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A blasphemous image of the Prophet awaits the IMG tag
April 29, 2010 2:58 AM   Subscribe


 
Well, d'uh.

That alcohol is banned yet manufactured and consumed anyway is true of many countries - Iran jumps immediately to mind. And it's not limited to alcohol of course. And it hasn't that much to do with religion - just demand and supply.

I've read the whole thing and it seems like a fluff feature to me, written just to elicit a shake of the head or a wag of the finger. What am I missing?
posted by mondaygreens at 3:38 AM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


The situation is excactly parallell to drug use in the West, so there you go, I guess...
posted by Harald74 at 3:42 AM on April 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Or the ubiquity of Qat in Yemen. Prohibition doesn't work. Hmm. Shocking.
posted by beelzbubba at 3:43 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


God created araki to test the faithful.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 3:47 AM on April 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


Date gin sounds truly awful, but I would totally be willing to take a beating for a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
posted by dortmunder at 4:07 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's stealth marketing for a new date gin soon to be released in Europe? Actually, I would try date gin. Dates are good. Maybe they really do produce an "unbelievabl[y]" good gin.
posted by molecicco at 4:11 AM on April 29, 2010


Date gin is the new date rape drug. Because it has dates, right?
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:14 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I live in the UK and occasionally I get lashed when I've had a drink too.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:15 AM on April 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


The situation is excactly parallell to drug use in the West, so there you go, I guess...

Not exactly parallel. For one thing, the injunction against alcohol comes from direct religious law. Whereas while anti-drug crusaders are more likely to be religious conservatives, there is no specific Christian law (or even tradition) against drugs.

I don't know if that makes it worse or better.
posted by DU at 4:22 AM on April 29, 2010


"The quality from the source is better because it's not mixed with water," he says.
"Most people who sell in Khartoum they dilute what they buy from here."


I remember it was the same with palm wine in Nigeria. If you bought it in the city, it was watered down and sugared. You had to go out to roadside stands outside of town to get pure, undiluted stuff. Man, it was tasty.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:31 AM on April 29, 2010


It's not at all analogous to the drug war in Western countries.

Nobody's country's cropland is ploughed for poppy or coca leaf just because people want to drink. You can make drink out of any given vegetable and sugar; that's not true of opiates and alkaloids.
A blasphemous image of the Prophet awaits the IMG tag
No, I'm really not sure it does.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:38 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's Allah's fault for making alcohol so easy to make. Same goes for weed. Why don't you walk with me to the homebrew thread down the hall?
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:49 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember it was the same with palm wine in Nigeria. If you bought it in the city, it was watered down and sugared

In communist Russia, it was apparently common for beer to be sold from containers with a metal cup attached to a chain from which customers could drink. To make limited supplies go further, it was diluted with water and the alcohol content increased with vodka. To give it a bit of a head, shampoo was often added.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:49 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


And should Sudan become a secular state, the date-gin brewers believe it would not affect their trade.
"We can compete - no problem," the sisters say.
Maysara agrees that it is not only its affordability that makes araqi appealing - whisky can easily be found in the capital for about $50 a bottle.
The taste of araqi is "unbelievable", he says - with a great burst of laughter.
Well, sounds like it's actually good tasting. Shame on the BBC for not describing the whole process. If it doesn't involve distillation, I'd like to try making some.

But if you want to try another alcoholic beverage from Africa (that doesn't sound nasty), there's always Banana Wine.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:54 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article: The dates are mixed with water and yeast and left to ferment for three days. Afterwards the liquid is distilled
posted by ericost at 4:59 AM on April 29, 2010


In communist Russia, it was apparently common for beer to be sold from containers with a metal cup attached to a chain from which customers could drink

In SOVIET Russian, customers were commonly beer containers that...uh....I'm lost.
posted by DU at 5:07 AM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


DU - not sure I've read you right. But anyway..

It was a particular feature of communism - namely the central planning of breweries meant that demand wasn't catered for - not enough production and breweries weren't sited where demand was, hence the jiggerypokery with the end product.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:12 AM on April 29, 2010


Nobody's country's cropland is ploughed for poppy or coca leaf just because people want to drink.

Well, barley, rye, corn, potatoes and sugar cane and others are used for alcohol. I agree that there are probably no hidden barley fields and hop gardens in Sudan to serve the demand for beer when any old moonshine will do, but alchohol production crowd out food production to a certain extent.
posted by Harald74 at 5:27 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


DU - not sure I've read you right.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakov_Smirnoff#Russian_reversal

posted by DU at 5:38 AM on April 29, 2010


"But if you want to try another alcoholic beverage from Africa (that doesn't sound nasty), there's always Banana Wine."

