Showing posts from 2019

Regaining Lebanon

Nearly one week ago, just a few days into the protests animating Lebanon, a Lebanese-American friend residing abroad texted me to see how we were faring. “Still hell-bent on that dump of a country?” he inquired. Maybe if he’d asked me that same question a week before, before the catastrophic fires tore through the Chouf, Metn and Akkar regions, ravaging the lush greenery of the Lebanese mountain ranges; before we learned of the three Sikorsky helicopters, each equipped to carry 4,000 liters of water to douse fires, that had been grounded for years on account of neglect; before heads of state despicably proposed a fee of USD 6 per month for WhatsApp VoIP calls, a technology that is entirely proprietary and free to the public worldwide…maybe I would have conceded ashamedly to his logic. “You’re right,” I’d have concurred. “This country is a veritable dump, and we’re idiots to be wiling away our livelihoods here.” But something has happened in the wake of those fires and t

Losing Lebanon

What’s happening to you, dear Lebanon? Why do you allow yourself to continue plummeting into the abysmal darkness rather than pull yourself into the light where you once basked? Why aren’t you fighting for what you could be, nay,  should be, permitting everyone instead to trample all over you? I hardly recognize you from the beautiful Lebanon on which Lebanese-American writer Gibran Khalil Gibran once waxed poetic: “I have my Lebanon and its beauty,” Gibran declared. Now fires run ablaze through your green frontiers, fires which the state struggles to subdue and douse because it willfully neglected to maintain its infrastructure. Where is your natural beauty now? Sullied and squandered. Lebanon's cedars are mentioned numerously in the Bible “My Lebanon is a flock of birds fluttering in the early morning as shepherds lead their sheep into the meadow, and rising in the evening as farmers return from their fields and vineyards,” Gibran went on to write. Your pas

Radisson Blu Beirut: A Tranquil Oasis in the Heart of the Lebanese Capital

If you saw the photos of the entrance lobby at Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut during the months of August and September, you’d rethink any air travel in a heartbeat. Lines of passengers snaked through the entrance halls, threatening to spill outside onto the curb, and it was estimated that around   two hours were required before reaching the duty free zone. The Lebanese are not particularly renowned for their organizational skills, so you can imagine folks belligerently cutting line in a bid to make it in and past the madness. We recoiled at the horror stories and decided that a staycation would deliver roughly the same purpose a quick getaway abroad endeavored to: change of scenery, pampering, and respite from the travails of quotidian life in Beirut. And thus, on the last weekend of September, to coincide with our five-year wedding anniversary, we – the trio of me, my husband, and our toddler – checked in to the Radisson Blu nestled in the heart of the Ain Mre

Lebanon’s Newest “It” Winery: Les Vignes du Marje

At first glance, one might consider the Lebanese national drink to be “arak,” that white, murky, anise-derived spirit related to France’s pastis and Italy’s sambuca. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’d immediately reconsider: Lebanon boasts upward of 70 wineries spanning the Bekaa, Batroun, Bhamdoun and Byblos regions. In my book, we’re unequivocally a wine-producing nation. Les Vignes du Marje is one of Lebanon's newest wineries, and its home is Marjeyoun in the south Surprised? According to Farrah Berrou, founder of B for Bacchus which host workshops and tastings surrounding Lebanese wine, the number of vineyards registered in 1990 was a measly seven. Fast forward to the millennium, and the tally reached 17. In 2010, it surged to 41, and by 2017, we hit 49. That means in the past two years alone, the rate of induction of new wineries has grown by a factor of seven! In the past two years, Lebanon has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the number of winer

Toasted: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Let’s be honest here: it’s hard to get excited about two slices of toasted square bread, notwithstanding what goes between them. Am I right? Hardly my idea of a riveting culinary affair, especially when I’ve been making the trite peanut butter and jelly variety since elementary school. Leave it to the epicurean genius of Jad el Hage to set me straight and send the ball hurling out of left field. Managing partner and executive chef at his company Foodlab, Jad is the face behind the concepts of l’Humeur du Chef (Mar Mikhael), La Cabane du Chef (Zaarour), and La Paillotte du Chef (summer popup in Halat). Rewind the chronology, and you’d find him helping to launch Tawlet alongside critically acclaimed food activist Kamal Mouzawak; manning the kitchens at the now-shuttered Talleyrand, once a bastion of enviable haut gastronomy; and flexing his muscles at the Byblos beach resort EddeSands. Jad is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, where he ear