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Lebanon

Lebanon is a pretty densely populated country in the East Mediterranean. It's a democratic republic with both a president and a prime minister. Arabic is the official language, but French is also recognized. People of various religions coexist in Lebanon: Maronite Christians, different Muslim sects, and monotheistic Druze. Plains, mountains, and valleys form the country's terrain. Cedar trees are an ancient national symbol, but today they're threatened by wildfires in dry summer months. The government is pretty relaxed about international trade, and the dollar is widely accepted as well as the Lebanese pound. You can visit ancient cities like Baalbek, which has the largest Roman temple ever built, or Byblos with its incredible restored souq. If you're into more modern activities, see the rejuvenated Beirut Central District or do some great skiing in a place like the Mzaar resort. Grains like wheat are a major staple, especially in salads like tabbouleh and fattoush, which features toasted or fried pita bread. Mezze is the Lebanese variety plate featuring small dishes. Popular vegetables include eggplant and cucumber. Oranges, apples, grapes, and figs are very common fruits. Meat is limited, but a lot seafood is eaten. Try Siyyadiyeh, fish with saffron, sumac, and tahini, and served on rice. Marjeyoun is a Southern Lebanese dish with squash, grilled chicken, and grape leaves, and kibbet batata is a kibbeh featuring potatoes with bulghur wheat. Recently, Lebanese authorities have restricted pesticide use, so organic foods are really on the rise. Not many organic restaurants have been established, but maybe that will change soon. There are plenty of vegetarian options in the country, and even a little bit of macrobiotics. For some post (or during) meal indulgence, Lebanese wine is great, as are date-filled maamoul shortbreads or apricot-flavored ice cream.

Beirut

Beirut