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Behemoth

Lebanon report with Pictures, June 2005

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Just so you know, missing is the photo of my husband attempting to drink directly from an "ibirq". He was very good natured throughout the trip, considering all we put him through...  :rolleyes:

I'm enjoying this very much.

But what's an ibirq?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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It is Ibrik and not Ibirk and it is simply a water carafe or pitcher.

The word Ibrik is Turkish and is used also to mean the coffee pot.

The one refered to in Lebanon is originally from clay to keep the water cool. The pitcher comes with a longish neck and a small sprout opening and you are supposed to lift anf tilt in the air and drink the water flowing from the spout.

Glass ones are also available but such Ibriks are now turning into tourist curios in view of the health awareness not so much in terms of drinking from the same pitcher but the pitcher open to the outdoor elements.


Edited by Almass (log)

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It is Ibrik and not Ibirk and it is simply a water carafe or pitcher.

Yeesh, you guys don't let any typos get by!

I meant to type ibrik/ibriq. I tried to find a photo on the web but google just brings up turkish coffee pots. There is a real trick to drinking from that thing gracefully. You basically have to be able to swallow with your mouth open, otherwise you end up with a face full of water. (Yes I know there is a double entendre floating around here but I will ignore it in the interest of science so you should too.)

The nice thing with the clay is that it holds its temperature longer so the water stays colder.

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Nadia:

First, I want to tell you how much I am enjoying your post. I never

want it to stop..Thanks for taking so much time.

Second, is the attached picture of a Syrian water jug similar to the

one you used? I purchased this pot in Syria and never knew its proper

name.

gallery_8703_623_921.jpg


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Paula, I am really flattered that you are following this thread.

Your ibrik has the right basic shape but from the angle I can't tell what size it is. You should be able to easily grip the jug by the neck, and tilt it about 3 or 4 inches over your lips. The spout is typically smaller, so that you only get a thin stream of water. Nobody actually uses the handle from what I've seen.

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Thanks for giving me the information on what it is called.

My ibrik holds about 1 quart of water and the opening provides

enough water to fill an open mouth. It is hard to judge the size of the

spout because I had to photograph it from an angle. It is on a high shelf and fastenend in with quake-proof gum.

I'm loving your pictures and seriously considering going next year . The

only thing that is keeping me from making a reservation is your warning about weight gain.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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The only thing that is keeping me from making a reservation is your warning about weight gain.

Totally worth it! Anyway, climbing over ruins all day helps limit the damage.

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gallery_8703_615_1106164374.jpg

This is just an aside to your splendid photos and description of your trip.

Here is a photo of a Tunisian abriq....the one in the center. Thanks to you and Almass I now know what it is called! Note that this Tunisian version has a really small spout. The jug is made of incredibly thick clay and glazed inside and out. Unlike the ibriq it is used to keep stock, soup, or milk hot until needed. For example, I've only seen it used for moistening bread, condiments, egg mollet, and spices in a bowl of leblebi, and for keeping milk hot.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Yup! Tout = mulberry.

It is very difficult to make ishta here because from what I understand you need raw milk. My aunt who lived in Paris for a while told me she made friends with dairy farmers at the markets there and they smuggled her a few litres whenever she had a craving  :smile:

Interesting and beautiful photos Behemoth. I hope I can go to Lebanon one day. Inshallah.

Tout in Hebrew is Strawberry.

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I was going to leave Tripoli until the end but thinking about it all has become a bit of a writer’s block so here goes. I will try to talk mainly about food, and leave the other stuff for a future installment in Farid’s new blog.

We arrived in Tripoli at around 3am, fresh from a hellish flight through Istanbul. After hanging out with my aunt #1 for the first time in 15 years, we caught a few hours of sleep, woke up bright and early to find aunt #2 there with her daughter and son. Had our first cup of Arabic coffee together, plus a couple of cheese and sumac kaa’k and then began the grand family tour.

