Lebanon

(Layout under reconstruction)

PHOTOS

This gallery focused on Lebanon is made up of photo journals, walking you through places and themes with minimal commentary. The best shots are showcased in my Photo portfolio and are available as prints.

A walk in...
It would be a mistake to visit Lebanon's historical sites and leave no time for today's cities. I love to walk around Beirut and other cities with an eye for things we take for granted, whether textures, endearing decay, stunning architectural details lovingly crafted nearly 100 years ago, or the sometimes anarchic but always interesting ways in which its inhabitants breathe life into it.


Ras Beirut
(Centre & West)

Beirut:
North of Centre

Beirut:
East of Centre

Beirut:
Zoqaq el-Blat

RandomLand

Tripoli

Tyre

The Chouf

The Mountain

Forgotten places

Street art
Tagging is only taking off around now in Lebanon, but stencil fever took hold of the younger portion of art and design circles a few years ago, leading to the blossoming of often very elaborate visuals in certain parts of the city. By 2009, street art had taken off to the point that the original artistic statements were receding in the face of new, quickly made and poorly though-out, even vulgar designs (a trend that I hope will fade as the hipsters move on to the next "cool" thing to do). I don't necessarily like all those documented in these pages, some I consider immature or irrelevant, but I'm including all I have anyway.


Creative

Funny

Statements

Huh?


LEBANESE HERITAGE BOOKS

Quality books about Lebanon for younger readers, co-authored with Youmna Jazzar Medlej, both packed with in-depth information and attractively illustrated. Full details here.

SCRIBBLES

Day-to-day life

May blooms: Lebanese & the gardenia
The Matrix of family names
Beirut buses
"Service" cabs
Talking with the hands

History

Introduction to the Phoenicians
The Birth of the Alphabet



FOOD

Lebanese food was always one of the country's principal attractions, and by now it has conquered the world (though I have to say, a lot of it is a vague approximation, and you don't know just how good it is until you've tasted it in the homeland.) Lebanese cuisine as a whole goes under the heading "health food". It is mostly based on cereals, in the shape of bread, borghol (crushed wheat) and rice*. A large and varied assortment of vegetables and milk products accompany the above, and meat plays a relatively small part.
Several foreign dishes, like couscous, French fries and spaghetti, have been imported into the cuisine and thoroughly modified to the point of rivaling the original recipes. They were lebanized to the extent of becoming a part of the traditional food.

* Berghol used to be the country's staple food, present at all meals, but rice was introduced just before the First World War and supplanted it almost completely. Rice is now omnipresent in Lebanese cuisine, and borghol remains only in the dishes where it couldn't be replaced. Hence the proverb: El-3ezz lal-rizz, wel-borghol shana2 7alo (The honor goes to the rice, and the borghol hanged itself!)

A note about the recipes you will find here: the proportions are merely indicative. Lebanese dishes are very free on that point, and every household adapts the dosage of the ingredients to taste. You too should tweak them until you are happy with the taste. Please note also that Lebanese vegetables are intensely flavored and very small (as an example, cucumbers are about 4 inches long) and that you may need to take this into consideration when getting the ingredients.
These recipes are from Fayez Aoun's 280 recettes de cuisine familiale libanaise. Please don't email me asking for more.

Basics
Mezzeh
Home dishes
Desserts
Special occasions

Other (strange!)
things we eat


Food-related customs:
  • Bread was and still is treasured; it is never thrown away. If it has become truly improper for consumption, it is kissed before being disposed of. Stale bread is grilled in the oven or fried so that it becomes dry and crunchy as cracker; such grilled bread is a tasty variant that enters the composition of several dishes. 
  • When rising from the table, when you're a guest, it is courteous to say Safra deyme, "May your table always be laid out". 
  • An even fancier way to extend this blessing: El-7ariri 3al-7assiri wer-rishta la-beb ed-dar, "May the dishes of 7ariri be spread all the way to the mat, and the plates of rishta line up to the door of the house" (7ariri is a dish of velvety cream, and rishta of rice and noodles).
  • This proverb is worth remembering when visiting a Lebanese home: El-akl 3a 2adr el-ma7abbe, "The eating is proportional to the love." Eating heartily of anything proffered will make your host happy as it expresses your regard for them.

PROVERBS

A proverb says: "Wisdom alighted on three things: the brain of the Franks, the hand of the Chinese and the tongue of the Arabs." The love of Arabic speakers for language is indeed outstanding, and they take more pleasure in it for its own sake than Westerners are accustomed to. In Lebanon as in the rest of the Middle East, daily conversation is strewn with ancient proverbs, quotes from poetry or literature, and extracts from holy books.

The following are a mere selection of Lebanese proverbs, illustrating folk wisdom. Transcriptions are included, for which you can check my pronunciation guide.

The Calendar
Religious sayings
Character
Advice
Describing people


LANGUAGE

Below is a table of projected contents: I'll activate the links as the pages get posted.

The grammar chapters are not exactly lessons, but they're cumulative and best approached in order. They are intended for those who have an interest in linguistics and in actually learning the basics of the language. The vocabulary pages complement them but they also target those who want to pick up a few words of the language without going through the whole learning process.

(Note: Word forms are constantly referred to in teaching this language. The source-verb that is normally used for this is fa3ala (to do), but I use kataba (to write) and its root KTB to make it easier for non-speakers. It may be useful to read my article on the Arabic verb!)



Grammar
  1. Pronunciation guide
  2. Word order
  3. The Article
  4. The Noun
  5. Demonstratives
  6. Pronouns
  7. Possessives
  8. The Relative
  9. Interrogation
  10. The Verb: Forms
  11. The Verb: Tenses
  12. Adjectives
  13. Comparative and Superlative
  14. Numbers
  15. Indefinition and Negation
  16. Adverbs
  17. Prepositions
  18. Conjunctions
  19. A few locutions
Further notes

    Vocabulary

    For everyday use:
    • Greetings
    • Partings
    • Thanks
    • Apologies
    • Abuse
    • Words used incessantly
    • Dismay
    The names of things:
    Thematic lexicons:
    • Size
    • Beauty
    • Temperature
    • Hunger/thirst
    • Motion
    • (etc)