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Bismilla Arabia

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Bismilla Arabia

Bismilla Arabia

Photo © Kosmos

The Bottom Line

Bismilla Arabia continues the authors' journey through the Arabic-Mediterranean region, with easy-to-follow recipes, warm, evocative travel writing that makes you feel like you're right there with them, and appetite-inducing photography. If you liked their previous book, Arabia, or you're interested in learning more about the Arabic-Mediterranean kitchen, Bismilla Arabia is a good bet.


  • An interesting look at the shared cultural roots that bind the kitchens of this immense region.
  • A wide range of recipes from even more countries in the Arabic-Mediterranean world.
  • All recipes come with a color photo, while location shots add interest.
  • More than a cookbook, Bismilla Arabia is also a personal and inspiring travelogue.
  • Handy list of foodie tips and addresses for those planning a visit to the region.


  • Only available in Dutch, unfortunately. These books should be published in English!
  • Some ingredients may be hard to find, depending on where you live.


  • Bismilla Arabia
  • by Merijn Tol & Nadia Zerouali
  • Published by Kosmos
  • € 29,95
  • ISBN 9789021546391

Guide Review - Bismilla Arabia

This follow-up to Arabia by Merijn Tol and Nadia Zerouali continues the Dutch authors' quest to find the footprint of the Arabic kitchen in the countries bordering the Mediterranean, a style they call 'Arabia'. Like their first book, Bismilla Arabia is a travelogue-cum-cookbook, with inspiring photos, easy-to-prepare recipes and handy tips and addresses. Colorful illustrations, local poetry and photos of locations, products and people add flavor and interest.

Bismilla Arabia includes recipes and stories from Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Catalonia, Algeria, Sardinia and Lebanon. There are recipes for both beginner and advanced cooks. The writing is warm and personal, allowing the reader to travel vicariously to a few places that might not be on everybody's list of favorite holiday destinations (Libya!). These intrepid ladies write with so much enthusiasm and verve that you can't help but like them.

Because I write about the Dutch food scene, I was specifically interested in the Turkish recipes, because Turkish people make up a large proportion of Holland's immigrant community and its food is influencing modern Dutch cuisine, but the book charms as a whole. Arabia and Bismilla Arabia will also interest anyone with a love of European food history, because as even the most rudimentary study will reveal, the region has had an immense effect on the way we cook in Europe today. What's more, while there are countless cookbooks about each of these individual cuisines, very few take the wider perspective and look at these kitchens in terms of shared cultural roots.

My few points of criticism on the previous book have all been addressed (see my review of Arabia). I don't flatter myself to think that I have that much power, but it makes this book even more enjoyable than the first. Most notably, they've inserted more paragraph breaks, making the text easier to read and there aren't many questions that the alphabetic glossary of terms cannot answer. While some of the ingredients may be hard to find (depending on where you live), the authors have indicated where to buy the more exotic ingredients in the Netherlands, as per the previous book. The savvy cook will be able to find most ingredients at Middle Eastern stores and well-stocked markets in large cosmopolitan cities.

Try a Recipe from the Book:

  • Antakya Kebab Recipe
  • Turkish Kisir Recipe
  • Three Turkish Mezze: Turkish Pistachio Dip, White Roasted Eggplant and Macerated Walnut Salad with Pickled Chilli Peppers
  • Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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