Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Richard Scott comes to Lebanon!

My favourite South African artist is in one of my favourite Lebanese art galleries. Well, not Richard Scott himself - but one of his colorful works of art. Right here in Beirut.

You can imagine my excitement when I walked into Q Contemporary last week and was greeted by this painting that perfectly suits the gallery's striking green wall next to the entrance. It made me a super happy chappy. I was just not so happy with the plaque that read he's from England. Yes, he was born there, but he's known as a South African artist. I'll have to go back soon to make sure the lady I spoke to at the gallery (who agrees with me) did something about it. I mean, it's not everyday that a South African artist finds himself in Lebanon.

Maybe one day Richard Scott will make it into my home too!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

On shelf

Aisthi’s August/ September issue is out, and it seems I’ve been ‘promoted’ to contributing editor without even knowing. In this issue I have two of the stories I mentioned in previous blogs: the South African interior designer Inge Moore, principal at HBA London, who came to create the new look of the Phoenicia Hotel’s Amethyste pool lounge; and the five restaurants I ‘was forced’ to dine at for a feature on outdoor summer dining in Lebanon. Then, seeing as this issue of the mag has a Latin American theme, there’s also a feature of mine on South Border Gallery in Gemmayzeh, which specializes in art from South America.

To read my feature on Inge Moore, visit http://www.aishti.com/#aishti_magazine and go down to the DESIGN block; the outdoor-dining feature is in the LIFESTYLES section.

Converted to try

In my profile, I describe myself as someone whose blood is Lebanese. I’d like to retract that statement. For someone who hasn’t been interested in rugby since my varsity days when it was still within reach to date one of those strong, fit boys (back in the day when they had better hairdos – jammer Jannie!), I sure showed some South African blood yesterday.

After spending two years competing with rugby for ex man’s attention every Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, I developed a dislike for the game – although maybe this has more to do with preferring a walk on the beach over a dark, rowdy pub. But, sitting here in the peaceful, smoke-free village home, I found myself ditching my computer and joining Dad in front of the TV to cheer for the Bokke as they went on to beat the Wallabies in an epic 44-31 game that had Dad shouting at the screen, causing fat neighbour to pretend to check up on the garden.

Come to think of it, fat neighbour’s body shape isn’t very different from the likes of Guthro Steenkamp. We may just have a found a rugby player in the making. With his penchant for sitting on a seat, he’d make a great reserve.

Drunken meat

Lunch yesterday included mkanak, a pork meat that Mom remembers vividly from her childhood. Jeddo used to pour alcoholic spirits over the raw sausages, light them up right there on the table, and voila – braaied boerewors with a difference! Mom wasn’t as showy, and cooked them discreetly in a pan.

Today Ata told me that Jeddo learned this from her father, who used to take raw mkanak with him on hunting trips in Mexico and cook them in this easy way when alcohol was the easiest agent. Men! Any excuse to make food boozy!

Ruining beauty

Yes, Lebanon is beautiful. It’s a mountainous country known for its gorgeous greenery. But sometimes other disastrous realities need to be faced, as I was reminded yesterday on my walk through the village.

Many natural surrounds have been reduced to garbage dumping grounds, and unfortunately it’s not rare to see people throwing papers, tins and bottles out of their cars. Just this week in Beirut, I came across a meticulously groomed Lebanese lady about my age, stepping out of her uber-expensive car, tossing a tissue purposefully onto the pavement. Incredulous and highly upset, I sarcastically asked her, ‘Mafi zbeleh?’ (Isn’t there a dustbin?). ‘Eh, fi,’ (Yes, there is) she said in an even more sarcastic response. And that’s the mentality of educated people.

Old, traditional stone houses are being destroyed, leaving very few original structures to tell the Lebanese tale of old. In the village this is not as evident as in Beirut, where old buldings are being torn down to make way for ridiculous highrises that leave no room for the mystical imagination of once admired Arab, Ottoman and French architecture. Other buildings, such as this one, are just being allowed to decompose into a mass of forgotten rocks.