Actually, the kaak thing was an ongoing battle. I love the local ones with four holes that you buy off of a charcoal grill on the street (insert homer-like drool sound here), but my aunt is convinced I will die of lysteria so she ordered these "clean" ones as a subsitute. They were good but I'd been craving the other ones for 15 years so -- let's just say I had to sneak around a bit. :smile:

We stopped by uncle #1 and my cousin, at work at their camera shop. He called uncle #2, who joined us for our second espresso and came along for our walk. We walked down the hill from Abi-Samra, past my grandmother’s old house. Tripoli elections were the following Sunday, and the atmosphere in the city was almost like Carnival. Here is a typical sight: House plastered with election pictures.

26606720_9e6284e1fb.jpg

By the way, a lot of those campaign photos were taken by my cousin, who is slowly developing a solid career as a freelance photojournalist in Lebanese newspapers. If anyone knows how I can help him break into western markets such as AP, please send me a PM. The kid is really good at what he does and it would be great to help him out somehow.

We stopped by the big cemetery to pause at my grandfather’s grave. This is a picture of somebody else’s grave, or rather a picture of one of the nightwatchman’s many chickens on somebody else's grave.

26606737_27dc8109a8.jpg

During the Eid or holiday, the area around the cemetery is packed full of people selling various forms of kaak, candy, simsimiyya, cotton candy and small toys, as well as some rather aggressive beggars with various adorable kittens, fascinating stories etc. As a kid you get your little packet of holiday money from older relatives so the family cemetery visit is great opportunity for early training in fiscal prudence.

This whole area is from the Mameluk period, circa 14th century. I think the cemetery is about 500 years old. Our next stop, “hammam al jadeed” or “new” bathhouse, is from 1740. The first photo is of the ceiling (the glass inserts throw a beautiful prism effect on the walls at certain times of the day) and the second photo is of some flags and drums a sufi group stores in here:

26606772_aa7842c021.jpg26606793_36e40c6170.jpg

We stopped by uncle #3 is his shop in the souk (the family deed is from sometime in the late 1700’s!) and drank our 3rd cup of coffee. Uncle #4 passed away last year.

We continued on to the old family home. This is the neighborhood where my dad grew up.

26606809_3cc1104b6b.jpg

See how the streets are all narrow and windey? At the end of each little section there is a gate. If an invading army came through, they would get lost in the maze, then the townspeople would seal up each end of their section and basically have at them. Pretty brutal.

After that, we walked around the souk for a bit. Here is a photo of Khan el-Sayyaghin. (Jeweler’s Khan).

26606573_ba60b4982b.jpg

We also walked through Khan el Khayyatin (tailors) Khan el Attarin (Spices and homeopaths) Khan el Nahhasin (brasswork) and Khan el Saboon (Soap). If you want to see more of these, here is an excellent link: http://www.tripoli-city.org/souk.html If you get a chance to go, the café in Souk el haraj is a great place to rest and have a little something. Last time I was here was with my grandmother. She was known for going to at least ten or so shops to find the best ingredient for whatever she was making. Generally we would end up circling back to the first place, where she would inform the guy what the best price was in the market, and get exactly what she wanted at a well-negotiated price :smile: I really do miss her.

We also said hi to my father's (and brother’s) childhood barber (I used to tag along as a kid), a jeweler vaguely related to the family, this priest we were friends with who when visiting would always bring extra holy bread for my brother, (He gave A a kaa’k with sumac.) let’s see, another friend of my dad’s with whom I had an entertaining discussion of Arabic poetry & linguistics (and a glass of very fresh orange juice and coffee #4). I’m sure I’m leaving out a few. Then we walked past my old school, to my aunt #3’s house.

