Beirut is the plan for next week. Exploring a land known as Lebanon. I have always been fascinated by this land of snow laden peaks and coastal delight; drawn gently to its Mediterranean shores through the aromatic cooking of friends and a thirst to explore its ancient-modern landscape.
Lebanese culture and its people kindled my curiosity back in university when Abdul sat beside me in the lecture hall of Sydney University. He had recently moved to Australia with his young family, and he soon invited me over to meet his family, adorable kids, try the delicious food his family prepared. That was my first taste of the warmth of the Lebanese people.
A few years later, newly married, Sarah and I sat with Abdul’s family and were inundated again with food. And not just food—a vibrantly delicious art of kafta, hummus, and Lebanese pizza fresh from a handmade wood burning oven in the Sydney backyard on an orange tinged afternoon. The baklava dessert that has caused many a trip to Lebanese bakeries wherever we have lived.
Now I live in the Basque Country, a land of rich culture and culinary tradition; however, quite short on Lebanese restaurants. So we make homemade bread, hummus, and kebabs. And I will go to visit Lebanon, an exploration into possible culinary and cultural exchanges with the Basque Country.
While I am there I will visit some of the refugee camps that Lebanon has hosted. Writing about my experiences, taking photos of the landscape and sights and foods that express the rich, diverse culture and vibrant people that I have so far only met outside of their homeland.
For me, maybe Lebanon has already won my heart even before seeing the land. Maybe believing is seeing. I have seen the beauty of a land from a distance and now I get to explore its fragrant shores. May this be just one of many trips to the Levant.
Note to those who call Lebanon home: If you are available to meet up for coffee next week and share about what you value about Lebanese culture and food, please let me know. If you are visiting the Basque Country (Donostia-San Sebastián or across the border near Biarritz, please let us know, our family would be very happy to show you around and connect the cultures that we appreciate and love so much.