Due to the increased traffic on Lebanon’s roads, a lot of shortcuts are being built through the mountains to reduce traffic flow on the bigger highways. This means a lot of trees are being chopped down to make way for these double lanes, leaving a streak of ugly, fallen sand underneath. I asked about this and apparently it would be too costly to construct walls to hold the falling sand before constructing the roads, and so this is never done here, as the cost of these roads is already not fully paid for by the government and so other funds often need to be raised from international donors and local municipalities.

Happy Anniversary

I forgot my parents' wedding anniversary on Thursday! Imagine forgetting such a special day, especially when you're going up to join them for the weekend in the mountains. So, to make up for my thoughtless blunder, I took them out for dinner to a new restaurant in Kaslik called Areej because I happened to interview the owner earlier that day, and he had created quite a foodie impression.

The menu lived up to expectations, and Dad loved his kafta be karaz (kafta in cherry sauce) - a Syrian speciality; and I was very impressed with the Armenian manti - tiny kafta dumplings in herbed yoghurt. We paired this with the first local white wine we've enjoyed here - Ksara Blanc de Blanc 2009 - and polished off the bottle in celebration of 32 years of marriage. (Bhebkon kteer kteer and beaucoup beaucoup... richer and richer!)


Saintly neighbour came over yesterday for a soubhieh – the Lebanese ritual of morning ahwe (usually enjoyed outdoors) – with a plate of her signature aniseed kaak in hand. What a way to break in a new day on the nearly finished staygha. She was very impressed with Mom’s new earless cups (the traditional way to drink ahwe from a shaffeh), and we sipped from them while taking down some of saintly neighbour’s special recipes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cafe Blanc

Last year I was introduced to the concept of cafe blanc when I refused a late-night cup of coffee due to the caffeine content. The cafe blanc (directly translated as 'white coffee') is the Lebanese alternative to decaf Nescafe. This see-through, orange-blossom tea is on offer at its namesake Cafe Blanc, a modern restaurant serving gorgeously presented Lebanese cuisine. This week I tried the cafe blanc surprise which includes a dash of rose water and lemon peel. Super soothing and incredibly appealing to look at. Pity it's all over so soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The warsheh wake up

7am Sunday morning: doef, doef doef. I turn over in my bed, hoping it's a dream that will disappear with a change of position: doef, doef, doef. No, it's something familiar; something I heard last Sunday at about the same time. And the Sunday before that. It's the sound of the warsheh. The bloody warsheh - the building site on our 'villa' property. The beginnings of Dad's dream staygah. Our dream staygah. But at this stage, it's easier to blame the noise on someone else. But actually, it's not Dad's at the moment, as it's the foreman who has taken control - of the project, of the decision-making (even though Dad's a civil engineer, it seems the foreman wants to be the man in the know) and, now on top of that, he's named himself the man in charge of the bloody working hours. 7am Sunday morning!

'You can't do this!' Mom was upset for maybe the third time I've seen her like this in my life. 'You can't come and start hammering stones and making a noise at seven on a Sunday morning ya hammeh! It's not fair,' she complained to the foreman, who happens to also take the role of fat neighbour. 'Oh don't worry,' he says. 'It's not a problem,' he responds to Mom's statement that the good doctor upstairs works hard in Beirut every day of the week and comes up to the mountain for one day where he can relax and sleep in. Doef, doef, doef.

And then, once the doef, doef, doef disappears and the cementing begins, Mom finds it incredible that these men - two workers and fat neighbour the foreman - find something to talk about all day, so that there's not one minute of silence outside our front door. I wish I could go back to sleep, but it's no use - fat neighbour will be calling out to Dad in intervals of five minutes (even calling Dad out of the shower), sometimes sticking his hand through an open window to hand him a sample or get a tool. Dad's name has become the singsong of the warsheh. That and 'layk' or 'laykeh', the word fat neighbour loves to start his sentences with to get your attention.

