The breeze of these winter days, I can feel it slipping into my skin. The wind is sighing in a winter sky and the streets are busy as usual with people going about their day. The birds that came are gone again. The silence reins the skies yet the cacophony of a busy city fills the air. With all the painted images of a winter scene in the heart of Beirut comes the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air. It’s that time of the year where the street vendors stand on the side of the roads selling Kastana (roasted chestnuts).
I am sure you’ve heard this about a million times before “ya pappy, kam mara iltilak haj thot ossba’ak bi mounkharak” (oh, daddy, how many times have I told you to stop putting your finger in your nose). Oh no, wait, it’s not what you think… it’s not the child reprimanding the dad for putting his finger in his nose. It’s the dad whose calling his son dad.
Another slow food foundation for the protection of food biodiversity is our very own keshek el foukara (poor man’s cheese). Majdel Zoun is located around ten kilometers from the ancient city of Tyre, a small village of Muslim farmers situated in a dry stony landscape. Their Keshek el fouqara in fact uses no milk, whereas keshek is commonly made with goat’s milk yoghurt.
The Lebanese flag is formed of two horizontal red stripes enveloping a horizontal white stripe. The white stripe is to be two times a red one (ratio 1:2:1). The green cedar in the middle touches each of the red stripes and its width is one third of the width of the flag.
Beloved for her powerful voice, Sabah, actress and entertainer, was never far from the limelight during her six-decade career.
Saida, Arabic for fishing, takes its name from the old Phoenician word sidouna, also meaning fishing. In Genesis Sidon is a son of Canaan, a grandson of Noah. One of the most important, and perhaps the oldest, Phoenician cities dating around 4000 B.C., and perhaps even earlier, in Neolithic times, it was twice destroyed in war between the 7th and 4th centuries B.C., and again during the earthquake in the 6th Century A.D. It was the base from which the Phoenician’s great Mediterranean empire grew. Of all of Lebanon’s cities this is the most mysterious, for its past has been tragically scattered and plundered.
In her cartoon world in shades of vivid colours, Zina Muffarij sketches Lebanese society with characters that form the stereotypical families nowadays. Her sketches are youthful, witty, funny, ironic, and a true mirror of the society we live in. Little Coussouma, one of my favorite characters, who happens to be the house maid, skips through twisted comical scenes with an irony so skillfully agile, that although carry a poignant point, are rendered wittily satirical.
Set in 1975, West Beirut recreates the initial stages of Lebanon’s civil war through the experiences of three teenagers: Muslim friends Tarek and Omar, and the Christian neighbor May, not that religion or politics concern them very much. Tarek is more preoccupied with pop, sex, smoking and his beloved cine camera. Indeed, the division of Beirut into Christian-controlled East and Muslim West is simply an excuse to skip school. The three of them have several adventures in the chaotic streets patrolled by Muslim militias.
Tyre is a fabled place where monumental ruins recall as they change character with the daylight, the grandiose architecture and the vision, which its roman conquers, acquired from the orient. It evokes in equal measure the splendors of Phoenician times and those of Rome and Byzantium.
There is an intimate connection between food, seasons, and land that is universal. As the seasons change so does the earth, the air, the animals, and our body start to require different types of food. Somehow we are all connected on this little planet and what influences one, influences the other.