Showing posts from November, 2018

Five Days in Istanbul

The last time we traveled was nearly a year ago, when we returned to Beirut after Stephen’s birth in California. Now that he’s a year old, we felt it appropriate to make a quick family getaway to a nearby country. Turkey immediately came to mind, as neither I nor my husband had ever visited. Indeed, Istanbul is about an hour and a half plane ride from Beirut, and it is a popular destination for Lebanese because no visa is required. We booked a four-night stay in the capital, divided between Karak√∂y, close to the historic district, and Taksim, just a stone’s throw from Istiklal Caddesi. I’d only entertained a few fleeting perceptions of Istanbul before arriving, but few proved to be accurate. Yes, the Turks are rather sly and expedient, much like the Lebanese. For example, as we exited the airport and scanned the sidewalk for taxis, a porter quickly darted to our side, and once he’d tucked us in to a cab, he demanded a fee. Then, our taxi driver pretended to know exactly where

Oum el Nour, Turtles, and the Fight Against Drugs

Up until a month ago, I had never heard of Oum el Nour, which translates to “mother of light” in Arabic. A Lebanese NGO established in 1990 with sister branches in France and the US, Oum el Nour was born out of an urge to save a captive friend from the shackles of drugs. Over the past 28 years, the organization has assisted over 7,000 men and women to recover and go on to lead productive, prosperous lives. Services are rendered free of charge, so raising funds is of critical importance to keep the wheels in motion. This year, Oum el Nour, steered by a fresh and vibrant committee, enlisted the skills of 15 internationally celebrated artists to reconceive their peer Ghassan Zard’s sculpted turtle for eventual auctioning. Why the turtle? Long recognized as the epitome of persistence, determination, and endurance, the turtle is a survivor. It possesses the ability to protect itself against aggressors, which to be fair are few. Such an innocent aura dons it longevity, perhaps explainin

If It Feels Like Home, It Must Be Tawlet Saida

I still vividly remember my first encounter with Tawlet. It was 2011, and I’d been in Lebanon for nearly a month when my friend Sarah K., who at the time was working with now-defunct group-buying site GoNabit , told me about an amazing deal on the site. “Women from the community are brought in to cook traditional dishes from their villages, and this way, you're treated to the real tastes of Lebanese rural cuisine.” Interesting, I thought to myself. It was true inasmuch that any run-of-the-mill Lebanese restaurant won’t serve you typical home-cooking; the food spread is unequivocally mezza and mashewe (grills). But here was a restaurant that was employing homemakers to both showcase their unique dishes and, in so doing, preserve the authenticity of their respective regions. I nabbed a pair of vouchers, and Dad and I went to the Mar Mikhael eatery. We were mind-blown. The dining space is admittedly crowded, so you’re bound to rub elbows with your neighbors, purposefully prom

The Bowled and the Beautiful at

If you’re in the business of staying in business, you should become good friends with a little thing called innovation. The only constant is change, as the saying goes, so if you intend to continue carving out a slice of the market doing whatever it is you do, it’s important to stay relevant. The folks over at know it all too well. As the name suggests, was established primarily as a delicatessen , serving up all types of North American sandwiches, like smoked meat from Montreal, lobster rolls from New England, roast beef, and a slew of other meaty (and veggie) delights. The sandwich roster was complemented by four massive pans of daily rotating salads, conceived by Executive Chef Dory Masri, who trained under the UK’s finest – the world’s, rather – Mr. Gordon Ramsay. Breakfast also figured into the menu, paying homage to eggs Benedict, pancakes, fresh in-house baked goods, and juices. And that about wrapped it up (pun intended). The food scene as we know i