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Meifrisa is a traditional festive meal which is prepared for family celebrations, important events, markets and holidays and whenever there are many people coming together.
The tradition of preparing and eating 'meifrisa' has survived in many of the refugee camps in the Sahrawi, despite the difficulties that the inhabitants face on a daily basis. Even if only once or twice a year, they will buy and slaughter a camel and families and friends will come together to prepare this traditional meal. In the absence of camel meat, either lambs or goats will be slaughtered and all the dishes will be shared. Everyone celebrates with music, singing and dancing and for a short while the suffering of living in exile is forgotten.
For the Sahrawi the camel is a revered animal. It is extremely well adjusted to life in the desert. As well as transportation, they provide meat and milk. . There will always be meat left over from these gatherings which will be dried and cut into long strips and hung over a line or stretched out over the acacia shrubs (when available) where it is held in place and protected by the long spines while drying. At the hottest time of the year the meat will dry within a week but during colder weather it can take up to two weeks.
At Taste the World 2009, Mariem cooked meifrisa with lamb meat instead of camel.
The tradition of baking bread is another important aspect of survival in the desert. Traditionally, it is baked in a small hollow in the sand on glowing charcoal ashes and covered with desert sand. The heat from below and the heat of the desert sun bakes it quickly and the taste is fresh and delicious.
It is also a Sahrawi tradition to drink tea. The preparation of tea is a very philosophical issue. Three different tastes of tea are served: the first is bitter as life, the second is sweet as love and the third soft as death, and while sitting together in the 'jaima' (the tent) there is plenty of time to talk, exchanging news and stories or to sleep and dream after a long journey or a good meal in the warm atmosphere of family and friends.
Chop the meat into medium sized portions (some on the bone).
Slice and fry the onions and garlic till browned and soft and then add meat, combining all ingredients.
Season with salt and add enough water to stew everything gently over a low flame. Depending on the age of the meat, this could take an hour.
The 'mefriesa' is ready when the meat comes away from the bone. The sliced unleavened bread is placed on a deep, flat-bottomed tray and the stock from the stew is poured over it, so the juices are absorbed into the bread.
The meat is sliced and placed on top of the bread ready to serve.