Aunt #3 is a serious foodie. She and my mom would spend hours discussing obscure mountain recipes. Lately she has gotten into making elaborate sugar flowers. We drank some homemade Kharoub (Carob drink) and some nougat candies she rolled in dried rose petals. Yum. Finally, she made us our coffee #5, but slow cooked over a brazier, Bedouin style. (It was her daughter who gave us our best Beirut bar recs.)

Next we hopped in a taxi to Abu Fadi in el Mina for a late lunch octopus sandwich, followed by lemon ice cream at Ish-Ish, right on the corner.

Here is a nice little photo from across the street:

26606552_5b41e627f6.jpg

Finally, on the way back to the older part of the city, we stopped by aunt #4 and her two daughters for a rollicking loud time plus more coffee (#6). (Aunt #5 is out of the country.) Later that night, we took out falafel and shawarma from the best stand in town: Ali Dib on Sahat-el-tal, right next to the Ahdab bus stop. How can something that only costs 1000LL (approx 75 cents) taste so divine? What they seem to miss in the US is that a proper falafel has more in common with a Banh Mi than with a heavy drippy old burger. Remind me to rant about this at some point. Oh yeah, aunt #1 made us more coffee, and had in the meantime bought a bunch of fruit (cherries, apricots) and ice cream.

So if you’re keeping track, that makes 3 uncles, 4 aunts, at least 7 cups of coffee plus assorted other beverages. My next installement will be about what meals we were invited to in Tripoli.


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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No pictures of Abu Fadi and the sandwich :sad:? Can you elaborate a little on the octopus sandwich what was in it? How did it taste? Was it big enough :smile:?

It's so funny, every visit to Lebanon, for the first day or two is almost a replica of what you just stated.

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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No pictures of Abu Fadi and the sandwich :sad:? Can you elaborate a little on the octopus sandwich what was in it? How did it taste? Was it big enough :smile:?

Sorry, no picture of the sandwich. the place was packed and I got camera shy. Plus my (blondish) German husband got a "parlez-vous francais?" from a couple of people in line so we were already feeling like dorky tourists. The sandwich is massive, spicy, delicious, and very very drippy.

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No pictures of Abu Fadi and the sandwich :sad:? Can you elaborate a little on the octopus sandwich what was in it? How did it taste? Was it big enough :smile:?

Sorry, no picture of the sandwich. the place was packed and I got camera shy. Plus my (blondish) German husband got a "parlez-vous francais?" from a couple of people in line so we were already feeling like dorky tourists. The sandwich is massive, spicy, delicious, and very very drippy.

He's the dorky tourist, you're going back home.

Do you have a recipe for that sandwich?


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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He's the dorky tourist, you're going back home.

Do you have a recipe for that sandwich?

Ha, true, though it was my first day back so I was feeling a little disoriented.

To be honest, the way the shop was set up it would have been hard to get a decent shot of the process -- the place is dark and quite narrow. Once you get the sandwich in hand you really don't want to touch anything else.

It is basically an overstuffed panini. We got it with everything, which meant an orangey-red sauce that involved carrot pieces that I could have done without. But the octopus itself was superb... I think the marinade probably included garlic and possibly some vinegar, two of my favorite ingredients. The sandwich also had tomatoes and spicy hot sauce, parsley and god knows what else - maybe a couple of french fries (a tripoli thing...) Next time I would go for slightly less of the drippy stuff, to avoid a smelly ride home and trip to the dry cleaner. Way back when I just got it plain, but I was feeling very festive this time you know.

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The nice thing about finally bringing A to Lebanon with me was that he got to see that two things he thought were my peculiar eccentricities were, in fact, peculiarities of an entire culture.

The first one is that we are almost always thinking about food. Nine times out of ten when A asks me what I’m thinking it has to do with what I’m planning for dinner. And during this trip, nine times out of ten, if he asked me to translate the argument my relatives were having, it was about who sold the best shawarma, or what part of the country produced the best cherries, or which place still made their ice cream without artificial additives.

