Once Upon A Time

Let me tell you a story.

In Ruzafa, one of Valencia’s trending neighborhoods, there was a small restaurant called Kana Makhan. I wouldn’t know about it if it wasn’t for a digital nomad meetup that ended there. One of the meetup’s goals was a continuous exploration of Valencia’s night out scene, and we were trying a new place every two weeks. Most of the time it was mostly a couple of beers and a lot of socialization. But that time when we went to Kana Makhan was different.

The place was famous for its tapas, and indeed, they were absolutely delicious. Before leaving, I stopped to talk for a few seconds with the cooks (the tapas were made just behind the counter, so you could see how they were made). They were two guys from Egypt, an unusual presence even in Valencia. What was even more unusual was the fact that they knew a little bit about Romanian cuisine, so we chatted a little about that.

I kept a nice memory of the place, so I brought at least two of my friends there, to try those incredible tapas.

Then Covid came and, after a year of restrictions, I wanted to try Kana Makhan tapas again. I even invited a friend out, only to realize, when we arrived there, that the place was closed. One of the many, many Covid small business victims.

Fast forward 6 months, it’s May 23rd and I’m living in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the first places that I discovered here is called Outro Lado. It’s a craft beer paradise, the first one that I know capable of offering a menu of draft craft beers. They have a nice “dashboard” of about 10 knobs, connected each week to different barrels. They try to create a unique combination every couple of weeks. I was never able to have more than 2 different beers, and that’s because IPA, my favorite craft beer specialty, is also quite high in alcohol.

As I started to visit them a bit more often, I ended up chatting with the bartender a lot. And since Portuguese is a completely new language to me, I was trying to use it a lot (with not so spectacular results, as you can imagine), knowing that this is how you learn a new language; by talking with locals. But if you’ve ever been in Lisbon (or in any other major city in Portugal) you know that everybody speaks English. So every time I was trying to speak in Portuguese, the bartender will respond in English. At some point, he even told me that he couldn’t understand my Portuguese very well, because, surprise-surprise, he wasn’t Portuguese either.

— Oh, where are you from, then? I asked

— Egypt, he answered.

— You know, some of the best tapas I had in Valencia were from two guys from Egypt owning a place called Kana Makhan in Ruzafa.

— Oh, that’s such a nice name for a restaurant, he said.

— Really? Why? What does “Kana Makhan” means?

— In our country, this is what we tell when we start to tell a story to our children.

— Like “once upon a time”?

— Yes, he said. Once upon a time.

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