Post Author: Jacqueline, Arabic Flagship Program student
The Bearded Bakers of New York brought their unique knafeh to Washington D.C. at the beginning of November. Knafeh, a traditional Palestinian dessert, can be described almost as a Middle Eastern creme brulee WITH cheese! Their 20 foot repurposed shipping container houses not only a commercial bakery, but is home to an exotic and lively experience foreign to many Americans. The “baking and shaking” knafeh bakers transformed a parking lot near Union Market into a block party. Hours of singing and dancing to modern and traditional Arabic music transports the visitors to what feels like a closely knit Palestinian community in the Middle East.
Our stomachs brought us to the mobile bakery on a FREEZING Thursday night. To our delight, the knafeh was delicious! Layers of crispy phyllo dough sandwiched sweet cheesy goodness with a custard-like texture. The Bearded Bakers topped their signature version with a rose topping, a new taste to us that truly made the experience unique. While we expected to try the treat and maybe spend about an hour “experiencing” the magical atmosphere the bakers create, we were drawn into the community almost immediately and spent hours meeting new people!
While the new flavors of this experience were a huge draw, the community we met was by far the best part of our outing! Like a holiday block party, people gathered together dancing, especially dabke. At first we felt like outsiders looking in, wary of intruding on what seemed like a powerful cultural moment. But it wasn’t long before we felt the warmth and power of the community, two women quickly pulled us into the dabke circle, taught us the basics and made sure we were having fun for the rest of the night! The warmth and acceptance of this community (that surprisingly was mostly unacquainted), welcomed us even though our only commonality was our taste for the sweet tasty knafeh!