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October 13, 2005

Ramadan in Lebanon by Nadia Masri



(The nicest time of day...)

The last ten minutes before a Ramadan sundown are the longest you will spend as a child. Twelve or thirteen, I am fasting the whole day through for the first time, and now my cousins and I am staring hard through the window for a sign, any sign. The Koran says “when you cannot tell the difference between a white thread and a black thread” but there are more reliable ways. The mosque lights will come on, the call to prayer will sound, and most importantly, the cannon will fire. Amazing smells have been coming out of the kitchen for the past two hours, my aunts and uncles are joking and carrying plates to the table, and I am so dizzy with hunger, thirst and excitement I can’t imagine waiting any longer and then…boom!

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August 12, 2005

Our Friend Bacchus by Nadia Masri

Lion_3 The last time I was in the Bekaa valley was late spring, 1986. The snow had barely melted enough to allow cars to pass. A tentative cease-fire had just been announced between Syria and Hezbollah, all the reason my father needed to pack us into the car for a trip to the temples of Baalbek. He wanted us to know our country and the road was now safe enough for that.

We were greeted, as we drove over the mountain ridge and in view of the plain, by the sight of miles upon miles of hashish plants, undulating in the breeze. A side venture, to provide a few luxuries for the young Syrian soldiers unlucky enough to be stationed there. The recruit at the checkpoint on the summit seemed surprised to see us: “What are you doing here? Are you crazy?” My father’s response: “Road trip, and, yes!” The soldier waved us through. The drive took four hours.

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July 29, 2005

Memory of a Lebanese Village by Nadia Masri


It might not be much of an exaggeration to say that every Lebanese person is no more than two generations away from a village. The village is the beating heart of the Lebanese table, and even if you are a born and bred city kid like I am, the stone houses with their orange clay roofs and jasmine-scented gardens seem to exert a near irresistible pull on you whenever Sunday rolls around.

Our particular village lies in the region of Koura, along the Qadisha river valley. Koura is known in particular for its olives and its deep red soil. I would have to admit that it was in this village that I had my first culinary -- for lack of a better word -- awakening.

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