In Search of the Silver Lining

It’s painfully easy hating on Lebanon. No matter where you look, there’s incessantly a blatant reminder of how archaic the country’s infrastructure is. We still suffer from electricity outages day and night – where else in the world does that happen? Many a country reflect a lower GDP per capita than we do, and yet they’re not living in the dark (pun intended).
Forget the countryside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a smoothly paved road devoid of potholes anywhere in the capital. If you’re ever reeling from indigestion, just get behind the wheel and go for an excursion. That’ll solve your tummy troubles in no time.
How about the air and water pollution and the seeming indifference to ameliorate either? What of the historic ruins that are open to the public to trample upon and abuse, rather than being the objects of painstaking preservation and care? We count as one of the oldest civilizations in the world, laying claim to Roman and Byzantine ruins from tens of centuries ago that attest t…

Celebrating Seven Years of Blogging

Exactly seven years ago, a lightning bolt electrified my thoughts and induced me to launch this blog. For those who weren’t readers then, my motivation was two-fold: (1) I sought a creative outlet in which to chronicle my adventures in my relatively new country of residence, Lebanon; and (2) I wished to paint a real and positive image of that country for friends around the world to explore. Global perception of Lebanon is rather limited to what the media projects, and that is a country riddled with strife, corruption, and disillusion. I may not be able to contend with those unwieldy labels, but what I can do is provide an alternate view of what it’s like for an American transplant to make a permanent home for herself here.
The blog has undoubtedly taken me on a journey I never could have foreseen. The focal points from the beginning have been culture and food, which is perhaps what made the blog popular with Lebanese expats around the world seeking to live vicariously through a fellow …

Hotel Wakim: A Cozy Nesting Spot in the Heart of Beit Mery

Beit Mery has always held a certain spell over me. Straddling residential Ain Saadeh and summertime hotspot Broumana, this charming village has arguably the most breathtaking vantage points of Beirut, the Mediterranean, and everything in between.
Most recognize it as the setting of Al Bustan, a hotel lush with sprawling gardens constructed over half a century ago by entrepreneur and statesman Emile Bustani. Others have come to identify the town with its ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins nestled below Deir Al Kalaa, or Couvent Saint Jean, an Antonine Maronite monastery that doubles as a majestic wedding venue.
But there’s far more to Beit Mery than meets the eye: The parallel streets that narrow to the width of a car despite remaining two-way. The yellow-stone buildings that have withstood the inclement harshness of many a winter. The crisp, cool air in the early morning and late evening on a warm summer’s day. And, as I recently came to unearth, an endearing establishment named Hotel Wa…

The Case of the Mysterious Package Delivery

Last Friday evening, I received a very mysterious package.

The courier had contacted me a few days prior via Instagram Direct Message, coordinating time and place: being in public was crucial, as he couldn't reveal his identity. It all seemed rather cryptic, particularly his unpopulated account @overdose961 that reflected absolutely no followers or accounts followed. Naturally, I was reluctant to agree. But the element of suspense eventually got the best of me, and after cluing in my husband on the exchange, I succumbed.
So around 6:45 PM on the aforementioned Friday, I courageously met the masked man in a busy street, where passing cars slowed to snap his photo as he handed me a brown paper bag stamped with "OVERDOSE961." He indulged me with a selfie before jumping back into his car and speeding away.
Back in the safety of our home, I carefully opened the bag, which was wafting with the incredible aroma of something delicious. My toddler Stephen was more impatient than I, …

Food Trend Alert in Lebanon: The Skillet!

The culinary scene in Lebanon has been capsized by a trend sweeping its way through every major restaurant chain. Can you guess what it is?

The latest sensation is the “skillet,” which in layman terms is merely a frying pan. Think of how fajitas are typically presented: in a cast-iron skillet. This ensures the meat continues to sizzle and cook even while off the stove top, nestled in front of you and titillating your senses.
Perhaps the credit of streamlining skillets in this country belongs to Swiss Butter, a two-outlet-strong restaurant that does one thing and one thing only: what I like to call meat-frites, French fries with your choice of either beef, chicken, or salmon. The meat comes swimming in a pool of secret sauce containing 33 herbs and spices, kept warm inside a skillet. The skillet is flanked by fries, sliced baguette bread, and a mesclun salad all neatly arranged on a wooden breadboard. For 22,000 LL ($14.67), you can have a superb dish cooked to your specified doneness. I…

Reflecting On My MIT Graduation 10 Years Later

Ten years ago exactly, I graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That day formed a huge deal to me, and I remember it as though it transpired yesterday. My parents and younger brother flew out from Los Angeles to attend the momentous occasion, and the weather that weekend couldn’t have been more hospitable for a city that is typically inundated with chilling precipitation.

MIT was the culmination of every academic dream I had entertained since high school. I had shied away from applying there for the undergraduate program because it was so far from home – on the opposite coast of the United States – and at 17, I wasn’t quite ready to make that leap.
But while at the University of California, I never lost sight of my dream. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more. I strove so hard to maintain a perfect GPA so that I could assure admission to the world’s most prestigious engineering school. I didn’t realize it until the fall semester of my senior year, when…

Disney's Aladdin Remake Beautifully Retells the Iconic Classic

Easily the single most important movie to us kids growing up in the ‘90s was Disney’s “Aladdin.” The intriguing storyline; the incredible voices of Genie, Jafar, and Iago; the mesmerizing musical score and lyrics; the animated scenes from Agrabah; the definitive triumph of good over evil…it was spellbindingfor impressionable youngsters like me and my brothers.
We would listen day and night to the Children’s Broadcasting Corporation radio station called AAHS. Any time one of the songs from the Aladdin soundtrack came on, my elder brother Andre would bolt to the radio and press the record button on a blank cassette he’d pre-loaded. We obtained the sheet music for “A Whole New World” and practiced it religiously until we’d mastered playing it on the piano while singing along. Andre was Aladdin, and I – of course – was Jasmine. My younger brother John Paul chimed in whenever we generously allowed it.
We hunted down the movie paraphernalia: everything from the official movie poster to toy fi…

Strolling Down Memory Lane: Restaurant Closures in Beirut

The other day, I was scrolling through the extensive directory of restaurants published on my blog. By no means is this an exhaustive list of every eatery in Lebanon. It is merely a compilation of the places I’ve (1) visited and (2) felt utterly compelled to showcase. To be sure, the list counts hundreds of food institutions in and around Beirut.

But as I was skimming over the roster, I realized an update was in order, for a vast number of these joints have gone out of business. A reliable source in the food and beverage industry recently confided that 741 establishments shuttered in the past year alone. That number is at once record-breaking and crippling.
Indeed, the one constant in Lebanon is change, and more often than not, it’s anything but positive. Our dilapidated roads, the poor urban planning, telecom and mobile service, pollution of the environment, economic stagnation, unemployment, unreasonably low wages…the banes afflicting this nation are too numerous to recount here. 
One …