There’s much to love about Lebanon and we’re often in danger of forgetting all the great things about our country in the midst of all the strife and troubles of daily life. Perhaps it’s time to rediscover the things that make Lebanon a truly wonderful place to live.
It’s a cliché to say that Lebanese food is a great cuisine, but, like many clichés, there happens to be truth in this one. Be it the hidden, local gems like Hanna Mitri buried deep in Achrafieh or Al Daoukieh at Al Daouk in Tarik Jdideh in Cola roundabout in Beirut or Al Soussi, tucked in the back streets of Zeidaniyeh, or the slightly more famous Gordon’s on the ground floor of Le Gray, and if Italian food is what’s on your mind head to PZZA.Co in Beirut Souks. There’s a world of cuisine genre out there and everyday can be a day for discovering something new and tasty.
Let’s stop for a second and enjoy the things we often take for granted… the things we have gotten used to and have stopped appreciating them… Like what you may ask? Well, for one, where other than Lebanon can you enjoy a feast for breakfast… zaatar, cheese, foul, balila, asbe… keshek… it’s endless…? A feast indeed. And where else in the world can you sit hours for lunch and enjoy complementarity oriental sweets and seasonal fruits afterwards - from grapes, peaches, pears, apples to ashta, atayef…?
The best part of Lebanon in my opinion is how diverse food is in different towns around town, where each town is specialized in something special – for example go and discover the different types of kebbe in Ehden, or labneh from Jezzine, Sfiha from Baalbek, fish from Tyre, some foul and hummos in Beirut... and more so see how different each town prepares a certain kind of food… example a mankoushi in Beirut is different than the ones prepared in a small town on saj… mloukhieh dish in Beirut is prepared differently than the one prepared in Mount Lebanon… Flavour, ingredients and taste is rich anywhere you go…
It wasn’t until I overheard a group of tourists talking about eating in Baakline that I sat and thought about it, how about a culinary tour of Lebanon? Starting in the South, hitting the villages and heading north, tasting the very best rural Lebanon has to offer?
Then, of course, there are the sweets. Lebanon has a fine traditional sweet-making industry. Whether you’re a fan of competing brands shops like Abdul Rahman Hallab 1881, or Douaihy Lebanese Pastries, there’s a wonderful, sticky, wealth of options available to you; and the best part is that the competition is so fierce that you’re always going to find something new. From fried kellaj to creamy kashta offerings, there’s something for everyone.
It’s something we take for granted, but try visiting a traditional sweet shop and take your time browsing through rows of sticky delight. Enjoy, enjoy, but try not to finish the box.
So it’s time to stop dreaming of Paris or New York and really embrace the wide variety of eateries right on our doorstep.
The majority of us live in urban locales like Beirut and even the outskirts of the city are something of a concrete jungle. However, the remoter areas of the country are home to wonderful treasures.
A secret spot, one that very few Lebanese have ever heard of, sits in the town of Niha, just up the road from Baalbek. Home to the ruins of an ancient temple complex, Niha embodies the past of Lebanon like few other sites in the country. Take some time out, if you can’t make it to Niha, stop off in Tyre or Byblos and look, really look at our heritage. It might sound sacrilegious, but we’d recommend buying an old copy of The Lonely Planet and do a little reading while you’re there.
Beirut is home to some of the most exciting music in the region and our nightlife environment makes a musical experience something to remember. Of course there’s Fairuz but there’s much more to Lebanon than meets the eye. Discover new talents from the soulful Wanton Bishops, to the contemporary Lebanese underground group Lazzy Lung… there’s a band or singer to suit all tastes and local music is booming.
If you can’t see them live, do local music a favor and pass on a Western hit in favor of Who Killed Bruce Lee’s latest release next time you’re shopping for music. Incase you’re wondering who they are they are four-member indie rock band from Beirut.
We all get stuck in routines, so next time you’re planning a night out, why not head somewhere new. If you’re a Hamra native head to Mar Mikhael, if you’re from Achrafieh, get up the road to Jounieh. We never tend to move very far and we’ve all got our favourite bars, there’s an old saying, “Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.”
Try something new, get out of your favourite neighbourhood and take a look around.
Lebanon’s a remarkable place, full of variety, vibrant and ever changing. All you have to do to fall back in love with your country is to get out and do something you haven’t done for a while. It’s nothing remarkable, but it’s a remarkably simple way of learning something new and rediscovering this country’s best parts.