Kunafa, food and love: on Egyptianess in Qatar
Mari Norbakk (University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
Using the pastry kunafa as an image this paper explores love, longing and family amongst Egyptian expats in Qatar. Food here functions as symbols of Egyptianness, but also displays the social connections across borders that make men full social persons.
Paper long abstract:
A box of kunafa is brought out of a car and put gently into my hand, it is to be carried to Qatar as a gift for Mostafa from his family in Cairo. Kunafa is a dessert made up of many, many thin threads of crispy pastry which are then mixed with cream and fruits, or wrapped around nuts and spices, or layered on top of cream and cheese, drizzled with syrup. The thin strands of pastry, infinitely delicate, make a picture of the type of loving connectivity gifts of food from home draw across the Middle East. Mostafa lives alone in Qatar to work and earn, hopefully creating a future where he can build a family. His mother misses him dearly and calls him several times every day just to hear his voice. He laughs at her, and says "Why do you call again Mama, I have no news yet?", but as he hangs up he worries about her, about his father, and his siblings back in Cairo. Gifts of food are both a way to express love and longing, but also, as they are passed on to friends as special treats, they place persons into networks making them whole, as sons, fathers, brothers - embedded social persons. Using Kunafa-strands as an image, this paper traces the connections Kamal, and other Egyptian expats in Qatar have to home, and how sharing foods from home is a way in which he expresses his Egyptianness.
Piecing life together in impermanent landscapes