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Friday, 03 February 2012

Nothing Short of Exquisite: Lebanon at its Worst and Finest - Page 3

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Touring the countryside, serenity is absorbed almost immediately upon arrival. Noise of loud honking reduces and roads are less lively yet beaten paths have surprised me with blooming nature. Farms are eclipsed over the vacant lands as fruit vendors are posted at every corner of winding roads with the freshest produce in season. Restaurants, serving “mezze”, an array of tapas style dishes of home grown greens, cured and fresh meats, cheese spreads, and other flavorful recipes, are strategically placed near rivers and lush fields to capture the villages in the best light. The valleys are untouched, the people unspoiled by luxuries. However, Beit-ed-Din, a gorgeous aged palace meaning “House of Religion”, is a true contradiction worthy of notice. With artifacts from the Ottoman era, shimmering marble and mosaic tiles decorate the interior as fountains and coiffed landscape surround it.


The Bekaa Valley is where I have been rewarded with the best memories. Visiting Baalbak in the east is one, feeling a sense of elation unachievable elsewhere. The ancient yet preserved Roman temple with its assembly of massive pillars left me speechless at first sight. A full day will not be enough to cover the playground of history but lasting pictures pretending to hold the ruins are encouraged by the tour guide himself. It is best to be taken by someone who speaks Arabic since a majority of extremists are found, skeptical of foreigners.


Another is picking grapes at a vineyard hidden in the deep mountains bordering Syria. I had to take advantage of the reception of the locals to get my hands dirty and contribute to Lebanon’s finest wine, Ksara. Manakish, a doughy pastry sprinkled with zaatar spice blend, was offered as a token of appreciation by the toothless winery owner in what looked like an opium den, confirming my belief that kindness trumps language barriers.

Sajj%20breadLebanon masters the combination of modernity and tradition. The deep heritage and the pride for the country are celebrated among the rich and poor and in between, transferring this attitude to future generations. Raillery is shared among friends, families, and visitors yet the guilt of not providing the maximum hospitality is an unbearable thought. Lebanon has and will struggle to settle for peace but the Lebanese lifestyle is a true testament that they are all in it together.

(c)Vana Kouyoumji


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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