He stands up long enough to get what he needs from Dad and then it's back to his position as foreman of the project, supervising from his relaxing vantage point on a plastic chair, being offered ahwe and 7Up and biscuits by Mom throughout the day. In fact, he changed from foreman to fat neighbour the other day and paid a social visit to Dad, still enjoying the comfort of the plastic chair on the newly cemented outdoor patio floor. So Mom brought out the bzooret (nuts) and offered the obligatory raspberry juice. Then fat neighbour's cousin walked past, so he waved him in to our property to join the conversation. When it turned to topics and people of whom Dad knows nothing of, and rugby on TV became a good excuse to make a duck, Dad returned indoors, leaving the two cousins to chat alone outside our front door. Then two became three and another of fat neighbour's connections joined (fat neighbour happens to know the entire village by name!). While Dad's voice grew louder while cheering for the Springboks, the three men's conversation got softer as they moved away from the staygah - only to position themselves further down our walkway, in front and inside of our gate!

Talk about a forward foreman!

The warsheh on Sunday morning.

Introducing the team

Fat neighbour aka the foreman.
Skills: supervising, delegating, and not listening to Dad's expert suggestions.

Shageeleh number one.
Skills: cementing and taking orders from the foreman.

Shageeleh number two.
Skills: carrying heavy things and taking orders from the foreman.

The balateeh (tiler).
Skills: demonstrating the water resistance of tiles according to the foreman's instructions.

The translator aka Mom.
Skills: stepping in for Dad when he's about to lose it, and making things better understood between Dad and the foreman.

The supposed head of the project aka Dad.
Skills: civil engineer by trade and education - man without a say, who's paid and in desperation.

Rabbit Island

After a month without beach, my Muizenberg-accustomed body was aching for sea water to touch its feet. That's why Sahabte's invite got me packing my beach bag as fast as you can say 'wave'.

'Would u care to go to the palm island in z north?' read the SMS. Here I sat scratching my head, thinking that Sahabte was loosing her marbles by inviting me to a party in Ibiza for the weekend. Little did I know that the north of Lebanon, just off the coast of Tripoli, is home to some super-tiny, and one not-so-tiny islands. Jazeeret al Araneb (rabbit island), as it is better known, is about 11km and a half-hour ferry ride from the coast. It's a tiny, sandy island that can be walked around slowly in 10 minutes, as it's only 560m x 460m.

Sahabte and I joined some of her colleagues and their family and friends, making up a group of about 20 to hit the quiet island. We sheltered our goods under the shade of the primitive straw umbrellas built on the shore, and dived straight into the rather warm yet refreshing water. It was incredible to swim in such clean water in this country where sewage is usually yours and Nemo's neighbour along the coastal-town beaches. But being so far away from the mainland means that the water is clear and the beach is rather tidy (I won't go into the little episode of the stranger throwing his beer can into the water!).

There's nothing on this island besides a broken windmill, a wooden cabin that was probably once used as a lookout point, and some foundations from the Crusader period that were uncovered in the 70s. Apparently this island was also used by the Palestinians who fled from Palestine - as a stopover point and hideout en route to Lebanon.

Although I didn't see any form of life besides us humans, I read that this network of islands welcomes many migratory birds, seven species of which are nearing extinction. I can see why they'd go there instead of Ibiza - there's nothing but nature; no restaurant, no toilets, no guy selling lollies to make you jolly. Only two guys hiring chairs and tables on which you can enjoy the goodies you carry with you across the Med.

Now let's hope no wise guy decides to open a cocktail bar...

Leaving the mainland.

Island style, here we come!

Gorgeous, sandy beach and a dream-blue sea.

A sign of life once lived here. Now no camping is allowed, so ferries shuttle day visitors back and forth from Tripoli.

