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The town of Bashiqa is known for its ethnic and religious diversity, as it was famous for producing arak from dates with the taste of anise before the Christians left.
A town that knows the taste of sweat since ancient times
BASHIQA (Iraq) - Saad Hussein, an Iraqi Yazidi, still makes the alcoholic arak syrup from local dates flavored with anise. Hussein became one of the last remaining producers of this drink in Nineveh Governorate, in northern Iraq.
The 42-year-old had to flee his hometown of Bashiqa, near Mosul, after it fell to Islamic State militants in 2014, but after defeating the militants and expelling them, he returned to open his small factory again.
Bashiqa is known for her ethnic and religious diversity and is also known for producing alcohol. One of its most prominent products in the past was the production of anise-flavored sweat. Hussain says that his activity in the manufacture of sweat is part of the heritage that is about to die out.
He said that "race making is one of the heritage professions that have almost become extinct and there is no longer (there) to manufacture them in the region."
He added, "I love this profession and have worked in it for a long time, and today I want to return to my old profession and protect it from forgetting."
Hussein hopes to introduce a new age group to the drink he makes, after most of the Iraqi Christians and Yazidis, who were the majority of customers who wanted to acquire his goods, fled.
The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority that combines beliefs from Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. They were subjected to brutal persecution by ISIS, which considered them Satanists.
Hussein fills huge blue containers with dates, adds water, and stirred, then puts the mixture in an airtight container to heat it and distill the alcohol.
Dates, sweet seed and fresh water are used in the manufacture of the Ba'ashi Spiritual drink, as well as some natural flavors such as apples.
He explained that this is an old method that has been used in the city for decades. He added, "When our Christian brothers were living among us, the demand for this drink was great, but after they emigrated due to ISIS, the demand decreased and our trade became sluggish."
Race making is a traditional profession that has almost become extinct
Hussein says that what distinguishes arak from other drinks is that it is seldom drunk in gatherings or evenings, but rather it is an accompanying companion for dinners, barbecues, nuts and other foods. He added that the sweat is stretched with fresh water and ice is added to it after the extension. As for the amount of sweat that is added to the water that it is mixed with, it varies according to the tastes.
Another of the rituals inherent in the race is the habit of drinking with different cups, so that the sweat is not poured into the same cup twice, as the cup is replaced by a clean one, and this is a habit that sweat lovers have used.
Imported spirits flooded the market, which was previously huge to the point where there were many small local distilleries.
Among the customers of Hussein Ghazwan Khairy, who said as he left the factory carrying a bottle of arak, "I prefer to buy home sweat because I know its source, and I know the materials from which Saad makes his sweat, and it has a good flavor that you cannot find in the arak made in the (other) factories."
Hussain said that home-made sweat is different from what factories distribute today.
Arak is made in the Levant in particular from grapes, and it can be made from other types of fruits such as dates and figs.
Iraqis prefer arak to other alcoholic drinks. “Arak brings families and friends together with the most delicious foods and fruits, especially on Thursday evening, and we are also united to music, singing and dancing, especially in celebrations. Race is the life that ISIS wanted to deprive us of.”
The Iraqis call their favorite drink "milk of sevens," when they add water to it, the color changes to resemble milk. It is also the drink of brave men, some of them even make fun of beer and wine drinkers, as they are new to drinking alcohol, but women in Christian and Jewish families participate in sweat sessions and drink a few cups of it.
Some of those who are fond of drinking perspiration, especially the elderly, believe that it is a traditional treatment for heart disease, but nevertheless we do not find it in pharmacies, but the experiences of grandparents who used to medicinal herbs believe that its benefits are many.
Arak is made in the Levant in particular from grapes
Various Natural Flavors
Milk of Seas
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