A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

like water for mezzeh: lunch in the chouf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 29, 2007

Last Sunday’s drive through the Chouf took us through lovely Deir al-Qamar, M’s village (which my friend R terms rather less romantically “my ancestral thing-y”). I ought to have taken photographs, but all my artistic efforts on the way up had made me carsick. By the time we reached the checkpoint on the way to Mukhtara, I was delighted to have the chance to stop for a bit.

The soldiers solemnly took M’s and T’s ID cards, as well as the car’s registration. When T told me to get out my passport, one said: bas al-shabab. Only the guys [literally, the youths]. Someday a woman will commit a terrible act of terrorism in this region, and the shockwaves will be monumental. Until then, though, I am happy to keep my passport in my (uninspected) handbag.

Once the soldiers saw T’s ID, their manner changed. From Xxxxx? they asked, smiling. Yes, T replied, grinning back at them. Ana walad al-balad – literally, I am a child of the country, but in this case meaning more Yes, I am from around here. With a local in the car, they judged us no threat to Jumblatt, Mukhtara’s most famous (and most likely to be targeted for assassination) resident, and waved us on.

Of course, we weren’t headed to Jumblatt’s palace, but rather to a well known restaurant nearby. The restaurant is a complex of buildings and terraces, built into the rocky mountainside, with a waterfall cascading down in the back.

This photo looks back towards the entrance from the main front courtyard:

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This photograph was the view we had during lunch, from our table at one of the lower (and quieter) terraces:

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These two show the waterfall:

 

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The food was incredibly delicious, and our table was enlivened by the presence of the two cousins who now tend the restaurant, which their grandfather began decades ago. T’s good friends from university days, they kept the dishes (and the arak, for anise lovers) coming to our table.

It was a lovely day, marred for me only by one small cross-cultural difficulty – one that crops up now and again, particularly in nice but more traditional restaurants like this one and the ones I know in Damascus.

In the United States, restaurant bathrooms are quite strictly divided by sex. Men and boys use the men’s restrooml; women and girls use the women’s. Bathroom attendants, when they exist, work in the gender-appropriate restroom.

Here, however, it is quite common to find an adolescent boy as the bathroom attendant covering both bathrooms. While I understand in my head that there is nothing inherently creepy about having a fourteen year old boy come in to the women’s restroom to hand me a towel, I can’t shake my American sense of “my space is being violated”.

I can’t shake it, but I do try to compensate with an extra generous tip!

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One Response to “like water for mezzeh: lunch in the chouf”

  1. http://pressposts.com/Religion/like-water-mezzeh-lunch-in-chouf/

    Submited post [pressposts.com]- like water for mezzeh: lunch in the chouf

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