Bread: bread is fairly common, but the variety of choice flat,
like pita bread
Hummus: a dip consisting of mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans),
tahini, garlic, and lemon
Tabbouleh: a "salad" generally made of parsley,
bulgur, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Dolma: fruits, meats, and/or vegetables with rice stuffed
in grape leaves, but sometimes also served in peppers or tomatoes
Kebab: numerous styles exist, but usually with a base of roasted
lamb or chicken and vegetables in pita bread
Mezze: sampling of numerous dishes, generally including
small plates up to grilled meats
When eating in Lebanon there are a few etiquette rules you
must know and follow, but first you must know if your host and other diners are
Christian or Muslim as this may alter the dining rules in some regards. If in doubt
on the present company, try to dress on the conservative side (see our
Lebanon Culture Page for more details). Second, in conservative homes, it
is not acceptable to eat with a person of the opposite sex unless they are related
or married. While this is very uncommon today, to some conservative Muslims this
is important so observe the local restaurant's situation and follow a local's
Try to arrive on time for a meal and if eating in a local's home remove your
shoes at the door if others have done so. Greet the elders first, but be sure to
greet every person individually and shake their hands (although some conservative
Muslims don't believe men and women should touch so wait for locals to extend
their hand first if they are of the opposite sex). Let your host seat you and when
sitting be sure to keep your feet flat on the floor or pointed behind you as pointing
the soles of your feet at another can be offensive.
If dining in a restaurant with Muslims don't order any pork products or alcohol
as these foods are against the Islamic dining rules, although many Muslims in Lebanon
do drink alcohol and many also eat pork; if eating with Christians there are no
true dietary restrictions and even some Muslims consume these products so just follow
the lead of the locals. Once the food is served follow your host's lead as he
or she may invite everyone to begin serving themselves at the same time or may request
that either you or the elders be served first. Try a bit of everything offered as
turning down food is rude. If you finish your first serving, expect to be offered
a second helping; turn this invitation down at first and only after your host's
insistence should you accept more food.
Eat as the locals eat; in some settings this means eating in the continental style
(knife in the right hand, fork in the left), but for other foods and on other occasions,
you should eat with your right hand; only touch your food with your right hand.
As you finish your food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough
and place your fork and knife together in the 5:00 position.
If dining in a nice restaurant be sure to check the bill for a service charge. Many
restaurants include a service charge that will replace the tip, but if no service
charge is included a tip of about 15% is appropriate.
Celebrations & Events
Lebanon is a country that both Muslims and Christians call
home and most of the country's most important celebrations are focused on religion.
There are two major Muslim holidays in Lebanon, including Eid al Fitr,
which is an event filled with numerous foods. These foods differ from family to
family, but generally consist of various meats and fish as a base with other grains
and vegetables on the side. This celebration occurs immediately after Ramadan, a
religious holiday that requires fasting for 30 days.
The second major Muslim celebration is Eid al Adha, which is only celebrated
after a pilgrim returns from haj, the mandatory journey for every able
Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival contains a large number of rice and
meat dishes, including many of those served during Eid al Fitr.
For the Christians, the Christmas celebration in Lebanon
is extremely important as Christian families indulge in numerous foods. The most
traditional food served for Christmas dinner in Lebanon is turkey, but this can
be accompanied (or replaced) by other meats and side dishes. Dessert is perhaps
the most enjoyable part of this meal though as it usually includes chocolate and
liquor. However, each family has their own traditions and favorites, but generally
the dessert options are plentiful no matter the family.
Most people you meet in Lebanon will offer you coffee as
most meetings and occasions begin with a cup. Coffee comes in numerous styles, with
Turkish coffee and the local "Arabic" coffee being perhaps the most popular.
Tea is also popular among the locals, but if you don't want either option, Lebanon
has nearly anything you'd want; juices, milk, and soft drinks are available
everywhere and all the popular international brands can be found.
Alcohol is legal in Lebanon and the Christian minority does
consume various alcohols, however the majority of the country is Muslim and many
Muslims don't drink alcohol, although many in Lebanon do. In the cities alcohol
is quite common, but in more rural areas and in more conservative families alcohol
is rarely consumed. In most situations there is no issue with visitors drinking,
but if in doubt follow the lead of your local host or ask. The favored local alcohols
are whisky and vodka, although beers and wines are also available. The local alcohol
to try is called arak, which is an anise-flavored liquor and the national
alcoholic drink, but not nearly as popular as other alcohols.
The tap water is generally safe to drink in Lebanon. If
you do drink the water (or the ice or salads washed in the tap water), many people
may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different
from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.