The second thing is that (by western standards) I always make a lot of food for guests. If you are invited to our place for dinner there will be something on the coffee table for when you first come in, at least one sort of sit-down appetizer or soup, a main course, a vegetable dish or two, a cheese or salad course, a dessert course and of course the digestives and more coffee. The average Lebanese host makes me look like a rank amateur. There will be at least two salads, at least two main dishes, at least two appetizers, each of which would normally take me an entire day to prepare, not to mention all the drinks and fruit and olives and nuts and…

Here are a few menus:

1)This was supposed to be a Samke Harra meal at our friends' house in el Mina. What they actually made:

Nuts with beer or soda.

Cheese and mortadella pastries

M’tabbal*

Fattoush salad

Samke Harra*

Samke Sayyadieh

Roustou (yes, an entire roast) with sauce

Homemade arak

Chocolate cake

Knefeh bil-jibn

Cherries, plums and peaches

Some rather expensive cigars…

2)“Small” Dinner at an aunts house

Fried kibbe

Grilled kibbe

Tabbouli

Fattoush

M’tabbal

Lahm bil Ageen pastry

Two kinds of Arabic sweets

Several different kinds of fruit

Ice cream

3)Lunch at an aunt’s house:

Mloukhieh (A childhood fave of mine that she makes very well) :wub:

Baked fish stuffed with cilantro, coriander, curry, and baked over aromatic herbs (got the recipe)

Roast chicken with spiced rice pilaf

We managed to dissuade another aunt from bringing "Akkoub". BTW guys, what the hell is Akkoub in English?

Tabbouli

Some other stuff I can't remember

and of course, fruit.

4) Village brunch

Kibbe nayyeh

Asbeh sawda, liyyeh, other raw meat and whatever goes with it

Cheese sambousik pastry

Meat sambousik pastry

Tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, various herbs

Cheeses, yogurt, labneh, homegrown olives & olive oil

Fruit

(um..followed by a stop at another uncle's house where they were just sitting down to a big pile of stuffed grape leaves, followed of course by fruit and recriminations that we hadn't allowed ourselves to be invited to a real meal...and then at a cousin's house, the most refreshing and delicate homemade rosewater essence-- mai ward -- I think I have ever had...)

*I have to say something about these two dishes as all my future attempts will be measured against them. The m’tabbal (aka Baba Ghanouj) was intensely, seductively smoky, the tahini subdued as the perfect background, the lemon almost an indetectable bright note. The samke Harra was the best I’ve ever eaten. Expertly baked fish, the sauce an ideal balance of flavors, every ingredient present but none dominant. Just the right bite of heat mellowed out by the sesame. The decoration was simple but perfect: just toasted pine nuts and caramelized onions. There is nothing to the recipe in terms of ingredients but getting it right is all technique. It will take me a bunch of tries, I can tell.

The view of the sunset from the balcony also didn’t hurt:

26739780_b96c8503d6.jpg26739761_06e86de4c9.jpg


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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The nice thing about finally bringing A to Lebanon with me was that he got to see that two things he thought were my peculiar eccentricities were, in fact, peculiarities of an entire culture.

The first one is that we are almost always thinking about food. Nine times out of ten when A asks me what I’m thinking it has to do with what I’m planning for dinner. And during this trip, nine times out of ten, if he asked me to translate the argument my relatives were having, it was about who sold the best shawarma, or what part of the country produced the best cherries, or which place still made their ice cream without artificial additives.[...]

That's wonderful. It sounds like Lebanese people are kindred spirits with their fellow Mediterraneans in Italy.

Tripoli looks gorgeous. Now, Lebanon is yet another country I want to visit someday, God willing.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Alright Nadia! Now you're talking!! :biggrin:

Just going through your meal list brought back beautiful memories of Lebanon...

