I had staggered home from the opening night of an art exhibition in Aleppo with Khalid Khalifa (the famous Syrian author), we had eaten in a beautiful courtyard restaurant, “One day I will have a place like this to call my home”, “And I will invite you Sean my friend… When I have written a best seller that is.” Kahlid is never without a smile, he is a hefty kind of man with big rotund tummy, seemingly always with a pen in one hand and a glass of Arak in the other, “Sean is my drinking buddy in Damascus” he tells a gaggle of Syrians delighted, and impressed, to meet him.
Khalid’s controversial novel ‘In Praise of Hatred‘ about his home town Aleppo is banned here, but, as with many things in Syria, it is available in all good book stores under the counter. In the book Khalid charts how his beautiful home city was ‘lost’ to the Islamists. “You should make a film about the young, simply ask them what they want in life” he says. But it is not so easy, such talk can come with a 3 year prison sentence attached, as locals here can testify.
A good night out in Aleppo is never complete without a bite of the world’s best Falafel so I wave goodnight to Khalid and quickly nip away to indulge myself in the one thing I’ve been dreaming of all night.
Falafel Fahar café is brightly lit as usual, as usual it is full of customers standing around 2 bowls, one containing fresh chillies and the other brimming with fresh mint, I join the men munching on the hot freshly cooked Falafel dressed in the most beautiful Tahina sauce. The skill between each bite is to swap between the fresh mint in one hand and the hot fresh chilli in the other, this is not for the faint-heated but hey, this is without doubt the best food I’ve eaten in Syria since I came here. Forget those beautiful 5 star restaurants with smartly dressed customers politely seated around the fountain in the perfectly adorned courtyard of some grand old mansion – this is physical eating, a real participatory process that leaves me feeling fulfilled in a way that only sex can do. I eat and talk and eat some more, until, completely satisfied, I head off home to my bed, blissfully in love with Falafel Fahar and my very own ever-growing belly.