The people of Jerusalem are justifiably proud of their ineluctable cuisine

with multifaceted cultural mosaic contributing to a dazzling array of foods

reminiscent of the gastronomical delights of the 1,001 Arabian Nights.

Probably, one factor contributing to the incredibly rich variety of foods and delicacies available is that because traditionally housewives would not be working outside the home, they have plenty of time to indulge in culinary experiments, some verging on the fantastic. Would a working (or housebound) women in a Western society have the time or forbearance to sit down and set about scouring or hollowing a score of zucchinis, without puncturing the skin or wrecking it? And then push the stuffing inside them, one by one? What about the onerous task of kneading the dough needed for baking baguettes or bagels and their succulent derivatives? In societies driven by the desire to "succeed", and the concomitant push to rush, and get where they are headed, faster, there can be no allowances made for such luxuries. Just pop a prepackaged frozen dinner in the oven, or throw a steak on the barbie, and call it a feast. In Jerusalem, as in other parts of the Middle East, the business of preparing food is of more paramount importance. And the results of all those efforts are dazzling indeed. From the humble fare of "falafel" to the royal banquet of a "mansaf", to the stuffed pigeons - which you can find at only one place in the Old City of Jerusalem, offered by the Arab apprentice who inherited the secret from his Greek patron and chef - you have a choice of limitless possibilities. One thing that sets these foods apart is the fact that the main ingredients are inevitably fresh. In spring, there is an over abundance of succulent fruits and nutritious vegetables, trucked in daily from the fertile fields of the growers. (Two special treats worthy of mention are Jericho oranges and "mistkawi" apricots, which make only a brief appearance, and are considered a royal luxury). The "souk" (market) is only a stone's throw away, and if a housewife needs anything from there, she an always pop down there or have someone get her what she needs. Depending on how strong your stomach is, here's a menu of the most popular dishes of the Old City of Jerusalem, not in any particular order: some of these are only seasonal .
Armenian Jerusalem
a vegetarian's salad paradise. A rich mixture of burghul, parsley, tomatoes, onions (but no garlic), l emon and sometimes cucumbers, bathed in a thin lake of olive oil.
wafer thin pastry square filled with cheese and sprinkled with syrup (mainly sugar boiled in water) - only at Zalatimo's, near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And if he is in a happy mood, the old man will show you the archeological wonder behind his shop.
a dessert, too sweet for some, a layer of cheese, noodles and nuts spread in a circular tray, again with a topping of syrup - the best purveyor? Ja’afar. close to the Damascus Gate. Partaking of this exquisite delicacy is the epitome of a gourmet’s culinary delight.
a paste made from chickpeas and tahina, with garlic embedded in the mixture, sprinkled with parsley and libated with olive oil. Some connoisseurs like it with minced meat spread on top.
a variety of hummos, with whole chickpeas swimming in olive oil. Sometimes, fried minced lamb and pine seeds are spread on top. Zalatimo, near the Holy Sepulchre, is the only one who makes it.
(halab - Aleppo) - little cakes (shaped like a computer mouse), stuffed with walnuts and spices, the private domain of the Kaghakatsi Armenians of the Old City, and only during the Christmas/New Year week, available only around Christmas and the New Year. Topped with specially concocted fluffy "cream."
a barbeque. There are various ways of preparing this kingly f east, but predominantly it is a mixture of minced lamb and beef, garnished with shredded onion (and sometimes garlic), and parsley, along with various spices.
baked minced meat pie. Various thicknesses and styles. Commonly lamb, with onions, garlic, parsley and spices.
stuffed pigeons, available only at the new Costa's, near the Khan, off the Christian Quarter. The pigeons are said to be bred in Hebron
a typically Bedouin banquet, chunks of lamb buried in mounds of rice (rich in oil). Taken with yogurt. Traditionally, eaten with the hands.
chicken grilled in olive oil and wrapped in pita bread. The most famous restaurant offering this is at Na'oom, in Ramallah.
spiced raw block of beef, best eaten sliced t hin. Wrapped in chaman paste. Bastermah is a king's delight - but it oozes off the pores!
an Ouzo cousin, best mixed with water. But it can also be added to Coke - an anathema to real Arak aficionados.
Any vegetable that can be cored or scoured, and stuffed either simply with a mixture of rice, tomatoes and spices  (for vegetarians), or with minced lamb added, cooked in a tomato paste "soup. "
ringed bagel studded with sesame seeds, usually eaten with cheese or dipped in "za'atar" (thyme)..
prepared mainly by the Kaghakatsis during the Christmas/New Year week. Basically, onion and spices embedded into a paste of chickpeas and potatoes, tied up in a bundle, and boiled. Taken with olive oil and lemon.
only during Ramadan. Little pies stuffed with cheese or walnuts and spices, and dipped into a syrup.
needs no introduction - both Arabs and Jews claim they came up with it first. Round balls of seasoned chickpea paste fried in very hot oil.
vine leaves wrapped around a mix of rice, minced lamb, onion, parsley, spices. The vegeterian variety (sans meat) is cooked with olive oil.
Any vegetable that can be cored or scoured, and stuffed either simply with a mixture of rice, tomatoes and spices. Cooked in tomato sauce.
“mutabbaq” at Zalatimo’s