I totally see what you mean about food and Lebanese people. To this day, whenever my dad says he is just making a simple "Kibbe bil sanyeh" for lunch, that means he is preparing a 5 course mezze, with two main dishes, with desserts and fruits, and a "Kibbe bil sanyeh" :blink:


"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler

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*I have to say something about these two dishes as all my future attempts will be measured against them. The m’tabbal (aka Baba Ghanouj) was intensely, seductively smoky, the tahini subdued as the perfect background, the lemon almost an indetectable bright note. The samke Harra was the best I’ve ever eaten. Expertly baked fish, the sauce an ideal balance of flavors, every ingredient present but none dominant. Just the right bite of heat mellowed out by the sesame. The decoration was simple but perfect: just toasted pine nuts and caramelized onions. There is nothing to the recipe in terms of ingredients but getting it right is all technique. I will take me a bunch of tries, I can tell.

The view of the sunset from the balcony also didn’t hurt:

26739780_b96c8503d6.jpg

Wow. Look at those mountains! :wub:

Behemoth, I'm loving this writeup. Thank you so much.

The food business really makes me laugh. Our family, of generally British Isles descent, is well-known for putting too much food on the table (my grandmother was the champion) but we're pikers compared to you and yours. I've seen the same behavior in Egypt. It's daunting, because we can never figure out a graceful way to stop. We keep hearing, "Eat, eat! You no like my cooking?!" even as we groan.

Am I correct in thinking that you ate WITH your relatives? Would it be the same if you were the guests of nonrelatives? One of the particularly daunting things about being fed in Egypt was that they'd lay this huge spread out in front of us and then disappear, refusing to eat with us. I suppose that's just the finest hospitality ("what's ours is yours") but we had trouble looking at the household's food budget for a week, spread out for our sole enjoyment, and them acting insulted if we didn't eat it all. Would you get that kind of treatment in Lebanon if you weren't among family?

Finally - when you figure out how to make that m'tabbal and that samke harra, I hope you'll post the recipes. I'm still struggling to work out the best proportions for baba ghanoush, and I've never even heard of that fish but now I want to try it.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The nice thing about finally bringing A to Lebanon with me was that he got to see that two things he thought were my peculiar eccentricities were, in fact, peculiarities of an entire culture.

If I were on that trip you would A to Z.

What are these eccentricities? I wonder if Omar and Elie have them as well. :biggrin:

My wife has made similar observations about me after visiting France. Of course Omar is French too.

An Algerian eccentricity I have is the way I laugh, really hard, from my soul, laughing to the point of tears.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Tripoli looks gorgeous. Now, Lebanon is yet another country I want to visit someday, God willing.

Tripoli the location is beautiful: snow-capped mountains (3000 meters!) on one side, deep blue sea on the other. Tripoli the city is a bit more complicated. The souk areas are great. People are starting to realize that their one hope of drawing tourists is to perserve the old markets, so there has been an effort to clean and renovate these areas, even though there is still a long way to go and a lot more money needed (one reason Hariri's death was so devastating to this area.) There are some heartbreakingly beautiful old houses that someone really needs to fix up.

Tripoli was spared the worst of the war, so there was a lot of unregulated building, but no working government to control it. And whether it is for reasons of corruption or simple complacency the tripoli leadership just sat back and let these seriously ugly, cheaply constructed buildings go up everywhere. (In many cases they or their nephews actually built them.) The problem is so pervasive that I don't see how it will be fixed in my lifetime. Still, since the war there have been some serious improvements: regular trash pickup and designated dumpsters have gone a long way in helping things.

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I've seen the same behavior in Egypt.  It's daunting, because we can never figure out a graceful way to stop. We keep hearing, "Eat, eat!  You no like my cooking?!" even as we groan.

(After massive portions of 15 other dishes:) Why won't you try the X? You don't like X? Should I fry you some eggs? Look, I can send the kids to pick up some pastries or something. Some cheese? Come on, that's not a big enough portion, to really taste X you need to at least...

