SSoP Podcast Episode 50 — Lebanon: Surrender to the Call of the Mijwiz

SSoP Podcast Episode 50 — Lebanon: Surrender to the Call of the Mijwiz

Monday, 17 April, 2023

If you were born anytime after, say, 1974, you probably associate Lebanon and its capital city of Beirut with political strife, violence, and bombed-out buildings. But this beautiful, misunderstood country is far more than its troubled past.

Lebanon is a tiny nation on the eastern side of the Mediterranean. Beirut was once known as the Paris of the East, a holiday getaway for movie stars, moguls, and spies. Lebanon’s coast is still a dreamy beach destination with long stretches of sand — or dramatic rock formations — lined with palm trees on one side and perfect turquoise-blue water on the other.

The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic word lbn in reference to the snow-kissed Mount Lebanon range. The interior’s rugged mountains are great for winter skiing and hiking among the fragrant cedar trees during the warmer months.

You can also visit wineries, explore ancient ruins, dance the dabke, and eat delicious things like hummus, kibbeh, kofta, tabbouleh, and baklava — a.k.a. some of Mel’s favorite food in the world.

In this episode, we briefly walk through the long history of Lebanon, delve into amazing stories of sibling rivalry and bank robbery, and Mel shares stories about her Lebanese great-grandmother. Then we recommend great books that took us to Lebanon on the page, including a family saga, an unusual coming-of-age story, an adventure memoir about a life-changing bike ride, a story-filled cookbook, and a journalist’s account of connecting to his Lebanese heritage.

Here are the books about Lebanon we recommend on the show:

Books, Transcript, and More

For a complete roundup of all the books we recommend, plus a full transcript and the other cool stuff we talked about, visit the Episode 50 show notes.


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Yes, Lebanon has a troubled past and tricky present. But there's so much to recommend this tiny Mediterranean country: idyllic beaches, fragrant cedar forests, slinky music, and some of the world's tastiest food.
In my family, nothing brings us together like the promise of delicious food or a commitment to doing something silly to amuse ourselves. This story about a 1980s cookbook and an afternoon with my dad features both.

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