Every year, during the holy month of Muharram, the city of Karbala in Iraq becomes a beacon of faith, unity, and hospitality. The city’s streets and alleyways brim with millions of pilgrims from around the world, who come to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Amidst the spiritual fervor, a unique culinary tradition unfolds – the preparation of Qeema.
Qeema, a traditional dish made of minced meat, onions, tomatoes, and a blend of aromatic spices, becomes the heart of Karbala’s communal kitchens. These kitchens, run by volunteers, work tirelessly to feed the sea of pilgrims. The preparation of Qeema is not just about satiating hunger, but it is a sacred act of service, an embodiment of the Islamic principle of ‘Niyaz’ – offering food in the name of the Imam.
The process of making Qeema is a spectacle in itself. Large cauldrons bubble over open fires, filled with the aromatic dish. Volunteers, irrespective of their age or social status, participate in this communal cooking, chopping ingredients, stirring the simmering pots, and serving the finished dish.
The Qeema of Karbala is more than a meal; it is a symbol of unity, love, and devotion. It is a testament to the spirit of Muharram, a time when differences are set aside, and everyone comes together in the name of faith and service. This humble dish, prepared with love and devotion, nourishes not just the body, but also the soul.