The Weekly Get Together (Istekbal)

Have you ever heard of forced party?. As I get more and more busy with my business and daughter’s activities, I lament the days gone by when my mom had her Istekbal.  Growing up in Syria, I used to tease my mom about her Istekbal. She use to tell me that was a way for her and her friends  to force themselves to have at least couple hours a week to get together, visit, eat, laugh and relax.

Istekbal, is a tradition that started about 200 years ago in Damascus when men and women did not socialize together. My mother and her women friends liked the freedom of not having men in this special meeting.  They  inforced the” No Male Zone “even though they mixed and socialized as couples on other occasions.

Each woman would have a designated day in the month to have her friends and relatives visit her.  For my mom it was the first Monday of each month.  She would chase my dad to the coffee shop, and order my brothers to go to there room or visit friends.

The hostess of the day would have wide variety of savory appetizers, sweets and tabbouli salad.   The guests were served apricot juice with rose water and pine nuts, hot black tea, and Turkish coffee. The visit could last 3 hours.  The ladies would dance, sings,  comfort each other and of course gossip. Talk about total therapy.

Here is couple appetizers that my mom served in her Istekbal. These dips are easy to make, colorful and would be a welcome change in your Oscar party.

Sweet and Sour Beet Dip

makes 4 cups

4       beets

1        clove garlic, mashed

zest of one lemon

1/4    cup lemon juice

1/4    cup plain yogurt

3         tablespoons tahini*

salt to taste

-Boil the beet until soft.  Remove from the heat, cool and peel.

-Mash the beet and then add the rest of the ingredients.  Blend well.  You will have a spread with stunning color.

*Tahini: seseme seeds paste.

Spicy Hummous

makes 4 cups

3       cups cooked garbanzo beans

5       cloves garlic

1        cup water

1/4  cup lemon juice

1/4   cup tahini*

1/4   cup finely chopped parsley

1       teaspoon ground cumin

1       teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt to taste

-In a food processor, place garbanzo beans with the garlic and the water and process until smooth paste.

-Add the lemon juice and the tahini and process until well mixed.

-Spoon into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  Adjust the seasoning and chill at least one hour before serving.


  1. Olimpia says

    I grew up in Mexico and my mother who still lives there still gets together with her friends once a week, they mainly get together to pray but after that the hostess serves a light dinner and dessert and they visit, their gatherings are about two hours long. I miss that, since I really don’t have friends who are not busy busy busy like me.

  2. sanaacooks says

    I hear you Olimpia. I used hate attending my mom’s gathering and now getting with friends is my soul’s yoga. I think our mom knew better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *