You might wonder why I’m coming out of obscurity to post for only the second time in these many months. I’m doing it to dispel any myths anyone might have that traveling in Muslim countries is all joyful bliss, without any drawbacks.
While in Ethiopia in 2005, we met a Japanese couple that had been in the Sudan the month before. They spoke of how hot and dusty it was and how exasperated they were that at the end of each hard day they “couldn’t even have a cold beer” because the Sudan, as with several other Islamic countries following the prescripts of the Quran, is dry.
For those into women, the site of female flesh can be a very limited commodity in Islamic countries. In some, women are socially or culturally restricted to the home and you won’t even see them. In others, most or all will have their heads covered and leave nothing exposed other than *maybe* their face and hands.
Taking pictures of women can be difficult in any country but in Islamic countries it can be much harder and even dangerous. In parts of Pakistan, taking a picture of a woman can become life threatening when nearby men spot you doing it. After showing some of my photos to men in some of the more restrictive countries, I think I know why. Many of these men focus almost exclusively or entirely on the women in the photos, in a sexual manner and often accompanied by impolite, sexist or lewd comments, sometimes without regard for age, race or even beauty. They just assume that others too will use photographs of women in this way.
So, given that I rarely drink, don’t care to look at women and manage to get the photos I need, what makes me write, here and now in Serbia?
Our first experience with breakfast in an Islamic country was during our 2001 visit to Turkey. I actually enjoy Turkish breakfast. Olives, tomatoes, cheese, cucumber, boiled eggs, bread–tasty and even fun, really. It turns out the Turks have the best of Islamic breakfasts. It only gets slimmer and worse after that. In some, a cup of tea with maybe a bit of bread. In others, a limited version of the meal enjoyed in Turkey.
Over the last many months, this has worn on me. Breakfast has always been my favorite meal and time of day. Fried eggs, omelettes, eggs benedict and most importantly bacon and sausage are among the things I miss most. Sure I’ve found a half-assed omelette here and there, or an egg that has been almost deep fried because of the amount of grease it was drenched in, but they just don’t suffice. I’m not sure exactly what the Quran has to say about pork but I will say that any religion that restricts its consumption is a cruel one that cannot possibly be on the right track. What sort of god would create such a meat and then forbid followers from eating it? I know, forbidden fruit and all that but come on! No apple has ever come even close to a strip of bacon.
The Russian Tzar Restaurant, established 1890 and recently reopened after remodeling, is a place not to be missed on a swing through the Balkans. This is what we had:
Breakfast “Russian Tzar”
eggs, crispy bacon, njegus smoked ham, and pancakes with forest strawberries all for a mere 330 dinars or roughly $6 USD
Paul was drawn in by the description of the
eggs, turkey fillet, mozzarella and njegus smoked ham for 300 dinars or less than $6 USD
The cappuccino was tasty and not expensive, and just to be friendly, they gave us a couple of berry muffins.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Belgrade.