A ferry like ours passing one of the other (rockier and tinier) islands. Note the Lebanese flag waving from the roof. Ever the patriots.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yariba yariba

'Do you have any plans for tonight,' asked groovy aunt when she rang me up on Friday afternoon to see whether I was in the village. 'Nope,' I replied, secretly wishing that she was about to ask me exactly what she ended up asking: 'So do you want to come over for a margarita evening then?'

No need to tell you what my answer was. We were greeted by actor cousin's sombrero and poncho display, followed by an evening of homemade margaritas (and we're not talking the pizza variety here!) and a colourful table of Mexican food.

The Mexican blood in the family arose in full swing, and my Mexican-born Ata gave it all a big thumbs up. The family's Mexican heritage will be shared in a future blog, so until then, keep sipping...

Neighbourly labour

While saintly neighbour sat sipping ahwe with Mom and I in the kitchen on Friday afternoon, her husband, fat neighbour, knocked on the door to get a piece of newspaper from me to protect his hands while he peeled our prickly pear for us. Yip, you read right - he wanted to peel our garden's prickly pears for us, all out of the goodness of his great, big Lebanese heart.

'But we have prickly pears,' said Mom. 'Where? Show me,' said fat neighbour. 'Here, in the fridge,' said Mom, opening the big fridge door to show fat neighbour the produce Dad had picked the day before (not nearly as skillful as fat neighbour, therefore requiring the use of Mom's tweezers afterwards!). 'No, that will not do, walaw,' said fat neighbour. 'You cannot put them in the fridge unpeeled. Plus those are too ripe now. You need fresh, new ones. I will peel these for you.'

And he sits down outside our kitchen, newspaper in one hand, knife in the other, and proceeds to expertly cut off each edge of the fruit, slice a slit in the peel from top to bottom, and open up the skin to the right and left, removing the pitted, yellow flesh from the middle. All in the blink of an eye.

That's how neighbours operate here. And he didn't even take some of the stash home to feast on the fruits of his own labour. Who knows how he became fat?

Late-night snack

After Thursday's outing to the Lebanese Film Festival, I decided to walk home. It's an uphill, 15-minute walk, but so worth it in the end when I realised that at the top of the hill, on Sassine Square, the saj fires were burning and mne'eesh were being made. I finally got the chance to taste a delicious (yip, I may have found the best saj in town!) manouche made in my area. Generous dollops of perfectly blended zaatar on super-tasty dough! Pity the ladies making them are from the village of Aley and only come to the square three nights a week... I'll be back!

Feasting on films

The ninth Lebanese Film Festival is in full swing atEmpire Sofil in Achrafieh, and I was there for opening night on Thursday. The theatre was so full that they opened the adjoining one too to allow the throngs of people to view the two short films and two fiction films on offer that evening.

I met Vatche Boulghourjian, director of Hinkerort Zorasune (The Fifth Column), a 29-minute, 35mm film about an Armenian boy living in Lebanon's Bourj Hammoud (an area in Beirut known for its Armenian community) who runs away from home with his father's gun, and the search that ensues. It's about loss, and the feeling of being lost, the way I saw it. What was cool about viewing it in Beirut, is that the actors were there with us in the movie house, including the main actor boy who happens to be Vatche's nephew, and some other Armenian heavy-weight actors. Vatche pulled this film off by only having one other person on his production team, so it was quite a feat of a flick. At Cannes, it took third prize in the Cinefoundation Awards. He told me that he recently showed the film in Armenia and the audience there hardly understood the Armenian language spoken by the Lebanese Armenians in the film, as the dialect has been so adapted by the diaspora here.

Also on the reel on Thursday, was another 29-minute fiction film by Herve Jakubowicz (French/ Lebanese) called Le Temps de la Balle. I missed the whole meaning of the film because I was so into one of the hot actors, Marc Robert (and now I can't even find a pic of him on Google!). Hiam Abbass, an Arab/ Israeli actress who featured in Paradise Now (2005), also stars in the film.

