Sweet Bites of Lebanon

Enjoying these sweet bites with Bahia, her mother-in-law Sadika and their families at their homes or in coffee shops were authentic experiences I will never forget.

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Barely a day after 28 hours in airports and planes, the tastes of Lebanon still linger.

The first week I was in Lebanon, I had the most delicious pistachio ice cream cake at an Eid lunch at my new friend’s Bahia’s family home in Tripoli.  

Pistachio ice cream cake at a home in Tripoli

It was the second day of Eid, when my hosts and their families gathered together and feasted after finishing their month long Ramadan fast. The cake temporarily distracted me from watching the family dynamics and maybe from staring too much at Bahia’s cute older brother.

I’ve had pistachio ice cream before but never like this. It was served with ashtar a thick clotted cream, and topped with a thin white cotton candy topping and pistachios.

That piece of pistachio ice cream cake was so delicious that when I had pistachio ice cream again on my last night in Lebanon at an ice cream shop in Hamra, Beirut, I connected the sweet taste with the sweet memories of Bahia’s kind (and cute) family in Tripoli.

Pistachio ice cream in Hamra, Beirut

Another delicious sweet bite of Lebanon was from the watermelons. I’ve eaten plenty of watermelon in California, but in Lebanon it was served as an alternate and as an addition to dessert at homes or in coffee shops.

Fresh watermelon

The first time I tried watermelon in Lebanon was my second night in Tripoli after smoking a delicious mint lemon hooka with Bahia.

Summers in Lebanon are warm and humid about mid 80s Fahrenheit with sixty percent humidity, while summers in Sacramento are just hot over 100 degrees without the humidity. I joked with someone when I when returned home, I walked out of a sauna then into an oven.

The watermelon in Lebanon tasted like a refreshing cold shower for the throat. The flavor although familiar just tasted new. 

In suburban Sacramento, I live by myself with my cat Habibi and I eat most meals by myself.

Both the pistachio ice cream cake watermelon were tastes I enjoyed communally with my hostesses families.  Enjoying these sweet bites with Bahia, her mother-in-law Sadika and their families at their homes or in coffee shops were authentic experiences I will never forget. 

I doubt I would have experienced such hospitality if I visited the country on my own or if I somehow managed to find a tour group.

While I was writing this blog, an email from Farm Fresh to You asked me to confirm my fruits and veggies for a delivery next week. 

I opted in for the mini seedless watermelon if only for another reminder of a sweet bite of Lebanon.

Sahteen.

All Night Long

This night I’m living a Lebanese version of an 1980’s Lionel Richie pop hit.

Travel has gotten me out of my comfort zone- even if it took a long flight and loud drummers to do so.

I had been awake 28 hours and had been on a plane or in airports for 24 of them.

Sadika says, “You must sleep in tomorrow, as we will be awake all night long from iftar (the sunset meal Muslims break their fast for Ramadan) to sohur, the pre sunrise meal Muslims enjoy before fasting all day.

Major problem, I’m not a night person. I go to bed early and wake up early. Jet lagged how will I get to sleep and how will I stay awake? I’m the houseguest from hell.

Then I start hallucinating. I’m hearing drums banging outside her resort.

“Oh that’s normal” Sadika says. They are just reminding people to wake up for the sohur meal.

I take a sleeping pill and sleep until 11am. I’m never in bed that late. 

Sadika directs me to the beach at her house and I start my Lebanese vacation with a warm swim in the Mediterranean Sea.  I stop for my first shanklish sandwich- an herbaceous yogurt, tomatoe, cucumber, olive combination. Yum, yum and yum.

We then sea some old and modern buildings in Tripoli.

I manage a short nap at Sadika’s son’s house while an Lebanese version of Family Feud plays on the television. I don’t understand a word, but apparently like in the US the host is funny.

We head to Sadika’s daughter’s Rana’s in laws house. Lebanese hospitality is insanely gracious. This is when I would curl up and say goodnight- but the night has just begun.

I tag along with Sadika and her husband, to a gala on an island. Traffic is snarky apparently the Lebanese Minister of Interior was attending. 

There is music and food, lots more food and drums.  Across the bay the skyline of Tripoli lights up.

“One of those guys was in our neighborhood this morning.”

We finish the day, or is it night or morning. I smoke a lemon nargilleh and sip tea with a new friend at a cute tea shop run by Sadika’s son.

The prior Saturday night I was asleep in bed getting ready to wake up early to watch Rafa demolish his opponent at the French Open.

This night I’m living a Lebanese version of an 1980’s Lionel Richie pop hit.

Travel has gotten me out of my comfort zone- even if it took a long flight and loud drummers to do so.

Love Love Lebanon All Night Long!