Saturday morning is Souk el Tayeb Day in Beirut. Souk el Tayeb refers to the Lebanese capital’s first farmers’ market, which I finally visited this week.
There’s no one better to show you around this open-air market than my friend Suha Farah, founder and owner of the IF Boutiques in Beirut and New York. Suha has been a regular at Souk el Tayeb since it launched six years ago. She knows everyone there and it’s where she shops whenever she is in Beirut.
Tayeb in Arabic means good -- as in taste and character. The Souk offers fresh, seasonal produce and goods from Lebanese farmers, artisans and producers. It’s a celebration of Lebanon’s culinary traditions and has been introducing organic and environmental awareness.
Kamal Mouzawak and Christine Cudsi founded Souk el Tayeb. Kamal is a gastronomy editor and author of a glossary of gourmet products and dishes published in “A Complete Insider’s Guide to Lebanon” (by Cherine Yazbeck and Carole Corm, Souk el Tayeb Editors, 2008).
The market has developed into an organization now working nationally and internationally to promote and preserve Lebanese foods and culinary traditions, rural heritage and a natural environment.
Souk el Tayeb Day is held at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) parking lot. BIEL was built in the heart of downtown Beirut on reclaimed land. It launched in November 2001 and covers 82,000 square meters of multifunctional areas where exhibition, concert and conference halls and restaurants are positioned
on the waterfront.
Market manager Mira Makhlouta was on-site when I visited Souk el Tayeb last Saturday (November 13). She said the market is organized and run by an NGO cooperative that embraces Lebanon's regions, religions and sects.
|The Abu Rabih stand with organic produce from Binine in Akkar|
- create a “platform” that brings together people of different regions and beliefs;
- support small-scale farmers and producers and introduce environment-friendly practices;
- encourage organic, eco-friendly produce and practices to improve the quality of food, life and health;
- contribute to local community development initiatives;
- raise alertness and promote the experience of green living through public awareness campaigns.
While walking around the Souk which opens from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., I saw tables from Bibnine in Akkar; Zawtar in the South; Baabda, Warhanieh, Joun, Ghedras, Debbiyeh, Zalka in Mount Lebanon; Hamra and Mousseitbeh in Beirut; and Wata Sfarta in the North.
|Abu Brahim from Rachaya, Jebel el Sheikh|
|Youmna Jazzar Medlej|
|Making fresh saj manaeesh|
Everyone seemed to know everyone else at the Souk, whether customers or farmers. It is family friendly and children can wander around safely while their parents shop and chat to friends. Parking is easy and costs LL 3,000 ($2).
|Homemade pickled cheese, labneh, cucumbers and vegetables|