Sunday breakfast is that moment of the week where time passes unhurriedly. The slow rhythm of the city outside and the yearning to spend some quality time at home in our pajamas make for the ideal setting, to what I call the feast. While the boys are busy doing boys stuff, I head to the kitchen. I love breakfast, especially on Sundays. Sitting all together for a meal and talking, while enjoying a good Lebanese breakfast as the smell of fresh brewed coffee fills the house with its aroma, is one of my little pleasures in life.
The literal meanings of common phrases of courtesy in Arabic are so much more elaborate than the rest of the world. They are beautifully rhymed and phrased short little sentences that reflect so much about our culture. Respect and proper greetings are pillars in our social fiber. We smile, say hello, and ask about the other’s person’s day all in a cordial manner. Yet the most beautiful of expressions, I find, is “ya’tik el a’fye, a shortened version of Allah ya’tik el a’fye (may God give you health and vigor). Most people translate a’fye as only health, but I believe it has more depth to it. Soha in Arabic means health, and a’fye means health and vitality, vigor, strength, or energy.
I always laugh when the mother in law in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is flabbergasted that her son in law doesn’t eat meat. A Lebanese version of that would be: “You don’t eat no Kibbeh? Kiff ya3neh? Ba3milak kibbet batata? Tayeb kibbet la2’tin? Shou? El borghol bya3milak nafkha! Ma a3m bifham!” (What do you mean? Shall I make you a potato kibbeh? How about a pumkin kibbe then? What? You feel bloated after eating bulgur? I don’t get it!)
There’s something beautiful about the way people drink their coffee in the morning. In their gaze are slow long sips of determination, routine, hope, and caffeine. I can’t help but wonder what daily battles they’re preparing for.
Where the light cascades in streaming beauty, the children of forever lie in their beds with sweet faces smiling to the morning sun. As the birds sing with gentle tunes, they adorn their hair with petals of servitude and strength. All here are of harmonious voice and love rules this place in gratitude. All the songs sung here are healing, sending hope to the bravest of them all.
The largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south and overlooks both the Bekaa valley to the east and the Shouf valley to the west. Blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes, the reserves most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Al-Shouf, Barouk, and Ain Zhalta. At the local level several of the cedar stands are recognized as outstanding scenic landscapes, the larger cedars contributing in a most distinctive way to the landscape. It covers an area of 50,000 hectares, equivalent to about 5% of the overall area of Lebanon, making it one of the largest mountain protected areas in the Middle East.
“l’ Hsseib, please” (check please)
“The city streets are full of colors, smells, and noise that carry with it its identity, stamping my memory with a history passed and a future full of recollections. As the school bell rings, the children rejoice at he end of another school day. As for me, the most beautiful part of it is the route we take back home.” That’s how Rania Zbib Daher starts her most recent children’s book “zakirat el madina” (Memory of a city). Her book inspired by her childhood years in Beirut is a beautiful depiction of the city through the eyes of a child. Every page I read reminded me of that same route I used to take with my mom back from school; the man that sold roasted peanuts, the Ka’ak seller, and the man that pushed his vegetable and fruit cart along the streets of Beirut, all played a role in that theatre of life in this crowded city.
Niha is a town in the Chouf area which belongs to Mount Lebanon. The word neeha in Syriac means calm and peaceful. As most names carry a poetic feel to their place, Niha is truly a serene place. Among its olive groves and its grapes, apples, plums and almonds trees, Niha, like most corners in Lebanon, owns a cultural and historical richness that dwells in the heritage of this country.
The Ark of Taste, which is a foundation created by Slow Food International, Slow Food Italy, and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, is an operational body for the protection of food biodiversity. They travel the world collecting small-scale quality productions that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the entire planet: an extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats. The Ark was created to point out the existence of these products, draw attention to the risk of their extinction within a few generations, and invite everyone to take action to help protect them. In some cases this might be by buying and consuming them, in some by telling their story and supporting their producers.