I dunno. I met someone who had drunk banana-derived alcohol, and he described it as "an acquired taste that took a lot of acquiring."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:45 AM on April 29, 2010


DU: brain now engaged. I think. Thank you for your patience.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:47 AM on April 29, 2010


Nobody's country's cropland is ploughed for poppy or coca leaf just because people want to drink.

I'm not sure that's really true, because most farmers will plant whatever they believe will profit them the most, balanced against whatever danger they feel of being caught if their plants are illegal. They don't plant crops 'to make food' or 'to make alcohol', (except, most likely, for their own consumption.) Rather, they plant to make money. If there's a shortage of grain, prices will go up, and will encourage them to plant that instead. If there's a surplus, and prices are depressed, they'll likely switch to other crops, including poppies and coca. The actual end use of their crops is largely irrelevant to them. Once it leaves the farm, they stop caring.

That's an example, by the way, of how prices communicate relative scarcity, and help regulate production. I talk about that a lot, and that's a concrete example.
posted by Malor at 5:47 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there a commecial producer of date gin anywhere? Because now I want to taste it!
posted by Harald74 at 5:50 AM on April 29, 2010


Actually, beer is one of the harder kinds of alcohol to ferment; wines (whether grape, honey, date or whatever kind of fruit you have on hand) are generally far easier, since the sugars are more freely available to the yeast. All of the complicated mashing and malting involved in beer making is precisely to get the sugars in the wheat or barley into a form consumable by the yeast. With a wine you just throw in the mashed up fruit with a bunch of yeast and let it roll.

Making a _good_ wine can of course be quite difficult... But the basic process is still the same. And if the wine turns out not-so-tasty, you can always distill it.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:00 AM on April 29, 2010


Harald74: You could probably make your own, though, ironically, it's illegal to distill your own hard alcohol in the US and Europe. The entrepreneurs in the article would be just as much outlaws in the US,
posted by kaibutsu at 6:02 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's illegal here (Norway) as well.
posted by Harald74 at 6:15 AM on April 29, 2010


I asked a homebrew forum, and some people do make their own date wine. It takes a while to mellow. I get the feeling the stuff these guys are selling is like jet fuel, since they ferment it for 3 days and then distill it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:16 AM on April 29, 2010


Some people in America, I meant.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:16 AM on April 29, 2010


GenjiandProust: I met someone who had drunk banana-derived alcohol, and he described it as "an acquired taste that took a lot of acquiring."

They should have called it a Banana Acquiri.

sorry
posted by Riki tiki at 6:48 AM on April 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


In communist Russia, it was apparently common for beer to be sold from containers with a metal cup attached to a chain from which customers could drink.

There's a long tradition of communal cups in Russia. I saw a Soviet lemonade dispenser that was like a coffee vending machine-- you put in 10 kopeks and a serving of lemonade was dispensed in a cup. Except that the cup was glass, and you were expected to put it back for the next person after you were done. GAAK!
posted by Willy Wombat at 6:49 AM on April 29, 2010


This is weird because Alkindus invented distillation in the Islamic golden age (along with a number of other things). On the other hand they pretty much dumped al-mu'tazila and reason along the way. Prohibition coupled with corporeal punishment. That there are two things proven to have worked perfectly in deterring behavior throughout history.

(The Russians still seem to drink in threes. From what I understand back in the (Soviet) day you'd get guys holding up three fingers trying to get a troika together to polish off a half liter bottle because you can't recap it - so three glasses, one ruble each. Now, I dunno, just seems to have become custom.)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


A couple years ago, I was living in Cairo and took a trip out to Siwa, an oasis in the desert, nearly to Libya. In Siwa, I sort of serendipitously met this woman who had written a book about the Oasis's history and who knew a lot of people who lived out there quite well. One night, we went out to the desert, like a lot of people do when they visit the oases, but a friend of the woman I had met brought a number of musicians out with him.

For hours, they played traditional Siwan music while passing around a plastic bottle full of homemade date wine and a pipe of hashish. They insisted we try the wine, and we did, and it was awful. But they drank it constantly, all night, and only stopped playing, briefly, when a cop drove by in a 4x4 and made them all nervous.

