Only in Lebanon: Part II

A while back, I published an entry about my pet peeves in Lebanon. I think it's only fair that I present the other side to the coin, the stuff I love about this country. Naturally, as a gourmet, I'll start with la nourriture:
  • The French culinary influence which grants us decadent gateaux, les baguettes, and des bons fromages
  • The ubiquity of an international range of restaurants serving top-notch nosh: Peninsula, Julia's, Braai, Mandaloun, Cocteau, and Mondo are a few of my favorites
  • The popularity of happy hour, and thus, the certain presence of a good cocktail
  • Open-air cafes, restaurants, lounges, and pubs: think Zaituna Bay and Uruguay Street
  • Cheap street grub when times call for it: manakish, falafel, shawerma, taouk, basterma, and kafta wraps
  • Elastic Arabic ice cream
  • Sweetened ketchup
  • Pickled anything: cucumbers, carrots, horseradish, stuffed eggplants
  • Starbuck's double chocolate muffin, grace à Le Meilleur caterers
  • The availability of anything and everything in the local supermarket, from specialty French yogurts to good old Tex-Mex taco shells
  • Al Rifai's mixed nuts, especially the seasoned and coated peanuts krikri
  • High standards of hospitality in restaurants and hotels
  • Beautiful, temperate weather, even in wintertime
  • The Mediterranean sea that borders the entire western length of the country
  • The Manara and Biel boardwalks
  • The proximity of the mountains to Beirut and the seaboard
  • Seaside cities, particularly Byblos and Jounieh
  • Quaint streets in the Achrafieh area that tuck away gems of restaurants
  • The fabulous views of the sea from nearly any elevation
  • Easy accessibility to ancient ruins and relics (you can get up close and personal, and no one will slap your hand if you reach out to touch)
  • The strength and influence of faith still present in everyday society
  • The beautiful churches and monasteries that date from centuries ago
  • The rich history of literature, art, and music
  • Dozens of good wineries, several of whose wines are exported for sale abroad
  • Abundance of fresh mountain water
  • Uniform price of gasoline at all fueling stations
  • Gas station attendants who fuel up your car as you remain seated behind the wheel
  • Tri-lingual literacy (Arabic, English, and French) of most of those formally educated
  • People's smart-chic sense of fashion and self-care
  • The freedom to dress however you like (casually, modestly, glamorously, you name it) and not be the laughingstock of town
  • Affordable hair care and salon services (e.g., hair styling, manicures, pedicures, etc.)
  • The humanness: you'll always find someone willing to help, whether your car breaks down or you need directions


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