Living these days in Lebanon is worrisome. We are in the middle of an unknown era where each hour can change the lives of too many. Having experienced war since my 5th birthday (born and brought up in Beirut), waiting for the next car bomb to explode brings fearsome and very annoying memories to the surface. Mind you, i am lucky in so many ways but today my life is about raising two beautiful children and making the best decisions to ensure that they at least grow up with some sense of security and carefree moments.
So I turn to baking. Because baking is about smells, textures, the anticipation of flavours melting in your mouth, the mixing of ingredients who by magic turn into rewarding comfort food.
So here is what i baked this morning:
185 g dates (without stones) and cut into smaller pieces.
1 tsp baking soda
2,5 dl boiling water
90 g softened butter
115 g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence (or powder, works fine)
185 g flour
1,5 tsp baking powder.
The making is quite easy and forward.
In a bowl add the dates, the boiling water and the baking soda. Let it rest for 15 minutes while you make the rest of the cake. This will soften the dates and makes it easier to mix with the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, mix with a mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon, that will make you burn extra calories!) the softened butter with sugar and vanilla. It should become a light brown homogenous dough. Add one egg at a time, and mix well. Then sift half of the flour and add it to the dough, by mixing with a wooden spoon (here i suggest avoiding the electrical mixer, as it will remove the fluffiness of the dough). Add half of the date mixture. mix again. then add the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the date mix.
Give it one last blend by hand(spoon) and pour into a greased cake pan, any form will do. I am using the round one with the whole in the middle. the result is beautiful.
Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 35-40 minutes, in the middle of a pre-heated oven.
When baked let it rest for 10 minutes before you remove it from its form.
Yesterday while driving home from work, my thoughts were about shopping or no shopping. During the day my phone beeped endlessly with enticing messages; up to 50% on your favorite shoe brand. 30% off on all new clothes. come and be the first to benefit from the sales… as we were the 2nd of January, I knew my bank account was happy and that I could afford splashing myself with “up to 50%” items and find stuff for my kids who seemed to be busy growing 1 size per month!
As trivial as my thoughts were at that moment, something tragic happened few kilometers away. A bomb exploded in Beirut’s southern neighborhood, blinding everyone around with its terrible light, site, noise and then silence. I cannot imagine what goes through the people around at that moment. I cannot imagine what they are seeing, hearing or feeling. smoke? sharp smells? raging flames? for a moment or so, time stands still. then chaos reigns. people start screaming, shouting, running…I don’t want to imagine.
Same moment. Two different levels of reality.
That was the 7th car bomb in 6 months in Lebanon.
Thousands of innocent (aren’t they always?) people destroyed and for ever scared. Houses, cars, shops, buildings destroyed. Dreams and hopes vanished.
Today I am debating with myself if I should go out dancing tonight with my friends. It feels weird that my reality was about entertainment while few kilometers away I know people are crying their loss, sitting by the bed of the wounded praying, cleaning up broken glasses, cursing. How can our realities be so far and yet we are so close. It is so surreal.
A friend once asked me: how do you stay sane in a world like this? how do you keep on living, working, sending your kids to school, while someone out there is planning yet another bomb. How can you just sit and wait?
That is when i realized that we (the Lebanese) are all living in a waiting room. A place where we know something bad might be told to us or happen to us, a place where the unknown prevails. We wait for the next bomb and pray that none of us are in that street that day. We wait for Iran and the US to make their deals and stop tormenting us. We wait for the Syrian war to stop slaughtering its people. We wait for the Palestinians to finally get their piece of land. We wait for our kids to grow so that we can send them abroad to a safer world. We wait for the morning to rise so that we can start all over. we wait for the night to arrive so that we can shut the brain off and forget the horrors. All we do is wait. and wait and wait.
Meanwhile, we go dancing. We go praying. We go visit our parents. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will never come.
