Who Carried His Personal Library Wherever He Went?

Abdul Kassem Ismael was the Grand Vizier of Persia in the tenth century. He was so enamored with his collection of over 117,000 books that he carried them with him on his many travels. Four hundred camels trained to walk in alphabetical order carried his precious volumes.


If you want to learn more about Abdul Kassem Ismael, check out the following sites:

Educause (where today’s fact came from): http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm003a.pdf

Austin Public Library: http://library.austintexas.gov/blog-entry/how-much-do-you-know-about-traveling-libraries


Recipe for Iranian Halva – Yum!

We’re currently stuck in the dog days of summer, so why not snack on some sweet and savory halva to cool you down? This super-simple dessert recipe is a favorite throughout the Iran and parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean – and it may just be on of your favorites, too!

          1 tablespoon chopped or crushed almond

          1 tablespoon chopped or crushed pistachio

          ½ teaspoon saffron

          – ½ cup rosewater

          7/8  cup sugar

          7/8 cup cooking oil

          1 cup wheat flour

1.       Put oil into a frying pan, allow to sizzle under medium heat

2.       Mix in flour and reduce heat.

3.       Stir until the flour and oil takes on a thick consistency and becomes golden in color. If mixed properly, it will also become aromatic

4.       Mix sugar into a small pot of water. Let boil.

5.       Mix saffron and rosewater into the sugar-water mixture, stirring regularly.

6.       Allow the flour and oil to cool, the mix in the other mixture.

7.       If the mixture is not thick enough (about the consistency of dough), then heat for 2 more minutes.

8.       Allow to cool, and garnish with pistachio and almonds.

9.       For a cool summer treat, allow to sit in the refrigerator for an hour before serving. Enjoy!

For more delicious Iranian recipes, check out the following sites:

Iran Chamber Society (where today’s recipe came from): http://www.iranchamber.com/recipes/dessert/halva.php

My Persian Kitchen:  http://mypersiankitchen.com/persian-halvah/

Persian Recipes: http://www.persian-recipes.com/persianrecipes/2009/10/04/tar-halva/

Where is the First Country to Ban the Sale of Tobacco?

If you intend to smoke a cigarette in Bhutan, think again – there are very harsh restrictions about the purchase and smoking of tobacco products. Bhutan first banned the sell of tobacco in 2004, claiming that it contradicted the teachings of Buddhism. You can receive up to 3 years in jail for smuggling it into the country. If brought in legally, you are charged a hefty tax (anywhere from 100-200%) and then given a receipt that is valid for only 30 days and must be on your person at all times if you intend to smoke in public. Moreover, you can only bring in 200 cigarettes, 30 cigars or 150 grams of chewing tobacco.


Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2057774,00.html

Tourism Council of Bhutan: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/

Carnegie Library’s Free Language Software!

Summer may be half way over, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start learning a new language now! The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers free online language learning software for Arabic, Vietnamese, Malayalam, Farsi, Pashto, Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Urdu, Cantonese, Hebrew  and more! Plus, they have tons of language learning books and films available in  over 30 languages Check it out today!

What Afghan Recipe Uses Yogurt, Mint, and Cucumber to Parch Your Thirst?


Dogh is  a yummy and super-simple yogurt drink from Afghanistan that will surely quench your thirst (and your palate!) on these mercilessly hot days.

          16 oz. plain or vanilla yogurt

          4 cups chilled water

          ½ medium cucumber

          ½ tsp. salt

          ½ tsp. dried mint


1.      Mix yogurt and  water into a large pitcher.

2.      Skin the cucumber and finely chop. Add it into the yogurt and water

3.      Mix the mint and salt into the mixture. For a milder mint flavor, rub it between your hands before mixing.

4.      Serve chilled.

5.      For a twist on an old favorite, you may want to add in fresh berries and chopped fruits instead of mint.


For more information on Afghani recipes, check out the following sites:

Afghanistan Online (where today’s recipe came from): http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/cooking/dogh.html

Afghan Cooking Unveiled: http://www.afghancooking.net/afghan-culture-unveiled/afghan-cooking-recipes–all/