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A guide to Organic Health Food stores in Beirut

While some may feel “home” in bookstores, at the hairdresser or whilst playing a video game, my comfort place is rather niche: any health food store. I grew up in Marin, a suburb of bohemian San Francisco, where I was never far from kamut bagels, almond milk (soy milk was the trend in the 90s but now it’s almond), quinoa salads and superfoods (ex. Chia, collard greens, wheatgrass) etc. And so now, when travelling, I try to find health food stores wherever I may be.

Below is a reviewed list of stores in Beirut which pride themselves on their organic and biodynamic certifications.

Note: I would recommend using Google maps for exact locations.

 

Al Marej Organic Food Store 

Fresh goat cheese from Al Marej

Fresh goat cheese from Al Marej

Abdul Wahab El Inglizi Street, Achrafiyeh, Beirut

01 210 211

https://www.facebook.com/AlMarejOrganicFood/

 

Al Marej offers everything from organic halal meat, dairy products, fresh veggies, jams, vinegars, healthy snacks, olive oil to essential oils and organic body

Al Marej Farm in Laklouk, Lebanon

Al Marej Farm in Laklouk, Lebanon

products (of which 85% are from their own certified organic farm). Although the store may not appear as full as others, their products are the most authentic, tasty and fresh. Everything I have bought there has been “the best of the best” (i.e. I have tried at least 10 olive oils in Lebanon, the one they sell is the richest most delicious). When I asked the elderly owner how he first got introduced to organics, he smiled and said: “I have always been a farmer!” Yes, there was a time when the term “organic” wasn’t necessary, one was just a farmer. Sigh.

Al Marej offers daily and weekly delivery of their produce.

 

 

A New Earth

Zahrat Ihsan, Achrafieh, Beirut

01 219 920

 

A fairly big store with a wide selection of imported goods. Fresh produce selection is not impressive, nor is the staff, but they may have what you need if you are looking for something particular. Note: This health food store is quite tricky to find so I would recommend saving their phone number and bringing a Smartphone (Google maps!)

 

BiolandScreen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.08.30 PM

Sioufi, Achrafieh

+961 1 398111

http://bioland-lb.com/contact.php

 

Bioland is a very clean store that offers fresh produce from their farms in the north of Lebanon, including dairy, meat and jams. The store also sells packaged imported goods like Chia seeds. I was most excited to see fresh bags of kale! I have been looking everywhere for kale and Bioland has a bountiful supply. However, while their banana jam was quite tasty, the dairy products from their farms were inedible and had to be thrown out (the cheese had gone bad) and the yoghurt was not good at all. They offer a daily specialty dish, which is very clean and tasty, and a good option if one is tired of fat-filled too-many-ingredient dishes present at most restaurants.

 

CarrafourIMG_5701

Beirut City Center

Hazmieh

This mega-market has a fairly decent selection of organic Biomass produce. Cucumbers and tomatoes can be quite tasty if you are lucky enough to go to the store on the days they get their deliveries.

 

Beirut Bio CenterScreen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.10.15 PM

Hazmieh, next to Yuppie Park and City Centre

03788613

http://www.beirutbiocenter.com/

 

A place for *macrobiotic lovers, Bio Center is hosted in a run down monastery-like house. They have a VERY small selection of imported products and no fresh produce for sale. So what exactly is the Bio Center? It’s a macrobiotic restaurant that serves a selection of daily dishes (all very heavy in grains and rice!).

On a personal note, the “Center”, located on the side of the highway, felt like a creepy commune. The brick entry path was breaking off and as soon as I walked through the metal doors I wanted to turn to leave. Once inside, I was met with no friendly welcome; the owner was nowhere in sight and the grounds were deserted except for a scruffy man sitting in the corner of the room eating silently.

 

*Macrobiotic:  a dietary regimen which involves eating grains as a staple food, supplemented with other foods such as local vegetable, and avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods and most animal products (Wikipedia).

 

Souk Al Tayeb

Every Saturday from 9-2 at Beirut Souks

 

Don’t have high expectations when you go to Beirut’s only farmers market. While at first glance it may seem impressive, variety is limited and some of the produce appears artificial (see: rose water, jams etc.) Maybe it’s the markets’ setting (an extremely ritzy mall in downtown Beirut), but the whole affair appears to be a circus for tourists and expats living in the city. Saying that, you can find some gems; local eggs, fresh stevia, organic body soaps and what my mother can’t seem to find anywhere else: barley tea from Egypt. Check it out for yourselves and see what you think, just don’t buy their kishik! (powder made from goat and cows milk mixed with bulgur wheat).

 

 

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Living Beirut? No, I prefer to be a summer tourist

IMG_5907I’ve survived a good four months in Beirut, but have gotten to the point (well, I arrived at this stage a few weeks ago to be honest) where my nerves are on edge and my love for some of the luxuries of the U.S. (a sense of security that a civil war won’t break out tomorrow, no construction on Sunday, good Mexican food etc.) are at an all time high.

