There is something about festivities that render the air around our household full of joy mixing with the aromas of butter, sugar, rose water and nuts, as the smell dissipates from the kitchen into the rest of the house. Religious traditions and love of family become the essence of the month of March. Ma’amoul are the holiday cookie par excellence in this part of the world; every family has the designated maamoul maker and in mine we luckily have my mother who would make them and decorate them by hand. These light golden crumbly sweets are very popular in the Middle East, and although they are particularly associated with festivals, it is not uncommon to find ma’amoul around the house at other times as well.
It is thought that the “evil eye” belief had its roots in ancient Egypt, and it was passed on later to Mediterranean tribes and cultures. The evil eye is a human look believed to cause harm to someone or something else. The supernatural harm may come in the form of anything from a minor misfortune to disease, injury or even death. The victim’s good fortune, good health, or good looks, can provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye. If the object attacked is animate, it may fall ill. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die. It can even affect objects and buildings. The evil eye cast upon a house may soon develop a leaky roof or an insect infestation. To sum it up, just about anything that goes wrong (for any reason, or no reason at all) is blamed on the power of the evil eye.