This past year I traveled to two conflict zones, Afghanistan and Gaza. When traveling to these areas I tried to prepare myself mentally for the journey ahead.
Going to Afghanistan, it was the possibility of getting kidnapped or becoming a victim of a roadside bomb. In Gaza, it was the unknown as I ventured into a territory that is controlled by Hamas
The one thing I didn’t expect to encounter was ice cream.
Whether it’s a siege or threat from the Taliban, it seems that nothing can stop peoples’ love for a sweet frozen treat.
My first encounter with these conflict cones was in Afghanistan. That night already had a familiarity to it as we were on our way to the carnival. But before our excursion to the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sherif, we stopped at a local ice cream parlor.
Two men with metal buckets were hand churning the ice cream as we entered the road side building. At this hour of the night, it was one of the only lively places on the street. In Dari, ice cream is called “cold milk and that is what it was: sweetened frozen milk.
Because of its popularity we had to wait for an open seat but eventually we found one and ordered our ice cream. We were eventually served this frozen treat, but unlike ice cream I am used to, this one started to melt rapidly. To prevent it from turning into liquid milk, I ate quickly but brain freeze wouldn’t be my only problem.
Unfortunately the next day I woke up extremely sick – maybe I should have prepared myself better against getting sick.
The next stop on the year’s ice cream tour was Gaza. I didn’t expect much of anything because of the blockade. But the tunnels must be working overtime because in downtown Gaza City, I was able to enjoy not just ice cream, but home made ice cream at that.
And just like in Afghanistan, it was the ice cream parlor that was open late. We walked in to Kazem where we met the owner, a Palestinian man who had spent some time in Canada.
He seemed excited to have foreign patrons and eagerly showed us his various flavors. The first was a three-layered treat called hitalia. The bottom layer was made up of milk pudding then a layer of biscuit, topped with chocolate pudding. It was delicious, but according to the owner not his best, as he wasn’t able to get high quality cocoa through the tunnels.
He explained how the blockade has hurt his 50-year-old family business and that he prefers Israel’s high quality products. The next treat, called barad is a Gaza favorite in the summer. This sweet combines bananas, lemons and vanilla and would turn out to be my favorite.
It was amazing to see how the parlor remained busy even though everywhere else was closed. The owner attributed this to the fact that ice cream made everyone happier while living through the siege. He also shared with us his dream of opening a larger store after the siege ends.