Visiting a Christmas exhibitions in November makes you want to go home and redecorate on the spot! Caprice de Fil is the place to go if you need inspiration and if you have a sudden urge for Christmas! Entering the white little shop (5 minutes away from Antelias Church (15 minutes from Beirut Center) ) today was a sweet experience… walls and shelves were filled with little elves, angels, red and white christmas balls, hand made ornaments, and lots more…my children and I were touching every little piece and seeing it in our home! Needless to say that this was impossible as such beautiful ornaments come with a price… different prices for all budgets. the taste of products is exquisite, pretty, fresh and very Scandinavian…I felt I was in Denmark for a little moment…
What I also found remarkable is the wonderfully hand made ornaments; made by angels I would say,Lebanese Ladies living all over the mountains, working sometimes for months to deliver just one piece. Incredibly refined and lovely.
Here are some snapshots of the shop…
For more info why don’t you follow their facebook page:
or call them +961 4521710, or visit them at their shop in Naccache Antelias (Rabieh area), opened every day (except Sunday) from 10 am – 5 pm..
Living in Beirut makes you live crazy things, among others wars, rockets, bombings, freaking street fights…and on top of this we have to witness very bad decision taken by municipalities; the removal of the FEW city parks to build a PARKING! I have never heard anything more stupid in my life.
How can concrete be more important than trees, oxygen and common space?
In Denmark, people are obliged to use their bicycles and public transportation, owning a car is a luxury, forget parking in the city, it costs a fortune. Parks are protected, taken care of, worshiped. They offer common space where the citizen from all levels interact, sunbathe, relaxes, walks, runs, gives speeches, create theater venues for kids, not mentioning the loveliest playground one can imagine (where ergonomic meets fun!).
So let’s get back to Beirut.
We have 3-4 public parks. They are not of high standard, they do not offer kids a safe environment, but they do give us a sense of civility, they give us a place to go, without offering entry fees.. they do offer oxygen and season flowers..
Yesterday; Saturday June 15, people from all Beirut gathered in the pretty garden of Jeitawi in Ashrafieh to demonstrate their anger towards the municipality of Beirut, who decided to remove the garden, build a parking and then redo the garden on top of concrete!
The more shocking part is those who are supporting the removal of the garden in order to park their stupid car…see below.
My brother whose soul is devoted to nature and green trees wrote this letter to the mayor of Beirut:
Taksim or no Taksim
An Open Letter to Beirut’s Mayor, Mr. Bilal Hamad
We elected you.
In recent months and days, the controversial plan to transform some of Beirut’s urban parks (more like gardens) into underground parking areas has resurfaced. With all due respect, this plan is irresponsible. Yes Beirut and its citizens require more parking spaces but, equally, they require public transport (it’s time to scrap those dilapidated buses) and public spaces where they can meet, mingle, and breathe. On the issue of parking areas, here is why the municipal plan should be nipped in the bud:
Beirut’s trees and public gardens are in extremely short supply. Their value is therefore priceless and infinitely superior to any urban development project.
Public gardens have a cooling effect on the surrounding streets and buildings. The secret lies in the deep soils that soak up rainwater in winter and deflect heat in summer. By contrast, all forms of hard surfaces, particularly concrete, will trap heat and increase ambient temperatures (the so-called heat island effect).
Claiming that the garden will be restored on top of the parking is futile. It won’t work and it won’t have the same cooling effect as a deep-rooted garden because the flow of rainwater will be interrupted. No flower bed can replace the ecological services that public gardens provide.