Ghassan Halwani's six-minute animation clip for 'Takhabot' was superbly complemented by the emotional musical sounds of Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, a Palestinian alternative musician who uses the mystical sounds of the oud (a pear-shaped guitar) and buzuq (a long necked guitar). (I think I'll be chastised to calling them 'guitars'!)

I wish my mother had seen Tarek Chemaly's Masmou7 Lasek al E3lanat because, while showing images of old Beirut, he presented a monologue through the use of old advertising jingles. Even Dad remembers a jingle that I heard in the seven-minute experimental clip, '... biera laziza'.

And that was just one of the five nights of the Lebanese Film Festival. Tonight the folks are joining me to witness Lebanese film talent at its best. The Lebanese Film Festival is only open to entries from directors from Lebanon, or those of Lebanese descent living abroad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hot water

It's hot. Like hot hot. Like 41-degrees hot! Ice cream turns to milkshake, room-temperature water tastes like it's ready to dip a tea bag into, sunblock drips off the face as soon as you step outside, and the only good a fan does is make a noise loud enough to drain out the sounds of nearby construction works.

Spare a thought for those fasting during Ramadan, not allowing a drop of water to pass their lips during these pavement-steaming days, while I cannot survive without my five-litre gallon; those ladies wrapped up from head to toe, while I sweat through my tank top and consider hiking up my knee-length skirt a little higher.

Spare an even more gasping thought for those people in the building down the road from me who ran out of water yesterday. No ice-cold showers to wash away the day's stickiness. Gosh, I just had a vision of a Muslim living in that building. Now that's a sacrifice! But it's Achrafieh - still a predominantly Christian area of Beirut - so let's hope that vision isn't a reality. Haram!

The reason I know about this out-of-water fiasco is because I just passed the water truck pumping up water to the building's rooftop reservoir. The driver was very proud to show off his colourful truck. I wouldn't mind being a trucker if it meant driving such a groovy vehicle. I love all the colours, and especially the cedar tree, Lebanon's national symbol. Above and below it reads Allah yahmeekeh, which means 'may God protect you' i.e. may God protect Lebanon. This water (which is only for washing) costs $10 per 1 000 litres.

Allah yahmeenah in this heat!

The vertical pipe is the one leading from the truck to the reservoir on top of the building. The horizontal/ diagonal line is just another one of Lebanon's million hazardous electrical wires.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Late-night Lebanese loser

It's 10:30pm and I've just returned home from post-work drinks with new friends and juggling cousin (who now lives and works very close to me since returning from his life in Germany). Walking home, I came across very dressed up women on their way out. You see, in Lebanese terms, coming home on a week night at 10:30pm is rather shameful. Here, that's the time people start thinking of heading out. By the time they shower, do their make-up and strap on their 10-inch gladiator heels, it could be past 11pm!

The bar we were at only had one table of punters besides ours, and only when we left did another group arrive. The DJ only started spinning his tracks at 10pm. The waiter sat at the bar yawning. Wait an hour and the scene will be very different. But unfortunately I'm still working on a South African clock, where I can't have dinner after 8pm, and struggle with work the next day if I don't shut my eyes at 11pm.

Or maybe I'm just a late-night Lebanese loser.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A typical visit

Mom and I have just returned from a pop-in visit to Dad's talkative cousin. Her name is due to the fact that we didn't have to say much during our 20 minutes in her store, where she sells anything from nail brushes and plastic earrings to tablecloths and pyjamas - and then there are bras hanging from their straps on a coat stand above her head, next to an image of Mar (Saint) Charbel. She's great and I love visiting her and listening to her akhbar.

Some snippets of conversation:

'One of my husband's friends wants me to sell his toys from my shop.' (And I'm thinking where the heck are you going to put them? You already had to move clothes and other for-sale items off the couch so that I could sit in this three-by-three-metre space.)

