I’ve lived a good part of my life in Dubai, and when it was time to start university, I’ve made the decision to come back to Lebanon to study.
That was three years ago; and now I only have a few months before graduation and yet another new adventure awaits somewhere else. So I want to share some insight with you on what to expect from re-living in a place you used to call home, and still do.
1.*Obviously* The Tabboulé, and all its derivatives. Yes. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
But for real though, the food is as amazing as the pictures Google shows when you type in “Lebanese food“. Tabboulé is life and if you haven’t tasted this lebanese dish in Lebanon YOU. HAVE. NOT. LIVED. *I say this as I stuff my face with a giant spoon of wonderfully garnished parsley*.
Tabboulé is not the only thing to go crazy about; there’s the Kebbé, the Shawarma, the wara2 3enab (Sidenote: Shoutout to lebanese grandmothers who excel at creating these glorious rolls of bliss) (Sidenote- au carré: Special shoutout to my own grandmother, Teta Chafika, who makes the best wara2 3enab the entire universe has ever seen – and no, I’m not sharing 🙂
So yeah I was lucky enough to eat lebanese food all-day-erryday and it was magnificent.
2. Labneh or Labaneh?
Contrary to my previous belief, lebanese varies quite a bit depending on the area. -Mind you I had absolutely no idea that I didn’t speak arabic the way everyone else did in Lebanon. In Zahlé for example, people might refer to a cushion as a “Rékkeyé” (What?), while I would refer to it as “Tékkeye”. Okay it might not seem a major difference but IT IS, OKAY? Imagine referring to a pillow as a Millow all your life without anyone telling you anything was wrong with what you were saying, and then all of a sudden being hit with a brick wall. && that’s not even the worst part: see the lebanese also tend to create words depending on where you are. What in the world is Asabé and Atrmiz? WHYY. When has Mortbèn not been enough? (Yet another Sidenote: if you’re not lebanese I am very sorry this might seem like gibberish to you, and I do apologize. But I too, felt same as your lost soul, desperately gasping for air and answers. no joke I feel you).
3. Would you like to smell the air?
Can you smell that? (there’s nothing there just FYI).
Ah yes, the famous Kazdoura (i.e Shamm el Hawa – literally translated to smelling the air, becausewhynot). Going on a kazdoura means going on a promenade somewhere, whether that being by walk or by car. There are a lot of places to go, and it is because of those Kazdouras that I fell shyly but surely in love with the little corners in Lebanon. My friends and I took road trips to the south when we were feeling bored, and it was life. The sun was out and the weather was just right and we were able to “nkazdir” all day long. Gloriously.
Taken in Zahlé- Lebanon
4. Family first
Lifestyle in Lebanon isn’t always friends and parties, family is always there, and their presence is always warm and fluffy. (Sidenote: I love you Teta). For me, growing up in Dubai meant occasional phone calls home and very little big-family gatherings. It was a bit lonely family-wise, so old friendships nowadays feel like home. Coming back to Lebanon made me realize how much I actually missed my family when I was away, everyone remembers me as a tiny human way-back-when landlines were still a big thing (they still are though, in my homeland).
Anyway family loves family, and it doesn’t get truer or more unconditional than this. They are tied to you, by blood, for like, evar 🙂 Ugly duckling? Don’t worry your Teta probably thinks you a hotshot, and will inevitably set you up with Tante Émilie’s daughter. Teta got it covered, don’t you worry habibi.
5. Becoming BFFs with taxi drivers
Because not all superheroes wear capes.
But most of them have large white mustaches and successful children all over the world. They’re almost literally all very successful men who’ve saved lives and and YOLO’d in the past; and they’ve finally decided to start wasting some time by driving a cab around the different areas in Lebanon. My friend and I always use the same company for taxis in Lebanon (YetAnotherOneOfThoseSidenotes: because we’ve got just over 74826 taxi companies in lebanon for some reason). So most of the taxi drivers we’ve met now know our names, last names, where we’re from, what our ambitions and dreams are, and roughly our university schedule; and in exchange, we know about their hopeful children studying political science in France, and daughters who just gave birth to the most adorable twin babies, who look more like their father.
Taken from Google, because I don’t have an endless supply of old grandpa pictures on my camera.
6. Tishtik-tam tam
I was never really a big fan of lebanese music, but listening to it on the radio, in the car, on TV, in restaurants etc. kinda makes it grow on you and eat your soul alive. Moeen Shreif is bae. I feel the need to apologize for the use of the term, but I can’t describe my weird attraction to some of his songs. Some. Aguilera Ima let you finish, but Moeen had some of the best belt-outs of all time.
7. Dark lipstick and perfect cat-eyes
Trends in Lebanon tend to happen, because it’s a small country, so you’ll be in 10 452 sqkm of trendiness and buzz. Everything and anything that happens around Lebanon will be known and talked about, endlessly. Whether it happened in the North, the South, Beirut, your aunt’s house, quite literally anywhere, people will eventually find out and it will be talked about.
So the trend there, for now, is dark lipstick and perfect cat-eyeliner (and I’m pretty sure that’s a worldwide trend for now), but in Lebanon it is stretched above&beyond; so are the wrinkles on tante Dina’s face.
8. Waynik ma 3am betbayyné?
-Translated “Where you at? We’re not seeing you that often”.
Probably the most heart-warming thing I’ve experienced in Lebanon is the genuine concern and affection people show towards each other. The first time I’ve made friends in Lebanon, I was surprised at how much people were concerned about each other, they show you affection and help you when you look like you’re in a pickle. They’re not ones to leave you hanging; they’ll make sure to knock on your door if they haven’t seen you out, and will inevitably ask if you’re okay or if you need anything, and that, in my opinion, is nothing short of a blessing.
There are many other things I could talk about, but these were the most prominent of the bunch.
If you’ve never been, go; and if you have, visit. Because the air still smells the same, and the smiles remain, regardless of the situation.