I love the idea of this multi faceted country, rather than its present state, and I am starting to understand why 12 million Lebanese live outside the country and only 3.6 million inside its borders.

Before coming to Lebanon, I had a conversation about the general instability of the world based on a mostly financial US-based perspective. I profoundly recall how my friend replied that financial instability is nothing compared to lack of safety and security found in the Middle East and other volatile regions, “economic and security crisis are incomparable: one is paid in stocks and bonds while the other is paid in blood.”  Now I understand his point.

Security

Lack of security, where advised to stay indoors, is quite disconcerting (referring to the clashes in the south of Lebanon due to Sheikh Assir ). While Lebanese are used to upheaval, a humvee barreling down the street just makes this girl cringe and hide her head under the covers. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked myself why go through this when I don’t have to? But then the sun rises upon a new day and Lebanese begin their shopping, club-hopping ways. Delusional? Or just a coping mechanism? I would say, delusional because they, or better said ‘we’,  need a coping mechanism to remain sane and survive with the least damage.

Empty Beirut

Borded up shops in eerie downtown

Borded up shops in eerie downtown

Due to the lack of political stability (and the general boycott of Lebanon by gulf countries), Beirut’s posh downtown area is empty. Storefronts remain, but house no merchandise. The only way a few restaurants have survived is thanks to Saudi ownership. I cannot tell you how many times I have been the only guest in restaurants which were buzzing just a year ago.

Insane pricing

Prices are skyrocket high; everyone is trying to milk whatever money is left in the country while people continue to ‘live big’ all on debt. That is, if you can still find banks or people to lend you money.

Food

Besides the greater problems affecting the country, homesickness has trickled in. It has come in many forms and as a result of many happenings (as mentioned above). Surprisingly,  Lebanese food, which I have always adored, has even become dull and even gag worthy to my taste buds. I can’t tell you how much I miss Californian cuisine. I even found myself describing one of my favorite dishes to my friends (avocado slices on bread drizzled with thick Italian balsamic vinegar and sea salt).

Good News!

The view from my apartment

The view from my apartment

Some exciting news is that I have moved apartments to a great place over-looking the sea. Most importantly, it is QUIET! I have been able to sleep more than I ever did in the past four months spent in my extremely noisy apartment where my Sunday wake-up was a forced 7.30am due to sawing. So, I am much happier and at peace.

More later…and NYU in the fall.

FusHa-3meeah-English-French mixtape

The other day my friend remarked: “You haven’t written a blog post in a while.” Sadly, he is correct. I honestly have been so bogged down with class (8:30-3:30 with an hour lunch break) and five to eight hours of homework a night! And when I am not doing school work I try to be out and about enjoying my time here!

One thing that has completely taken me by surprise is the feeling of utter vulnerability in not be able to speak spoken Arabic (3meeye). The Arabic that is taught in class called FusHa or Modern Standard Arabic is only used in writing and in extremely formal situations so, for the first time in a VERY long time I am literally without words. Since I speak Spanish, Italian, English and can get by with French I really do not know, or remember, the feeling of not being able to understand the banter on the streets. Even though most people DO speak English or French here I have always said, and will continue to say, that there is A LOT lost in translation or left out when you do not know a person’s mother tongue. Thus, my thirst to learn spoken Lebanese grows stronger by the day!

On the Lady G

Yesterday I spent the day on my friend’s beautiful yacht and was so lucky to be surrounded by Lebanese speaking people. It helps me so much to hear the dialect and try to grasp the gist of the conversation although I cannot understand every word, of course!! On our return to the port, my friends put on traditional Lebanese music and started singing at the top of their lungs and, while so entertaining, it served as a great Arabic lesson also 😉

Bringing up the yacht makes me think of another topic of discussion: Imbalance of wealth. Lebanon, especially Beirut, is NOT cheap and salaries are NOT high so I ask, “how do people afford these prices? As a father of a friend told me, “4% of Lebanese are extremely wealthy and the rest have to work really hard to make ends meet. Even the women have had to start working!” As a friend of mine would said, “Most Lebanese are on the ‘Struggle Bus.’” It is also fascinating to note that while there are only 4,000 Lebanese living in the motherland there are triple that (12,000) living abroad. To counter act the low salaries most Lebanese have family members living abroad who send momeu home to their families.

I have been blessed to meet the most amazing people here in Lebanon and, in reflection, I realize that, since I am studying at the best university in the middle east, I have (in great majority) met people who are 1) highly educated 2) more often than not come from “good families”

I have not been able to, yet, make real connections with the vast amount of Lebanese who do not fit into these two categories.

At the beauty Salon I try to make conversation in my broken FusHa-Lebanese-English-French mish-mash of words but I truly believe that I will not be able to even start to paint a cohesive and balanced picture of Lebanon without knowing spoken Lebanese.

Back to homework 🙂

P.S.  I think the solution to this small problem  of learning spoken Arabic is to stay in Lebanon LONGER …How about a year Mama? :p

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