'My daughter wants to study graphic design or advertising. I suggested law, and I also like the idea of public administration.' (Very different. Are you both on the same

'I've made my daughter work at a new hotel that's opening. She doesn't like it. She says the one room has a Jacuzzi right next to the bed and it's terrible. I told her that's how sophisticated people live.' (This one sounds better in Lebanese, but it's cute nonetheless.)

Rings the bell that rings upstairs in her home and waits 20 seconds before her daughter calls down from the balcony: 'Maaaaaa!' Goes outside to the street and shouts up to her daughter to come down. 'Wake up! Put something on! Come say hi to Clarice and Tracy!' (Yay. Now the entire village knows we're here. We might never get away!)

Eid el Saide

Picture an old mountain village at 2:30am. Usually this image would be dead-quiet streets, dark homes and sleeping old people. But on Saturday night, on our way back from the Big Fat Lebanese Wedding, the scene was quite different.

Thousands of candles were lighting up our village of Daraoun, the village adjacent to Harissa where the church of the Virgin Mary stands, overlooking (some say protecting) Lebanon. The candles, placed in white paper bags and standing on the balconies, flat roofs and walls of the village homes, were in honour of Eid el Saide (the assumption of Mary).

At the village gathering place, about a hundred people were still congregated from the evening's communal dinner, and the vibe still looked like it was cooking. If it hadn't been for the post-wedding feet, we might have joined and I could have gotten some better pics. (We heard from Dad's talkative cousin today that they only left at 4am!)

Village ladies came by the day before to sell candles, and fat neighbour did us the favour of placing them in the white bags filled with sand he'd collected while we were at the wedding. Unfortunately most of ours were burned out by the time we arrived home, but the drive through the village had me smiling in small-town wonder at all the candles still burning around town. And we're not talking one or two candles on each balcony - I'm talking of balconies with about ten candles lining each one's perimeter, and roofs with even more glowing light.

That's one way to solve Lebanon's electricity problem.

The Big Fat Lebanese Wedding

The wedding of a lifetime hit our family this weekend, and the occasion I've been looking forward to ever since knowing I was moving to Lebanon has come and gone in the blink of ten-million fireworks.

Bride-to-be cousin has become bride and we have another handsome man in the family. The story of a big wedding such as this deserves to be told through photos. The fairytale picture story follows.

This is the same lounge in which my mother did the same photo-taking thing, as it's the house in which she grew up
. However, it looked a little different then, as it's just undergone a refurbishment in time for this big wedding.

I just had to include this pic to show the back of mother-of-the-bride's gorgeous dress. This was a Champagne-popping moment for the immediate family.

Then we had our family photo taken with bride cousin (pity we were missing a few South African dwellers).

In between all the photo taking, bride sat down to rest her high-heeled feet. The arrangement from the groom is the red one on her right. While we kept her company, the rest of the family who had come to wish her well sat outside, being served Champagne and orange juice by two waiters circling the balcony.

Those with a sweet tooth could help themselves to sweets, biscuits and chocolates made especially for such weddings.

The chocolates with the white wrapping on the left were decorated with a golden flower that can be worn as a necklace pendant. The brown chocolates with tiny golden hearts on them were filled with cheesecake.

Ten of the 12 cousins. We missed you Sista Sista and Roeks!

While having our cousin pics taken, we heard the sound of a lot of hooting - the sign that the in-law family was on its way. The mother-in-law, sister-in-law and aunt arrived in the rented white Jags, while the rest of the groom's family (about 30 of them) drove up behind them.

The in-law family all entered the gates of the home, welcomed by bride cousin's immediate family. As they reached the steps of the balcony, they were greeted by the rest of our family and offered Champagne and orange juice before making a line to greet bride cousin and have their photo taken with her.

As is tradition, the mother of the groom bought the bride a necklace for her wedding day. She presented it to her and put it around her neck while everyone watched the 'show'.

