This summer, I tried as much as possible to stay away from Beirut. The first step was — ironically — to land a job IN BEIRUT. A few days later, I came to the conclusion that staying in Beirut is not an option for me. I did not want to move there, I did not want to spend all of my day there, and definitely not my life. I had to look for a hideout.
My weekends, and almost every spare moment I had, I rushed with my friends to escape, to run as far as we could from Beirut. We took shelter in the mountains, Lebanon’s high peaks with green hills and the many fruit trees (I am painting a picturesque scene that is not always the case everywhere, Signed Mr. Realist) all under the blue summer sky.
The Wild Saga squad was born.
We took the mountains as our sanctuary, the starry sky as our blanket, the grassy earth as our bed, the plastic tents as our shelters, and the whole outdoors as our toilet and shower. Very poetic!
Almost every weekend was spent camping with a very nice group, resulting from a mutual desire to run into the arms of mother nature. I – the person who was so very shy and not so receptive of getting exposed to insects and night creatures as well as not having a proper toilet and shower — have enjoying our camping trips so much I kept asking for more. I never expected myself to.
Our fascination with our last camping spot that we all fell in love with got us so much requests to reveal the location and have people join us. We felt attached to it we didn’t want anyone else to have a piece of it. But once we got rid of our selfishness, we decided to invite people over and let them share the rural life in an Eco-friendly manner. One Sunday, we all gathered and planned a day; the menu, the seating, the directions, the materials, the activities,… everything.
The whole aim was to introduce Eco-tourism to the village. The event was Eco-friendly because Tamara, Environmentalist, was making sure we follow the guidelines of Eco-tourism outings. We picked our produce from the land, we bought whatever we couldn’t get from nearby shops to support their businesses, the trash was sorted, and we used to produce and the products produced by the hosting family to support their work in the land and help in their sustainability. Tamara, Roy and Bruno handled the decor among other tasks while I handled the food with their help of course.
On the menu:
Zaatar and watercress salad
Labneh with roasted cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar
Balila (chickpeas with garlic and cumin)
Mdardara (lentils and rice with fried onions)
Green beans with garlic, lemon, and oil
Man’oushe on saj (flat pies with different fillings baked on a dome-shaped skillet)
Homemade Arak and Mulberry syrup
Pyramid juice boxes for nostalgia purposes (and I got excited to smash the empty boxes with my foot to make noise)
Halawe and biscuits with Lebanese loukoum for dessert
A chill day among the apple trees, under the blue sky, with some haze creeping up the hills is the Secret of our Autumn. The best way to spend an Autumn Sunday.
Balsamic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes on Labneh
served 6-8 persons as appetizer
- 500g Labneh (strained yogurt)
- 1 pack cherry tomatoes (plastic basket)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Turn the oven on and set the temperature to 150ºC
- Wash and clean the cherry tomatoes
- In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, salt, oil, and vinegar
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay the tomatoes with the liquid
- Roast for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to maintain an even roast
- Serve warm on labneh
- Serving suggestions: on a toasted piece of bread, or spread the labneh in a plate and top with the tomatoes and more olive oil and some mint
Big thanks to Patrick Abdel Sater for the amazing photos