Destination Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia.
A lazy day in the district of Barra; about Arabs, Jews, police officers, and a lot of pepper.
Tuesday, July 25, 11 am
We kept ourselves quiet today: we were having holidays! We left our rooms one by one, and joined the simple breakfast. At about 11 am, everyone was ready to spend a day on the nearby beach. We did not want to make a long travel that day, because we wanted to visit the famous Pelourinho quarter at night. I had no idea what to expect there….
We started to explore the district of Barra. We did not follow the road along the coastline, but we walked in the streets parallel to that road. We observed an interesting diversity of small shops, restaurants and pousadas. We noticed some pousadas that must have foreign owners, as we read the exotic names of these pousadas. Like our pousada, Cancun, run by a Mexican. We observed Arab and Israeli pousadas, close to each other. HERE it seems no problem to have Jews and Arabs in peace with each other, while – at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – they are arch enemies…
One of our travel companions is a Jew and has Ukrainian roots. He and his Brazilian wife have helped me a lot in Salvador. And not only because he was the only one of the group who was fluent in English. He had worked in a kibbutz in the border region between Israel and The Lebanon. At the time of the First Gulf War. He told me that he sometimes had to seek shelter when the air raid alarm sounded. At the time of our travel, in 2006, Israel had invaded The Lebanon, and he remembered his anxious moments again. During our travel, he was regularly updating the news about the war in the region.
Brazilian Arabs and Jews
He told me about the significant influence of Arabs and Jews in Brazil. Both groups have large communities in São Paulo and in Southern Brazil. They live in peace with each other. They have their businesses, a large share of their profits is invested in The Lebanon, and another share is invested in Brazilian infrastructure projects. You may find a number of hospitals and clubs, financed and owned by them. Two weeks after our time in Salvador, I was invited to join a party in a Lebanese-Syrian club, to commemorate the graduation of his wife. That night was really unforgettable because of the music and the friends.
It was a beautiful day with only a few little clouds in the sky, and with a temperature a little above 25 degrees centigrade. A nice Brazilian winter day. There was enough to see along the beach. We noticed some teenagers practicing a berimbau. A berimbau is a music instrument that is used with capoeira dances. The instrument has a simple appearance, made of a gourd cut in half, which is attached to some kind of a bow, and with one string. With a stick or with a small stone, the string is touched; its vibrations then generate the characteristic sound.
Officers of the Polícia Militar in white shirts and khaki shorts were patrolling. They did not use the usual soldier’s boots, but sportive sneakers. Sneakers are called “tênis” here. They wore a khaki beret, and the gun was visible at the belt. They interrogated a bystander, but it appeared not to be a thorough interrogation. Their sportive outfits make them less visible and probably will not scare foreign tourists too much. It is not hard to imagine that foreign tourists, when they have their first encounter with the Polícia Militar, that they have entered a country that is controlled by a military government. Fortunately, the military dictatorship has ended, the influence of the army seems to be under tight control of the government. The military police have their military training, and the police officers are obliged to attend weekly training sessions of first aid and self defense.
We went for a quiet place on the beach. Our group consisted of fifteen people. One beach bartender eagerly approached us with his menu card and his services. He set some umbrellas in the sand, moved two plastic tables in the shadow and quickly arrived with a bottle of ice-cold beer and small glasses. We enjoyed the bright sun, the somewhat lukewarm seawater, the cold beers, the shrimps and oysters that were offered by the beach vendors passing by. Brave Brazilian holiday life…
More clouds arrived at about three. It was starting to chill a bit. It was about time to return to the pousada, in order to refresh ourselves, and to have a warm meal. We took another route, in order to discover more of the district of Barra. More little shops, more restaurants and pousadas. Tourists do not need to feel homeless, hungry or thirsty, everything was offered there. We took our time to take our shower and to prepare ourselves for the night. It was about five, when our stomachs were demanding for food. Another group already had discovered a cheap restaurant close to the pousada. Simple meals were served there: a so-called prato feito (menu of the day) with various options. We opted for a mix of dishes with beef and fried onions, carne do sol (sun-dried meat), fried chicken, and fish. These dishes were served with rice, feijão (beans), farofa (manioc flour), and salad that was composed of tomato slices, onion rings and lettuce leafs, with a dressing of vinegar that consisted tomato, onion and paprika.
According to the Bahian custom, pimenta (red pepper sauce) was served. What is delicious for many Brazilians, but foreign tourist better may avoid is very spicy sauce, in order to prevent serious stomach problems. With time, I already am used to the red peppers, and I sometimes use it. With a fork, you can add some spicy pepper drops on the rice and the beans. For me it is no longer a surprise, when Brazilians add tens of those spicy drops on their meal… .
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
- Travel in Brazil: SALVADOR (23). Itapuã and Barra (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: SALVADOR (22). Itapuã Beach (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- Travel in Brazil: SALVADOR (24). Sunset At Itapuã Beach (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)
- A Foreigner in Brazil (30): AUG 2006. In The Spotlights (insiderbrazil.wordpress.com)