Am I correct in thinking that you ate WITH your relatives?  Would it be the same if you were the guests of nonrelatives?  One of the particularly daunting things about being fed in Egypt was that they'd lay this huge spread out in front of us and then disappear, refusing to eat with us.

Wow, that would be weird. No, with both family and friends we always eat with the whole family. In more conservative houses I suppose with (especially male) strangers the women might not join the meal, but that was more common in other muslim countries, not so much our experience in Lebanon.

Finally - when you figure out how to make that m'tabbal and that samke harra, I hope you'll post the recipes.  I'm still struggling to work out the best proportions for baba ghanoush, and I've never even heard of that fish but now I want to try it.

Heh, I'll try.

Actually, I am always curious about what brings people to the Middle East (besides the high-paying Gulf job). How did you, verjuice and M.Lucia end up there?

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Great writeup, I'm dying to visit Lebanon myself now! (Do you think it would be difficult for a non-Arabic speaker to get around?)

I'm wondering what goes into an 'authentic' Lebanese felafel sandwich - the closest I've had to the real deal are from middle eastern places here in Canada.


Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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I've seen the same behavior in Egypt.  It's daunting, because we can never figure out a graceful way to stop. We keep hearing, "Eat, eat!  You no like my cooking?!" even as we groan.

(After massive portions of 15 other dishes:) Why won't you try the X? You don't like X? Should I fry you some eggs? Look, I can send the kids to pick up some pastries or something. Some cheese? Come on, that's not a big enough portion, to really taste X you need to at least...

:laugh::laugh:

Actually, I am always curious about what brings people to the Middle East (besides the high-paying Gulf job). How did you, verjuice and M.Lucia end up there?

My husband's Ph.D. and post-doc work led to a lot of research in the Eastern Egyptian desert. I've gone to Egypt with him 7 times now, and each time I come away with more knowledge and love of the country. That exposure to Egypt and to Arabic (I'm actually taking classes now) has led to a broader interest in the Middle East in general. I'm looking forward to visiting more of the Middle Eastern countries, one day, but I always want to go back to Egypt, too. Madame Sabra (Coptic, so not Umm somebody) of the "eat, eat! you no like my cooking?" keeps promising to take me shopping and spend a day showing me how she makes her dishes, and I might actually have the language skills by our next visit. Maybe. I'd actually rather get that invitation from our Bedouin friends over in Mersa Alem, but it's harder to connect with them.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Great writeup, I'm dying to visit Lebanon myself now! (Do you think it would be difficult for a non-Arabic speaker to get around?)

I'm wondering what goes into an 'authentic' Lebanese felafel sandwich - the closest I've had to the real deal are from middle eastern places here in Canada.

The cab drivers generally didn't speak english, even in Beirut, and raised the price a bit whenever "blondie" was with me. :wink: But we're talking so little money here (less than $2 a trip or so) that it just wasn't worth getting upset over. Try to negotiate the price ahead of time. One very annoying habit is when you ask the price and they say "whatever you want" -- though to their credit they will sometimes respond, "no, that's too much." It is always good to ask the hotel desk how much a trip ought to cost. Meters would be a nice, tourist friendly developement. But in any case, the more frightening thing will be the actual cab ride. Traffic is insane.

Most people under 30 speak English. In Beirut you will certainly have no problems at any restaurants, bars etc. In Tripoli it might be a little harder to get around though any places popular with visitors such as Hallab (or abu Fadi for that matter) will be fine.

When visiting historical sites, there will always be at least one person who speaks English. For around town, if you have some French that would be very helpful. Most people over 30 at least speak decent french, though English seems to be taking over as the hip language for the younger crowd. (We overheard a couple of cafe conversations being carried on entirely in English by all Lebanese participants. We thought it might be practice for a class, but no, they were just showing off. :rolleyes: )

I"ll talk about the falafel soon -- though in a Lebanese place in Canada you're probably getting a solid version.

(edited to add some info.)


Edited by Behemoth (log)

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