveal