Image 1 of 9: Olive oil and Za'atar are a mainstay of the average Arabic diet. You’ll find ninety plus-ers smiling even as they grind their own za'atar. Za'atar of course is the magical mixture of herbs, thyme leaf, sesame seeds, dried sumac - crushed up to nourish your brain with extra smart properties. It's dipping partner olive oil is the elixir of life.
Image 1 of 9: Smokin' on: Elderly smokers are a dime a dozen in the ME and the way these vintage nicotine draggers puff away, a steam engine would get an inferiority complex. Their recipe for a long life? a) Read the ciggie pack health warning. b) Shred the warning. c) Smoke it in an argileh. Lungs as good as gold! Though it could be a mirage.
Image 1 of 9: Keep the camels at arms length: The World Health Organization has pinpointed camels as the source of the deadly MERS virus. You might have the most congenial camel in the world, but it’s best not to break bread with it. Quarantine that desert ship and you'll live a longer life. You can still enjoy that scoop of camel ice-cream!
Image 1 of 9: Procrastinate till inshallah! Sleep on it! Have a deadline? Feel that heartbeat pulsing? Sweat breaking out on your forehead? Relax. Take a deep breath. Procrastinate it till tomorrow. Inshallah, it will be done. You know it always gets done! Don’t sweat the small stuff, or the bigger stuff for that matter. It’s all good! Chillax the Arab-way.
Image 1 of 9: Bright n balmy Mideastern weather: Sunny and sandy climes - Forget the oppressive humidity that makes some spots a sticky swamp, sunlit days as long as a camel’s neck and waking up to your dose of vitamin D both work to curb your depression or SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). This is no sojourn in Scandinavia!
Image 1 of 9: Mother blessings: Super-mom! If Superman was Arab, he would not dare to leave the house without his mother's blessings. In the first hadith, the Prophet highlights the importance of the mother over the father by repeating “your mother” three times and “your father” once in response to a man’s question. Remember, Paradise is at Her feet!
Image 1 of 9: Siestas: A good day-time forty winks is essential...wait, let me take a siesta before I complete this sentence. As I was saying, a good power nap is vital for a long life. A recent study said that a thirty minute nap reduced heart attacks by 37%. So when you see Arabs snoozing mid-day - don’t wake them up! They are being health conscious.
Image 1 of 9: Muslim detox: While many treat the holy month as a binge fest, fasting, if done right, can promote well-being. Moreover, Ramadan for the less work-inclined is an annual pseudo-holiday that workers can enjoy without pay cuts. The reduced work hours, and endless family time is bound to reduce one’s stress levels and feed a longer life! Or is it….
Image 1 of 9: Blame it on the boogie! Scapegoating old grievances and new on the unfriendly neighbor Israel goes a long way. Passing the buck on to the Jewish state may not liberate Palestine but it sure frees Arabs of responsibility. Blaming Israel and its western allies for everything wrong in society can do wonders for stress relief and heart health.
There’s an old Arab saying: When you have your health ,you have the whole world. Luckily, the denizens of Araby are good at putting their Arab money where their mouths are when it comes to living the aphorisms a’plenty on good health - there are many things about the Middle Eastern lifestyle that are conducive to maintaining sound health and indeed longevity. Countries like Qatar, (obesity rates notwithstanding) the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Syria have among the highest life expectancies on the planet, we are told.
This is hardly surprising (if you forget the crazy road rage brought on by lawless driving that puts bloody pressure off the richter scale, the chain smoking norm and the heavy eating and force-feeding culture (have some more!); and even the erratic under-the-table or binge drinking in a society that at best frowns on over-consumption at worst blanket bans it). Yet, with a diet rich in fresh wares and healthy salads, a strong family support system and a stress free attitude that places an undue amount of faith in the powers of tomorrow, there’s lots about things about the Middle Eastern lifestyle and mindset that help keep the Grim Reaper at bay.
Even the fundamentals of majority Muslim Arab-world life promote health and wellbeing - waking up early is known to be a healthy lifestyle choice and you don’t have a choice with the pre-dawn call to prayer!
Here are nine recipes, or tried and tested tricks, evidently adopted by Arabs for a long life and better health - Middle Eastern style!