Day 19~ February 19~ Lebanon

the bakeress at 'souk el tayeb'~ Beirut~ Lebanon

I don’t think I can remember a single meal at our home in Lebanon that did not include Lebanese bread. There is a saying in Lebanon “between us is bread and salt” which means that we are friends, we are close, we are on ‘sharing life’ terms. And as a child I remember that neighbors’ doors were always open and we children were able to just walk in and out throughout the neighborhood without any type of formality. We had a neighbor living right across the little road from us and she used to have a special old fashioned oven called saj outside her home where she made fresh bread. I still remember smelling the firewood burning signaling the start of the bread making process and running up to her home with wide eyes as she happily made us her special bread called “mtabbkah”. This was a flat loaf sprinkled with sugar and then folded to let the sugar melt inside and it was mouthwatering.

With the modernism of Lebanon, these types of ovens are becoming a rarity. I was so thrilled to see the special traditional market in the center of Beirut (souk el tayyeb) that celebrates old traditions and the best of homemade delicacies that Lebanon has to offer.

the juice seller

173 thoughts on “Day 19~ February 19~ Lebanon

  1. Mimo, Thanks for sharing your memories. I could almos smell the mtabbkah. My grandparents were from the Ukrain and my grandmother fixed something similar (it was a shame that she had to do it indoors). But the aroma still drove us little guys crazy.
    Mimo, thank you for following my blog “This, that and Another thing”. I have another blog that you may like. It is starting to fill up with my short stories that I am pulling from Amazon and releasing for free on the following blog: http://adirondackmountains.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/29/
    Please forgive me for posting my blog on your comment section. I just thought that you may enjoy these short stories.
    And thank you again for sharing your trip and memories.

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  2. Very beautiful pictures, and inspiring blog indeed! I have never been to Lebanon, but very much enjoyed Lebanese food in Dubai… thank you for reminding me of very fond memories of divinely delicious saj

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  3. A lovely blog with beautiful photos. Brings back very fond memories of staying with old friends back in 2001. The amazing food and the wonderful warm hospitality. I was always made to feel completely welcome and at home. Looking forward to sharing this with my family one day. shokran!

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  4. Someone said, the best pictures are the simplest pictures. Can’t relate these immediately to good composition or good lighting or good technique or good timing. Boy, it’s probably a combination of all. The message photographer wanted, got DELIVERED!

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  5. I’ve been to Lebanon several times we built a building there I love it.. The food is out of this world doesn’t matter what your eating it just taste good, fresh, clean.. A beautiful country. Looking forward to going this summer.

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  6. These pictures are stunning. Perfect timing to see these as my daughter has been in Beirut the last week. We’ve spent many years in the Middle East but I’ve never been to Lebanon much to my disappointment. And just as in Cairo I love the old traditions more than the new, so it looks similar in Lebanon. Thank you for taking me back to the Middle East this morning.

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  7. Hey Mimo
    congrats on being Freshly Pressed….well deserved…I hope you’ll still have time to talk to your old bloggin’ pals.
    Incidentally, we went to a Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham last night purely because of reading your blog…Called ‘Syriana’ I dont really know how authentic it was but we did enjoy what we had.
    Once again well done on getting pressed..
    πŸ™‚

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  8. I agree! It’s sad that cultural traditions get lost in the process of progression. However, it’s also unfair to expect developing countries to halt modernisation.
    I wish it weren’t the only way to survive in a capitalist economy.

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  9. Very nice entry! Bread of all kinds imprints one’s memory…I can still smell the fresh bread and homemade cinnamon buns my grandmother made over fifty years ago! Thanks for stirring my olfactory memory…your post makes me think about wood and wood-fire smoke too!

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    1. Now you made me remember the wonderful wood ovens called Tannour in Lebanon too. They were made out of clay and the bread was cooked on their walls. Thanks for your comment!

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  10. Lebanese cuisine is among the finest in the world. All their grilled meats, olives, and (of course) great bread. I also think that more should be done to present Lebanon as a traveler’s destination.

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  11. There are still few of them, but its harder to find them than before.

    There are two places @ karakas – hamra sell saj mana’eesh and one just few meters befote jonyah markets

    I always loved Saj, a lebanese friend let me spend a full day at his parent’s saj backery in Zehlah, and i enjoyed it the most

    Despite the many things that i won’t miss when I leave after a year of stay in lebanon. I will, for sure, miss the saj

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  12. I too am Lebanese, and growing up in a Lebanese family meant Lebanese food everywhere, the refusal of the choice to “not eat” at least something, and the wonderful scent of fresh baked Lebanese bread, grapeleaves, or kibba.

    Reading this post makes me want to go to my ancestors country and see the culture they came from. Even more so, I’m craving a slice of lebanese bread stuffed with taboulla as we speak πŸ™‚

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  13. Reblogged this on Emily Lewis and commented:
    I am Lebanese, yet the culture is almost completely lost on my family, besides the cooking. We cook kibbeh, grape leaves, pita bread, cousa, bet-ley-we, and other delicious items most think are of Greek origins.

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  14. My father’s best friend is Lebanese and he is the most incredible baker I know. Now that he is retired he just bakes and bakes and bakes all day every day and gives away everything he makes to his friends and family.

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  15. I really enjoyed this post, and wanted to thank you for it. My mother is from Beirut, but we’ve never been able to go back and experience the culture, it’s beautiful to read a description of it. However, I have to say, it does leave me wishing! Being of Lebanese descent but an American woman, I’ve always admired the culture.

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      1. BTW Mimo, I just checked out your facebook photos__absolutely phenomenal!!! Man, you have a creative eye for capturing images that most of us would miss or overlook. Peace and blessings to you and yours! πŸ™‚

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  16. Beautiful photos and lovely post. It reminds me on the few summers we spent in Lebanon – both of my grandmas lived right across from each other and we’d spend our time going back and forth, knowing there was always fresh bread and delicious meals, snacks and lots of love waiting for us in either apartment! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

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  17. Ohh this reminds me of my grandmother.. My tΓ©ta used to bake the saj bread too, and we used to eat it fresh with butter and sugar! Yummi! Thanks for the memories πŸ™‚

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  18. This reads me of a personal story. A long-time friend of our family was Lebanese, and I recall him raving about the bread and Lebanese food in general. With him in mind, our dinner group hosted a Lebanese night several years ago … and I recall telling him about it and he was thrilled. Meanwhile, food is a great cultural event – and many times, the essence lies in the traditional bread.

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