Sunday, October 12, 2008

Favorite things Lebanon

I just landed in Geneva (it’s 12 degrees here, it was 28 in Beirut) and this will be the last Lebanon post (for the moment, at least). Tyler Cowen (who is the greatest blogger on earth) has a nice “My favorite things XXX” series. I checked and he does not have a “My favorite things Lebanon” post. So, I tried to build my own (with some help from sista in law Nadine) Favorite things Lebanon.

Favorite food and restaurants. I love fried sultan Ibrahim (red mullet). However, I don’t particularly love the trendy Sultan Ibrahim restaurant. The best fish I had in Lebanon was at Chez Sami in Keserwan. But there are many good choices in Beirut. La Plage in Ain el-Mreisseh has good food (a bit pricey) in a beautiful setting. A long time ago (probably in 1999) I ate at Pepe's Fishing Club in Byblos (I don’t know if the place still exists). The food was average, but the old photos of Lebanon’s golden days were fantastic. I went to a very nice Armenian restaurant in Gemmayze called Mayrig. My Armenian friends (and da wife) told me that one should try Varouge in Bourj Hammoud.

Street food. This is not really street food, but the other great thing about Lebanese food are the sandwiches. In this trip I discovered (thanks to sista in law Nadine) Kabab-ji. WOW!

Favorite writer. Here the choice should be easy, the country worships Khalil Gibran. However I find the guy sooooo boring and pompous. Sista in law Nadine suggests reading “I, the Divine,” by Rabih Alameddine.

Favorite place to hang out at night. This is easy: Gemmayze (they even have free golf-cart shuttles to take you around). Nadine highly recommends Joe Pena, but the new hot spot is Myu (could not find a link). Here is a map of the bar/restaurants/clubs in the area.

Favorite place to hang out during the day. Also easy: Corniche al Manara

Favorite archeological site. Here competition is tough, but Baalbek remains one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen.

Favorite singer. This should also be easy, Lebanese worship Fairuz as much as they worship Gibran. Like Gibran, I find her boring. One of the sista in law suggests Haifa Wehbe and Ali el Deek. I don’t particularly like the former and I don’t know the latter. So I will vote for a half Lebanese: Shakira (her father is Lebanese and she grew up in Barranquilla. Nightlife in the Caribbean coast of Colombia is not so different from nightlife in Beirut, just substitute aguardiente with arak). Her early work (especially Pies Descalzos) is really good but I also ike the more recent and more commercial stuff.

Favorite movie. The recent sensation was Caramel, but I have not seen it (and people who have seen it did not say great things about it). I liked a lot West Beirut (one of the main actors used to be a student of da wife in AUB).

Favorite university. AUB, of course

Favorite actress. Let’s go again for a half Lebanese: Salma Hayek. Not really for her acting skills (even though I liked her in Frida), but because I can link to this guy who compares her to Von Hayek (but, in my ranking, Salma would win).

Pask says that I'm not the best qualified person to talk about food. Whoever knows my eating habits will agree with him. In fact, even I agree with him.
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