Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cretan Hospitality

Is there anywhere in the world that does not harbour religious hatred?
A Roman Catholic priest in Zanzibar has received treatment in hospital after attackers threw acid at him on a street in the island's capital. Police say the
elderly priest was attacked as he was leaving an internet cafe in the island's old town.
It follows a similar attack on two young British women there last month.
Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians have been on the increase in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania.
"He sustained burns in his face and shoulders. The acid burnt through his shirt," a Zanzibar police spokesman told Reuters.
Tanzanian police say they are searching for witnesses to the attack which occurred in the old part of Zanzibar City, Stone Town.
Tourism is a key source of revenue, with some 200,000 visitors to Zanzibar last year
It is the latest in a series of assaults on religious figures in the country and the fifth acid attack since November, when a Muslim cleric was hospitalized with acid burns. (Tit for tat? An eye for an eye?)
In a sign of further tension, a Catholic priest was shot dead in February.
The attack on the British girls in August occurred in the same part of Stone Town.
Zanzibar's President Ali Mohammed Shein said the assault had "brought chaos and confusion to our country and outside".
Zanzibari officials have offered a £4,000 ($6,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
A popular tourist destination, the acid attacks came as a shock to many residents of Zanzibar who say attacks on foreign travellers are rare.
Police say no suspects have been arrested over the attack on the priest.
“Welcome Maldives – The sunny side of life.” That is the headline on Google of the official Maldives Tourist Board and the islands are evidently a popular holiday destination. Not quite the sunny side of life for a fifteen year old girl raped by her stepfather and sentenced to a hundred lashes for having sex outside of marriage. Similarly a rape victim in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to two hundred lashes. What kind of a religion is it that creates laws that can so pervert all sense of logic, common sense, and humanitarianism? So if you are raped in a Muslim country get over it. There’s no point in going to the police because that way you may be in even bigger trouble as a judge decides you need a taste of the whip. It is truly disgusting. Fortunately for the Maldives girl there was such a universal outcry that the sentence was revoked and, as the Maldives also rely on tourism for a great deal of their income perhaps would-be holiday makers might have second thoughts.
Sunday we trotted across the road to our neighbour Aglaia’s house for a lunch party thrown for her grandson Janis who is off to university in Heraklion. Strange to think we have known him since he was four years old. When I say “we trotted” I mean Douglas, myself, and our guest, Vicky. Chris is in London psyching himself up and working hard on preparing “Champagne Charlie.”
There must have been forty or fifty people at Aglaia’s (the Maradakis family is an extended one) seated at two long tables in the courtyard and, as always on an occasion; baptisms, weddings, Easter, the food just kept on coming starting off with traditional pies filled with either feta or spinach, tomato fritters, a delicious potato salad, scented with some kind of sweet herb, I don’t know what, a xoriatiki, that is a village salad consisting of tomatoes, onion, cucumber, peppers, olives, topped with feta and drizzled with a generous helping of olive oil. Sometimes the cheese used in a xoriatiki is misithra, more of a cream cheese than feta. Snails arrived next, one lot cooked in oil and another in a buckwheat sauce. I’ve always resisted having a go at snails but decided for the first time to try them. As far as I am concerned it is like eating rubber flavoured with whatever they are cooked in so I don’t think I will bother again although here they are a great favourite. Douglas and Vicky ate them with obvious relish but the one was enough for me. The snails were followed by sausages, roast lamb, roast pork and roast chicken and a pilafi. Now pilafi is quite simply rice cooked in lamb drippings and with lemon juice it is one of my favourite foods. Consequently I ate far too much of it (no self-control you see but it was delicious)
Finally desert: half a dozen or more different types of cakes and chocolate confections, ice cream and something one has only at this time of the year after the grapes have been harvested, a grape jelly called moustafaria. At least I think it’s called that, something like it anyway.
As you can imagine no one wanted anything more to eat that day. I left about four o’clock and the others half an hour or so later. Seven thirty in the evening we could still hear the party going on. It was great for Vicky to experience traditional Cretan hospitality.

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