Trinidad is a very special place to us. To find an island that’s so wholly Caribbean, yet so comfortably accommodating for Muslims is a rare blend. Islam is part and parcel of the landscape. Trinidadians are not intimidated by a veiled woman, are well-aware of “halal food”, and probably have a few Muslims in the neighborhood, if not in their own families. In Jamaica, I stand out in almost every parish and people rarely place me as a “yardie” (Jamaican) but I’m working on that (hint, hint).
From our first visit in 2006, Urbndervish said in no uncertain terms that he could easily live in Trinidad. Seven years later, he echoes the same. Not even the pockets of criminal activity could mar the overall portrait of the island and its prosperity. Much like our first trip, our recent trip was met with incredibly generous hospitality, where the warmth and soul of our hosts were truly felt. In both trips, we didn’t stay in hotels or pay for organized tours. We stayed with people who loved their homeland and had hearts big enough to share that love with us. Even though this trip was one of the least planned trips we’ve ever made on our own, we were safe in Trini hands and watched our four-day stay unfold harmoniously. It was well worth the effort and left us longing to return once again.
Arriving to the capital, Port of Spain, was smooth. While waiting for our hosts to meet us, there was no hassle or hustle to be felt in the airport. A recent flood left our host’s home untidy, so she redirected us to the nearby Shalom House Bed and Breakfast where we stayed for our first two nights. After dropping our bags, we proceeded to downtown Port of Spain where we enjoyed a pre-meal zaboka, known by most as ‘avocado,’ then feasted on familiar North Arabian fare: falafel, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli salad, and pita bread. Upon returning to the guesthouse, we settled in for a good night’s sleep, eager for what awaited us in the coming days.
One of my friends hails from Princes Town, in Southern Trinidad. When I contacted her about our visit, she offered to show us around. We drove southward from Valsayn to San Fernando, eating our way through the island. She wanted us to try everything from local produce to baked vegan sweets. The highlight of our culinary tour was finally sinking our teeth into a chickpea and potato roti for lunch from Karamath’s Roti Shop.
We stopped to pray in Couva where Masjidus Saliheen, a mosque, stands adjacent to Couva Mandir, a Hindu temple. In a time where sectarian violence erupts throughout most of the Muslim world, the calm co-existence on this Caribbean island is both refreshing and hopeful.
After a few hours on the road, Lil’ Z was ready for bite-sized recreation that she could enjoy, so we stopped at a park near my friend’s home.
Once the wiggles were relieved, we ascended and descended several steep roads to finally arrive at my friend’s family home where we were reacquainted with her mother and sister. After a leisurely afternoon on their porch and a tour of their gardens, we brewed some fresh lemongrass tea and set out to procure a Trinidadian main-stay: doubles. There’s nothing cute about eating doubles. It’s basically two fried pieces of dough filled with seasoned chickpeas, with optional chutney and pepper sauce hastily thrown atop. To keep it all intact, it’s quickly wrapped in wax paper to go or left open-faced for immediate consumption right where its served. One of our friends informed us that a Muslim couple from Princes Town was the first to serve this popular street food in the late 1930’s. Originally served with just a single bara, or fried piece of dough, some patrons asked for double bara, and this is how it remained. Decades later, we all savor the chaos and beg for another. At less than $1 USD each, we filled our bellies with several and returned to our guesthouse for the night.
To be continued…