The Paris of the Middle East

I started this blog post researching the history of Lebanon but it’s complex and a little confusing and I realized it didn’t quite fit the mood of what I wanted to say. Instead of analyzing what the country is known for: conflict, unrest, and civil war, I want this post to showcase Lebanon’s diverse landscape, food, and culture. I want people to realize that a country is so much more than what we see in the news. There are real people with real families who take great pride in calling Lebanon their home. I one day hope to visit and my wish is that you too can gain a new perspective of this beautiful place.

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For starters, the burning city that recently made the news headlines, Beirut? I imagine you probably saw an image similar to the one I did, an overhead, satellite image of the explosion site…

Beirut explosion devastation spotted from space (satellite photos) | Space

Well, here is Beirut in the light of day; a bustling capital with ports and trade, situated between the bright blue Mediterranean and the Mount Lebanon Range. Just a little different, huh?

The complete guide to Lebanon
Lebanon Physical Map

The Mount Lebanon Range is an unmistakable feature of the Lebanese landscape and is the origin of the country’s namesake. The Hebrew word “laban” means white, referring to the snow-capped summit. Another notable range is the Anti-Lebanon Mountain Range which acts as a natural division between Lebanon and Syria.

A personal favorite location I discovered in my research is the Baatara Gorge Waterfall. It is also known as the “Cave of Three Bridges” and the water falls from 255 meters (837 feet). Quite a sight and what a height!

Baatara Gorge Waterfall Tannourine

For more views, check out this beautiful Lebanon 4k drone footage:

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As for Lebanese food, I’ve never had it but it looks delicious and I would love to try it!

Here are a few of the most popular Lebanese dishes:

Kibbeh

Kibbeh, pronounced kibbie, is regarded as the national dish of Lebanon. (Sorry vegetarians, you might have to sit out on this one.)

According to Amira’s Pantry, Kibbeh recipe is an outstanding use of meat as it is simply stuffing meat with another meat.” The outer shell is made of a wheat called bulgur, mixed with onions and meat. It is then stuffed with more meat, spices, and nuts.

Manakish

Every country has their own bread variant and manakish is that of the Lebanese. (Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love bread? It’s basically it’s own food group.)

Manakish is a type of flat bread typically topped with olive oil and zaatar, a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme, and tumac.

Ma’amoul

Ma’amoul is a traditional Lebanese cookie, often prepared for festivals and celebration.

They are filled with fruit or nuts and are formed into different shapes depending on the filling. The dome shape signifies a walnut version.

(If you want to see the full list of “10 Most Popular Dishes in Lebanon” click here.)

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Lebanese culture is unique in that it has a mélange of both European and Eastern influences. (I’ve been wanting to use that word for awhile now! It’s a good one to add to your vocabulary. ) This can especially be seen in its unique blend of architectural design which includes temples, mosques, and churches from different terms of occupation. Sadly, due to aging and war, many historical buildings have been destroyed…

Baalbeck | archaeological site, Lebanon | Britannica
Baalbeck, Temple of Baccus
Cathedral of Saint Elias and Saint Gregory the Illuminator - Wikipedia
Cathedral of Saint Elias and Saint Gregory
Beirut lebanon mosque church picoftheday photooftheday instagood ...  (Beirut, Lebanon) - Lebanon in a Picture
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

For a look at some beautiful abandoned buildings in Beirut, check out the full gallery of this photographer’s project entitled “A Paradise Lost.” In your mind you can kind of fill-in-the-blanks to imagine what it would have looked like. At its heyday, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East, a clash of both modernity and tradition, east and west.

lebanon-abandoned-building-architecture-james-kerwin
lebanon-abandoned-building-architecture-james-kerwin
abandoned-building-lebanon-architecture
photo credit: James Kerwin

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I didn’t mention any of it here but if you want to understand more of the political climate in Lebanon and why people are protesting and the reason for their civil war and how the government came to be corrupt, here’s a quick 8 minute overview I found.

As a student who is interested in diplomacy and international relations, I like to understand history and politics and think of what can be done to help and how things can change, but I have to remind myself to reject ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is defined by dictionary.com as “a tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one’s own.” It is a form of unconscious bias that assumes someone’s own culture is superior to others and that they can fix others by making them more like themselves. This is why I think an understanding of the individuals who are affected and their religious and cultural beliefs is important. It humanizes them instead of just making them another political talking point and a victim in need of saving.

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Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions or if there are any other topics of interest you might suggest for me to write about.

3 thoughts on “The Paris of the Middle East”

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