Then the Arabic music was turned up and bride exited the lounge to come join the dancing taking place on the balcony with both families. This, it turned out, was the only time we heard any potential belly-dancing music, but I didn't yet have enough courage to show off my newly learned moves!

After a few more photos with some late comers, bride and father-of-the-bride exited the home's floral-decorated doors together and departed from the balcony, followed by the mother, sister and aunt of the groom (as if they had come to fetch her with their entourage and were now taking her to her future husband)...

...and followed by the rest of the entourage, from both families, who all got into their cars and followed the bridal car hooting their way to the church. (This is why, whenever you hear a lot of continuous hooting in Lebanon, you can be sure there's a wedding nearby.)

The groom (right) and his brother (the best man) were waiting outside the church for the bride. The father-of-the-bride does not walk his daughter into the church. That's why, I guess, they make such a big thing of the walk out of the home. Once we were all seated, the wedding march started and the father-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom walked in together, followed by the mother-of-the-bride and the father-of-the-groom and then the bridesmaid and best man. The bride and groom followed them, not far behind.

Mar Charbel, Adonis, the church in which they were married. I didn't understand a word of the service and now finally know what Dad always speaks about when he says he doesn't really know whether he's married because he never understood a word of his own marriage ceremony! Oh, and there's no such thing as 'you may now kiss the bride', so we had to wait for the first dance to see that ooh-la-la moment.

The flowers by Nado were put up right before the service, as there was the usual weekly church service right before the wedding. When the 8pm wedding service ended at 9pm, the arrangements were quickly whisked away to the hotel where the reception was to take place.

At the five-star Le Royal Hotel in Dbayeh, we were entertained to a Spanish zaffe before the bridal couple entered the poolside venue. The zaffe is a modern wedding Lebanese tradition, where a troupe of dancers performs in anticipation of the couple's entry and assists them in making their entrance over-the-top. This can either be a traditional Lebanese zaffe of dabke or belly-dancing, or it can be something with a twist, such as this Spanish one that bride cousin selected to suit her Spanish-inspired dress (and the team she supported in the recent World Cup!).

The Spanish troupe took bride and groom winding through the tables so that everyone could wish them a rowdy ole!

The magic of having an outdoor venue is that Lebanon's view is always spectacular.

Although we had all already danced with the Spanish troupe, and the dancefloor was well-opened (!), bride and groom officially opened the dancefloor to 'I can't help falling in love with you' in between part three and four of the five-course meal. It was a scene straight out of a fairytale movie, with stage smoke spilling over onto the swimming pool and fireworks lighting up the romantic moment.

For the foodies out there, there was mezza on the table (breadrolls, raw veg, dip and nuts), then came the smoked salmon, prawns and a fish with stuffing; pesto gnocchi with chicken; beef fillet with veggies and mashed potatoes; chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate cup; little petit-fours with wedding cake.

The poolside dancefloor wasn't empty for a moment, and bride and groom were the biggest party animals of the night. There were moments of Champagne-downing from the bottle, locomotion chains of dancers weaving through the tables, the garter-catcher placing the garter on the leg of the bouquet-catcher with his mouth, and a lot of carrying of the bride and groom on men's shoulders. But, funny enough, no one dared jump into the mosaic-tiled pool - not even the groom's cousin who had a bottle of bubbly poured all over her in a moment of untamed celebration on the dancefloor!

The cutting of the cake was a spectacle in itself, with the five-tiered gateau being cut by a sword while waiters circled the couple with individual cakes for each table, topped with mini fireworks. You can only see the colour of the cake in the next pic. It's green! So not the colour bride cousin ordered. I was with her when she chose it, so I'm a witness! After the waiters dropped off the cakes on the tables, they performed the same show with bottles of Champagne...

...and we all toasted together to a life lived together happily ever after.

PS. The Lebanese love their fireworks!