Spaghetti alla Libanese

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Italians and pasta connoisseurs beware this post is definitely not for you. In Lebanon, we tend to lebanify food and sayings that belong to other cultures, yet are very much part of our every day fabric. Words like chérie, become charchoura, to google a word we say gawgela. At dinner parties sushi cake ingeniously feeds a big number of guests. In a very friendly way we reply Bonjourein (two bonjours) when one greets us with a bonjour. We say things like “angaret ma3eh” which is derived from the word anger, meaning I got really angry, to express how we feel. We say “sachwaret sha3reh” (from the word séchoir, meaning I just had a blow dry). There are so many words and things that are part of our cultural, colonial, and historical background and are now so quintessentially Lebanese.

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The Taste of Holidays

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There is something about festivities that render the air around our household full of joy mixing with the aromas of butter, sugar, rose water and nuts, as the smell dissipates from the kitchen into the rest of the house. Religious traditions and love of family become the essence of the month of March. Ma’amoul are the holiday cookie par excellence in this part of the world; every family has the designated maamoul maker and in mine we luckily have my mother who would make them and decorate them by hand. These light golden crumbly sweets are very popular in the Middle East, and although they are particularly associated with festivals, it is not uncommon to find ma’amoul around the house at other times as well.

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Taking Pride in our Heritage

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Things we never thought

Thoughts we never think

Things we put behind

Things we never find

Things we never forget

Never wondering why

Times that we forget

And things we burry behind

Things that we miss

Are easily found

 

Things we never hide are our

Heritage, Roots, and Pride

 

Youmna Medlej is a photojournalist born in 1956. She studied photography in France and started making reportages on geographic and historical landmarks upon her return to Lebanon,  as a way for Lebanese to rediscover their country after the war. But it was during her participation in Solidere’s excavations in the early 1990s that she discovered and developed her passion for heritage and archeology. At the time, the market was virtually devoid of heritage-oriented material. She thus resolved to introduce the young and old readers to the most prominent cultural and historic icons of their country.

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Is it a Yes or a No?

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“Nshallah”, lebanese for ʾin shāʾa llāh, meaning God willing, or if Allah wills, although claimed to be an essentially Islamic expression, is more accurately understood as a Middle Eastern, and especially Levantine, expression. Its enthusiastic utterers include Lebanese of all religious backgrounds. It’s  equivalent to saying hopefully.

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Happy Birzday to You

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A picture perfect birthday, balloons, kids running around, pop corn, cakes, mummies and nannies, music, and last but not least the birthday cake. As we gather around to sing happy birthday to the birthday boy/girl, we gather all our strength and take a deep breath, as we know there will be a four-minute medley of happy birthday in all languages. Well, I might be exaggerating a little bit, but it is true. If we knew more then 3 languages in Lebanon we would probably be singing in as many as we could.

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Celebrating the First Tooth

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In Lebanon, we practically have a different kind of dessert for every occasion. Meghleh to celebrate the birth of a child, Snayniyeh for teething, Maamoul for Easter, Awwamat for Ghtas, killaj for Ramadan, a’mhiye for Barbara, and. Every dessert’s name hides a little story behind it. Snayniyeh is derived from “snan”, which means teeth and this scrumptious dessert is usually prepared to celebrate the appearance of a child’s first tooth.

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The White Bowl of loveliness

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What if you were to indulge, just completely let go, and sink into a fresh bowl of Labneh? Become drenched in that sour creamy texture encapsulating everything that is great about our food. Taste it. Savor it. So rich, your tongue becomes thick with it. Frothy and smooth with a hint of saltiness, it’s a dish saturated with pure bliss, overflowing at the brim with zesty green olive oil.

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