It doesn’t always have to be basboussa, you know
by et staff
Come Ramadan, there are two great advantages to having in-laws: one, you get an open-ended invitation to iftar, and two, you won’t always be expected to walk in with a gift in return. Although traditions, not to mention common courtesy, mandate that you offer a present at least the first time you’re invited, you can get away with bringing nothing at all on subsequent visits.
But with other family members, friends and acquaintances, it’s a different story, and a guest arriving empty-handed is considered extremely rude. For years it’s been expected that guests bring the helw (dessert, usually Oriental sweets), generally resulting in mountains of more kunafa, basboussa and baklawa than people know what to do with. You can always take a potted plant or a silver knickknack, but try these ideas for alternative gifts that will be more appreciated as you can put them together yourself and which you can still munch on in front of the TV.
Dried fruit platter: Pop over to Carrefour or any other household goods store and pick up a few funky glass platters, going for about LE 20-30 each. The divided ones are best as they can help you arrange yameesh, which you’ll probably have mountains of anyway. Slice apricots, arasia (prunes) and figs, and place a whole blanched almond or any other large nut inside each piece of fruit and make a colorful arrangement. Place a handful of pistachios or salted almonds in the middle of the platter, then cover well with a stretch of clingfilm. You can go to the stationery store to get in it wrapped in colorful linen or chiffon, or you can save time and do it on your own at home.
Fresh fruit basket: Again, all household goods stores stock woven baskets with pretty wrought-iron handles and trim. Fill with a selection of fresh fruit and small packages of cashew or pistachio nuts. Wrap the whole thing in clear or colored plastic with a large bow.
Chocolate-dipped fruit and nuts: The kids love these, as do adults, as chocolate is generally banished from any iftar menu. Melt bars of dark, milk and white chocolate separately and use to coat blanched nuts or fresh firm fruit such as bananas or strawberries. Place on baking sheets to cool. Get innovative with what you put them in – try those otherwise tacky brandy glass-shaped vases, tall glass vases or colorful frosted glass bowls. Just remember that these do melt quickly, so keep them in the fridge until just before you leave and make sure you have the AC on while you’re driving.