No trip to Oman is complete without a taste of halwa. The word literally means sweet and there couldn’t be a better noun or adjective for this traditional treat that is made from (a whole lotta!) sugar, ghee, eggs and water. Saffron, cardamom and nuts are added to flavor the high-caloric dessert which is served with bitter Arabic coffee, to balance the rich, sweet halwa.
When I was younger, a trip to the Barka Factory for Omani Halwa meant walking into a stuffy building where an old man prepared halwa over a wood fire. That has changed. This time we were told we cannot go into the main factory. I remember that the Barka Factory always had pots of halwa ready for visitors but part of the experience was watching the tough older men stir the ingredients together until they turn into the right consitency. According to a tourism website, “The halwa-making process is a laborious one, with the dedicated chef stirring the gigantic pot of bubbling hot, sticky substance for up to three hours. A momentary lapse in attention and the halwa could stick to the pot and be ruined.” Eventually the dessert will turn either a golden-brown color or slightly darker, depending on the ingredients used.
We passed by the factory yesterday and picked up a few pots for family back home; everyone’s waiting for their share of Sultani halwa (considered the finest type). Lately, people have been cautious about the amounts of halwa they consume as they are more aware of health and nutrition and it’s anything but a healthy treat. Apparently the Sultan Qaboos University is working on a low-fat, low-sugar version of the iconic Omani sweet. So if you’re watching your weight, you might want to wait for that.
Here are some pictures I took when we stopped at the Factory yesterday. I couldn’t resist a few spoons of halwa but I mentally added 30 minutes to my workouts over the next week. I find it impossible to resist traditional sweets (or dessert in general) when I travel. Would you indulge in halwa or a similar extravagant desserts when you’re on vacation? Tell me I’m not the only one. Make me feel better.