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Cakes outside the mosque in Sidon – Lebanon

Anyone who’s travelled in the Middle East seems to come back with tales of the legendary hospitality that is engrained in the Arab and Muslim culture. I experienced this myself several times on my recent visit to Lebanon, especially in those little backstreets where there aren’t so many tourists.

I was visiting the southern city of Sidon, the nearest thing in Lebanon you’ll get to a sleepy seaside town, with a port and a Crusader castle. After visiting the ruined castle by the sea, my friend and I explored the small alleyways of the Souk and settled into a small corner cafe for a lunch of chick-peas, houmous and salad. All was quiet at first in the narrow lane, but as we finished our meal, the Friday prayers finished at the Mosque opposite and all the men came streaming out.

I’d had my eye on the cake seller with his trolley all through my meal and soon my sweet tooth got the better of me and I stood in turn with the others whe were waiting to buy their cakes from the round metal trays. The men standing by motioned to the cake seller to serve me first, and so I pointed to what I wanted to try – a couple of this, three of that, one for now, a few for the journey (I’m just so greedy that way). Uncertain of the cost, I held out a few notes, but he waved them away – ‘it’s God’s money’ he said. So I went away with a bag of free cakes, appreciating that on the holy day of Friday, outside the mosque, he wanted to show me I was especially welcome.

This sort of experience happened so many times – a couple of free biscuits here, a little extra there. It’s one of the reasons why, despite the political uncertainties, a visit to this part of the world can be so rewarding.

This story is part of Photo Friday, hosted at Delicious Baby – read all the other Friday photos here.

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Lucia
    July 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    That is amazing generosity. Would love to visit Lebanon one day.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    July 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    One of the things I love most about travel is it can give you such faith in human nature. I am often naturally suspicious, but time and again, I’ve been proved wrong by people going out of their way to help me. Those cakes look lovely!

  • Reply
    Wanderluster
    July 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I continue to be impressed with your tales from Lebanon, especially to areas that aren’t visited as much by tourists. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Reply
    Lorraine
    July 3, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Moments like these are a traveler’s inspiration. The expressions in the photograph are so interesting to look at. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Amy @ The Q Family
    July 3, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I think that’s the beauty of traveling. It helps to bridge the gap between different culture as we experience the hospitality from real people not just people that we hear about on the news!

  • Reply
    Tim Marks
    July 4, 2009 at 3:36 am

    People can be so great. And Smiles are so important!

  • Reply
    Dominique
    July 4, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Sweet cakes…sweet story 🙂

  • Reply
    marina k. villatoro
    July 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    My absolute favorite thing to do is eat at an outdoor food vendor’s stand. Your pictures of this country are really great, especially because of the constant negativity revolving these countries!

  • Reply
    Wendy-Escape NY
    July 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Hospitality is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Lebanon and the Middle East in general. And the food yum.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    gasan
    December 25, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Interesting ! Love to visit Lebanon one day!

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