In your capacity as mayor of Beirut, here is what I would do:
Resolve any outstanding dispute with the (acting) governor of Beirut who unfortunately holds much of Beirut’s executive powers
Disclose the cash savings that Beirut Municipality has amassed in recent years and end any further speculation on this subject matter
Allocate 10% of these savings to buying or expropriating vacant private property in Beirut, and then earmark these lands for public use including underground and tower parking, as well as more gardens (the municipality should have started this process in the 1990s)
Reveal the true scope of Beirut Municipality’s strategy for revamping public gardens and end the tit-for-tat announcements that make the news every few months
Require an Environmental Impact Assessment of all urban development projects (incl. underground parking) which is mandatory under Decree 8633/2012 and prior to commencement of construction works
Immediately allocate resources to patrol and maintain allpublic gardens in Beirut (creating many green jobs), including the pine forest, and open these gardens to the public with no discrimination.
Uprooting the trees in the Jesuit park in Geitawi, or any other park, to build an underground parking is not the answer. It is downright wrong. If still in doubt about the best course of action, please consider a referendum whereby the people of Beirut, your constituency, will express their opinion, and guide you. We don’t want Geitawi to turn into a new and contentious issue (we have enough of those alas) and to further increase the ideological divide between the people of Beirut and its elected municipal council. We want the Jesuit Park to unite us in support of 100 more Jesuit parks in Beirut. Thank you for your consideration.
President of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association
I would appreciate if this letter is shared, spread and read…We need to educate people, to open their eyes, to make them understand the importance of preserving a decent living place without concrete and buildings.
Beirut is suffocating and we cannot let this happen.
When my husband tells me to go to Bhamdoun for dinner, my first reaction is lethargy! Bhamdoun is a summer resort for Beirutis, escaping the draining and humid heat of the city during the months of July and August. A retreat. But not a quiet retreat during these months, as the city of Beirut transplants itself in the cooler shades of the Mountains…That is why I am not very fond of those crowded places. Nevertheless I give my skeptic mind a rest and tell him “yalla” (a Lebanese version of OK in Arabic!), and Friday night we venture with some friends at the quest of “Le TELEGRAPHE de Belle-Vue“, a newly opened gourmet restaurant in the vicinity of the old city of Bhamdoun.
30 minutes away from Beirut, Le Telegraphe meets you with its charm, its quietness and a garden full of lovely colorful flowers.
The place is cosy, adorned by its two meter long rustic wood table mixing conviviality with elegance, and a lovely fire-place with a myriad of orange and red candles . The table is set for us, and we are the only privileged guests of the restaurant. As mentioned, the place is newly opened and the summer season has barely begun.
The wine is exclusively created for the restaurant, from the neighboring winery “Chateau Belle-Vue”. Exquisite taste, matching perfectly the refined main dish (we chose lamb shanks and duck breast).
Le Telegraphe is a place to explore sooner than later, especially that an adjacent two floor building is finishing its construction, offering for the interested a delightful place to spend few days. A bed and breakfast is opening its doors in the very near future.
To connect with the crowd of “Le Telegraphe”, join their Facebook page or just hit the roads and try it out one lovely evening!
Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) is a 440km long hiking trail connecting Lebanon’s northern villages by its most southern ones. The idea was born many years ago, and thousands of people have already marked their steps on that enchanting trail.
To maintain a clean and attractive trail, the LMT organizes punctual events where people, young and old, gather and clean up part of the trail.
Few weeks ago, a Lebanese school called Melkart participated with one of their classes in cleaning up part of the trail in Baskinta area (part 15 on the map) from its thousand empty gun shells, gathering no less than 50 bags of shells in only two hours! Indeed a wonderful achievement, making young people aware of the disastrous state of neglect in some places, and the continuous effort that it entitles to sustain their country with a minimum of cleanness.
Educating kids, creating awareness around the need in their country to act for the environment, making them interested in Lebanese villages, mountains and valleys can only be motivating and positive for them. I hope more of those initiatives will be included in school programs in Lebanon. We desperately need to shape the mind of the youth, who are still open minded and eager to learn and participate.
If you wish to read more about the LMT, why don’t you click HERE or be a fan of their Facebook Page or Facebook Group, where you can find info regarding the different trails, how to be a member, a sponsor, a volunteer or just to connect with other hike lovers!