Discover the Food, Flavors and Beauty of Beirut

May 31, 2021
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Take a Virtual Trip Without Leaving Home

There are so many places to see and not enough days in the year or money to see them all. Many destinations – like Beirut – have amazing food cultures. You may not be able to visit, but you can still enjoy the distinct flavors and food experiences. We’ve drawn inspiration from markets, restaurants and home kitchens from places around the world. From the Middle East, straight to your home we’re bringing you our Falafel, Kibbeh and a city with a long history with these tasty snacks, Beirut. 

The Paris of the Middle East

Beirut is a meeting place of East and West. Tripadvisor describes, “Often called "Paris of the Middle East", Beirut is a thriving hotspot for shopping, socializing and sightseeing.” Walking around the city is a walk through history. You will see stunning buildings from the Ottoman Empire next to French Colonial Architecture. If the art of the buildings isn’t enough, the museums will satisfy. The National Museum of Beirut has an incredible collection of Mediterranean art.

Beirut is a foodie paradise. You’ll find no shortage of flavor, and the hotspots for these flavors are the markets. Slow Food Beirut is an organization with a mission to bring farm fresh food to markets and communities around Lebanon. Check out the Souk El Tayeb Market’s feed on Instagram. Use Arlene’s meals and inspiration from Souk El Tayeb to create your own culinary masterpiece. Take a photo and tag us so we can see your creation!

Falafel and Beirut

The origins of falafel may be contested but there’s no denying Beirut’s love affair with it. The Historian’s Cookbook traces the origins of falafel to Egypt and, “From Alexandria, falafel spread throughout the country, gaining such popularity that, further south, it became known simply as ta’miyya – literally ‘a bite of food’.” This bite of food was so popular it didn’t stop in Egypt, “shortly after the First World War, it had reached what is now Lebanon and, in 1933, Mustafa Sahyoun opened his falafel shop in Beirut.” 

The story of Sahyoun’s shop is one of family, love and resilience. Mustafa Sahyoun learned to make falafel from his father and uncle. The brothers were separated by war, but kept together by a recipe.  Roads and Kingdoms documents this story of a young Mustafa Sahyoun crossing between East and West Beirut, a no man’s land and destroyed sections of the city to learn the craft of making falafel. Today there are still two shops but “they work in neighboring shops that are mirror images of one another, one lit by a red neon, one by blue, sharing a name, a recipe and a colorful family history of perseverance through the hardships of Lebanon’s violent past.”

Creating Beirut for a Night

Beirut is a city rich with tradition, art and music. Thrillist describes the “Mountains rising from the Mediterranean, ancient temples at the foundation of glimmering skyscrapers, the synchronous sounds of church bells and Muslim prayer calls.” It may seem impossible to bring all of this magic into your home, and admittedly the mountains may be hard to recreate. Here are a few ways you can bring a bit of Beirut to an evening meal at home: : 

  1. Decorate with cool toned blues and terracotta oranges. Search around your home for dishes, napkins, lighting, vases or other decor you already own with these colors for your night in Beirut.
  2. Find a playlist with music of traditional Lebanese instruments such as the lute, mijwiz and tabla.
  3. Beirut is a coastal city so pick out an ocean or coastal-breeze scented candle or room spray.
  4. Before your dinner, go on a virtual tour of the National Museum of Beirut by exploring their Web site and video exhibits. It’s a great activity for a romantic evening or an educational project for your family!
  5. Pair Arlene’s Falafel and Kibbeh with sauces and sides that highlights its flavors. Pick your favorite hummus, some tzatziki sauce and check out our article on beverage pairings for the perfect drink to go with your dinner.

Prepare for Takeoff

Skip the airport and jet-lag, bring Beirut to you. Take a short vacation and still make it on time for work tomorrow with Arlene’s meals and a few decorations to your home. In the morning you’ll be searching for a Lebanese stamp on your passport. Let us see your mini-Beirut by taking a photo and tagging us on Instagram!