Beirut Discoveries: an astonishing meal; a dream-filled sleep; a stylish chaise-lounge; a ’50s diva; a sweet-smelling museum; a whimsical wall

At the far Eastern edge of Beirut tucked away behind a flower shop is the intimate, exquisite Tawlet Souk el Tayeb , a restuarant where each day a chef from a different region of Lebanon offers his or her best dishes spread out in a glorious buffet.

Hotel Albergo, located in the beyond chic art-deco neighborhood Achrafieh in the heart of old Beirut, is a dream hotel, its antique-filled boudoir rooms for dreamers to dream in.

Bokja is the name of the elaborately hand-embroidered covering inside which a bride’s dowry is placed. It is also the name of a vintage textile and tapestry upholstered furniture boutique in Beirut’s Saifa Village run by two highly creative and entrepreneurial women, Maria Hibri and Hoda Baroudi. In their gorgeous shop I saw the chaise-lounge I should like to lie about on and read Hanan al-Shaykh’s stupendous newly re-imagined translation of One Thousand and One Nights over and over again.

In an early 19th century palace in Beit Eddine in the Chouf mountains southeast of Beirut we stumbled upon a photography exhibit celebrating the career of the music and film diva Sabah, whose heydey was in the ’40s and ’50s but she was still performing at the age of 82. She released over 50 albums, acted in 98 movies, 20 stage plays, and had 3,500 songs in her repertoire–and was married seven times. Watch and listen here to one of her most famous songs “Allo Beyrouth

In the magnificent fishing port, Sidon, in southern Lebanon, deep in the covered, labyrinthine souk is the matbakhsaida, or soap musuem. It is surely one of the most beautiful and informative and sweet-smelling places I have ever set foot in.

The ubiquitous street art and graffitti I saw in Beirut had the joy, whimsy, and fullness of spirit of a people who understand how to live–no matter how dire the circumstances. I loved Beirut and can’t wait to go back.

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5 Replies to “Beirut Discoveries: an astonishing meal; a dream-filled sleep; a stylish chaise-lounge; a ’50s diva; a sweet-smelling museum; a whimsical wall”

  1. Wow Jenny,
    You always end up in the most exciting places that seem unlikely to enter my travel dreams until you send photos and describe the food and the people and chaise lounges that appear to be the top line in magic carpets. I hope you were surrounded by The Cedars of Lebanon
    or at least saw them in the hills.
    Thank you for another wander in your world.

    1. Thanks Mom. Of course, you are the inspiration for my “unlikely” travels–our childhood having been full of them! Even though I barely looked up from whatever book I was reading to know where I happened to be at any given moment, your mantra “Travel is the best education” somehow penetrated and stuck with me. Alas, there seemed to be more banks than Cedars in Lebanon but I did see a few of those gorgeous trees. Can’t wait for our next trip together wherever that may be–Penzance in June?

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