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Volume 51, Number 6 November/December 2000

In This Issue

November/December 2000
Esfihas to Go
Written and photographed by Larry Luxner

The largest fast-food chain in the world to serve Arab cuisine is not in the Middle East—it's in Brazil, and it may soon be in Mexico and the United States. Its signature dish is the sfiha, an open-faced meat pie popular in Lebanon. At 19 cents apiece, Brazilians are gobbling up what they call esfihas at a rate of 220 million a year.

The Hidden History of Scented Wood
Written by Eric Hansen

Aloeswood has a 3000-year history in the Middle East, China and Japan, and it remains today the world's most expensive incense. A resinous wood from fungus-ridden Aquilaria trees, its name in Arabic is 'ud, which denotes "a piece of wood" but has connotations of "strength," "force" and "intensity"—a good description of its memorable olfactory effect. From the forests of south Asia and through aromatic warehouses in Singapore, the author follows 'ud's multi-billion-dollar trail into the shops, homes and mosques of the Arabian Peninsula.

The Sadana Islands Shipwreck: The Red Sea in Global Trade
Written by Cheryl Ward

In the 1760's, a ship of 900 tons burden struck a coral reef off the Red Sea coast of Egypt and sank. Its voyage north had followed a route that, since earliest times, had combined risk and profit in equally high measure, for the Red Sea linked Arabia, India and East Asia with Egypt, the Mediterranean and Europe. A recent three-season underwater archeological dig has shed new light on one of the most historically critical maritime trade routes.

Stirring Up Beauty
Written by Kerry Abbott
Photographed by David H. Wells

"If you wish to awaken a nation," wrote Palestinian Khalil Sakakini in the early 20th century," stir up and develop its sense of beauty." Today, the architecture of handsome stone-crafted homes, markets and some 300 town and village centers in the West Bank have been documented, and about a dozen of them have been conserved and restored by Riwaq, a Ramallah-based organization that has become Palestine's national architectural conscience.