The most interesting part of the evening, for me, was the dancing that accompanied the music. Despite being a conservative and male-dominated culture, there was something strikingly feminine about the way the men danced. Stoned and drunk, they hiked up their galabiyyas, tied a scarf around their waists, and danced in a sort of sexual or sensual way, with movements that anywhere else would have been associated with female dance. The dance became extremely homoerotic, with some of the men humping the ground, and I was told by the woman I was with that often the dancing involves simulated sex among the men.
posted by ecab at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


ecab,

Where they Sufi?
posted by atrazine at 7:17 AM on April 29, 2010


The title of this post is inane.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:19 AM on April 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


Where they Sufi?

Bear in mind that the term "sufi" is a very broad brush, and the majority of traditional groups that could bear the tag "sufi" are mostly very orthodox in their religious inclinations.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:21 AM on April 29, 2010


There's a long tradition of communal cups in Russia.

I'm not sure the word "tradition" is right here. The Soviet government decided communal cups for soft drink vending machines (like the one you saw, which, incidentally, I used many times and lived to tell about it) would be cheap and sort of "collective," so they built them and made people use them. The communal cup/vending machine "tradition" seems to have vanished with the "tradition" of communism (at least I haven't seen one in a decade...)

By the way, beer was very often distributed from tanker trucks. You were expected to bring your own bucket. I believe that "tradition" is gone too (but don't know).
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:28 AM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Probably the analogue for Christianity is adultery, in terms of things people have been told not to do as part of their religion yet casually break pretty often.

Religions are supposed to be aimed at making you a better person. People fall short a lot of time. News at 11?
posted by yeloson at 7:29 AM on April 29, 2010


I honestly don't know whether they were Sufi or not, but my sense was that the dancing and singing was derived not from the general Arab/Islamic culture of Egypt and the Mideast, but, rather, from Berber culture. Siwans are culturally separate from the mass of Egyptian society and speak a Berber language called taSiwit (though most also speak Arabic).

The Arabs who ruled Egypt had, at best, tenuous control over Siwa until fairly recently - I believe that the first real road to the oasis wasn't built until the 1980s. It's a 12 hour or so bus ride from Cairo, so you can imagine that it took a lot of effort to get there, over desert, through most of its history.
posted by ecab at 7:30 AM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


How do they feel about suntanning?
posted by homunculus at 8:18 AM on April 29, 2010


Date gin is the new date rape drug. Because it has dates, right?

HA HA BECAUSE DATE RAPE IS SO FUNNY.
posted by stinker at 9:26 AM on April 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Goddamn. Nuke the post from orbit.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:57 AM on April 29, 2010


It's an interesting article, in a "Small World" sort of way. A different culture in a far away land, but with the same social forces and problems that we have here. The one I feel sorry for is Maysara, who sounds like a real hardcore drunk. He's had 160 (nonconsecutive) lashes, been forced to pay bribes to avoid more of the same, and still refuses to stop drinking. There's a man who won't stop until he's broke or physically incapable of holding a cup.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2010


Date gin sounds truly awful, but I would totally be willing to take a beating for a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Well, what do they make traditional gin with anyway? Juniper berries? Tastes like pine sap ... Don't get me wrong, in my day I enjoyed a good martini, but at one point had too many gin & tonics. A gin hangover is nasty. I can't imagine dates would be worse.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2010


Any distilled sugary fruit juice can be high or low quality...it's not so much the source plants as it is the precision of the distillation process.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2010


I think Burhanistan is right. When I had homemade date liquor I thought it was quite bad, but I attributed this to the "homemade" and not so much to the "date." Also to the fact that it seemed to be very high proof.
posted by ecab at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2010


There's a long tradition of communal cups in Russia.

Also in Korea. And communal terrycloth hand towels in public toilets. Oh no sir or madam thank you very much.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on April 29, 2010


The one I feel sorry for is Maysara, who sounds like a real hardcore drunk. He's had 160 (nonconsecutive) lashes, been forced to pay bribes to avoid more of the same, and still refuses to stop drinking. There's a man who won't stop until he's broke or physically incapable of holding a cup
I don't know about that. Illegal use of alcohol isn't the same as dangerous use of alcohol.

He's just doing something I regard where I live as a basic human right—having a quiet drink—and I'd be pretty furious if my Government were to restrict my right to use alcohol as I saw fit. I'd have to seriously consider breaking the law and facing the judicial consequences, too.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:05 PM on April 29, 2010


Any distilled sugary fruit juice can be high or low quality...it's not so much the source plants as it is the precision of the distillation process.

It's not the quality I'm referring to so much as the flavor imparted by the ingredients.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:19 AM on May 1, 2010


I think it's hard to say whether or not he's an alcoholic without more info. Consider the lengths Americans went to for getting drunk in the Prohibition.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:38 AM on May 1, 2010


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