With Tripoli’s Mayor hell-bent on turning his city into the Lebanese version of Qandahar, which years of constant fights didn’t do, with his recent request to effectively stop publicizing breakfasts within the city’s municipal bounds, I figured I’d compile a list of my favorite places to have an awesome breakfast in Tripoli.
This place is an absolute delight. It is the liberal hub of the city. I’d go on and on about that bathroom but you can get lost in the debates on its walls for hours. No wonder this place gets hammered, in one way or another, whenever push comes to shove in Tripoli. That same bathroom has atheists express their lack of belief in God on those walls. Those same atheists converse with believers who keep an open mind on its rustic tables while they enjoy the delicacies offered.
Ahwak makes awesome cakes. I love their Oreo cheesecake (Roadster could take notes of the recipe if they ever venture beyond Jounieh) and their Carrot Cake is still by far the best I’ve ever had. Their coffee is also entirely based on the “Tafesh” brand, which is known to be excellent.
By having breakfast at Ahwak, you’d also be supporting this place against the constant religious and political persecution affecting it, from Islamists who want to ruin Tripoli with an image that it isn’t befit for, and politicians who believe its youth’s open mind is on its way to ruin their city, necessitating such memos in the first place.
Ahwak is located in the hip “Dam W Farez” area of Tripoli, full of newly built cafes and restaurants that have managed to withstand the economic stagnation that befell their city due to the security situation and economic neglect over the past few years.
It goes without saying that Hallab is always a must visit place in Tripoli and it’s not because I’m friends with Zaher Hallab. The place has character which is something you won’t find at other Hallab locations now that they’re expanding across Lebanon. Sit in “Le Palais” section and look at the great building facade, observe Tripoli’s “Ebrine Road” (I had to put in my hometown’s name) and its bustling life. There are many options for you. You can go sweet with “knefe” or other delicacies or you can go with Hallab’s “lahm b’aajine.” Either way, the only regret you’ll be having is about your delusion of a diet. They also offer cakes and beverages. And it’s all very affordable. Bye, bye Beiruti expensiveness.
If you’re in the mood for a traditional Tripoli breakfast, this is the place for you. It takes quite a bit to get to it and a local is advised to guide the way. In order to get there, make your way to the Tel area and ask around. The place is extremely known to the people there and should be known nationally if you ask me. They make so many different varieties of humus, each of which is great. They also offer awesome “fatte.” Order as much as you want. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. And I can also assure you that you won’t end up paying more than 10,000LL per person. Yes, Akra is that cheap but more importantly Akra is so good that it has turned me into a person who craves hummus for breakfast. You can thank me for the recommendation later.
Near Al Salam Mosque, which was destroyed last August in one of Lebanon’s now 22 explosions, lies a nice breakfast spot called Coffee Pot. They offer a set of omelette with toast, American coffee and pancakes for less than $10. You can also have separate options if you don’t feel like going all out. It’s quiet. They offer indoor seating as well as a terrace overlooking the busy street, though I would assume that wouldn’t be too favorable with this heat. Service is very friendly too.
It is an insult first and foremost to the Muslims fasting to have a mayor, sheikh or whatever other entity believe that them fasting Ramadan should be met with a whole lot of “kindly forced” consideration from everyone else.
I’ve seen a lot of people lump all of Lebanon’s Muslims into the basket of people who agree with what Tripoli’s mayor did. The truth is that the mayor’s ideological representation is so limited that it only spans very few people whose voice is only being augmented because that voice is what’s “in” right now. It was Muslims who were the first to make fun of the “no breakfast” memos. It was Tripoli’s Muslims who told me about their municipality’s decree, who asked me to try and express their anger at this shameful attempt to repress not only the freedom of others but their very own in the city they call home, but you don’t hear those voices as often as your hear that mayor.
The courtesy that those fasting Ramadan should receive is not something that can be bestowed upon them by a municipal decree, emanating from an Islamist Council. Such a courtesy is a mere manifestation of being considerate and being aware of how difficult it is to remain without food and water in this heat for such long hours and to be aware of how much dedication such an endeavor entails. Illegally and unconstitutionally enforcing a twisted version of “tolerance” defeats the entire purpose of Ramadan. Those sheikhs and mayor should have known better than to tarnish such a month in their city like that.
Ramadan is a beautiful time. I’ve only been massively exposed to it recently when I became friends with Muslims who – gasp – happen to be from Tripoli. Those people were kind, hospitable and so kind-hearted that they’ve shown me – a stranger and an outsider – the ins and outs of their holy month. I attended more iftars than I could remember. I went to s’hours, heard the tarawih, walked the city as it bustled with people leaving prayer. And it was all beautiful.
To that family in Tripoli and almost every single Muslim I know, be it from Tripoli or elsewhere, fasting Ramadan is an act to bring them closer to the God they believe in. It is not something they proclaim to the world. I haven’t heard any of my friends nag that they’re fasting. I haven’t heard them nag that people around them are eating. They know that while fasting that month is a religious duty to them, it remains a duty that is exclusive to them and should not be generalized upon everyone else. They don’t need anyone telling them it’s not their right to force it upon anyone. It’s innate knowledge to them. On the contrary, they find it honorable when they share their iftars with people who hadn’t been fasting and who had breakfast and even lunch.
Tripoli is a city that has been literally screwed for the past several years by downright negligence. We’ve all seen the capacities of our security forces with the recent explosions overdrive taking the country. Those same capacities were never applied to that city as the country left it to be burned alone, an island in a sea we quickly judged as full of Islamists that should perish with it. Tripoli’s mayor and some people who have his mentality are hell-bent on turning their city into the different-phobe version they believe is the best for its Muslims population, but Tripoli’s people – Muslims and not – know better and they’ve stood up to him.
They are the people who won’t let their city get turned into what’s been planned for it, who won’t let their own reputation be tarnished and turned into that of people who hate those who are different, even when it comes to meals, forcing restaurants to cut down their businesses according to someone with authority’s version of what God said, and who know that fasting Ramadan does not mean you are entitled for preferential treatment by any municipality or government. It is a personal act that remains as such. The Quran has told them, after all, “لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ.”
That mayor’s actions are a mere ploy for increasing popularity at a time when he assumed such a memo would resonate with the people in his city, bringing him accolades and newfound fame. The only accolade and fame he found were those of mockery from the same people he governs. He believed current times necessitate such a decree. He was wrong. There won’t be a time when Lebanon needs wishes upon restaurants to refrain from publicizing or even serving breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, such memos will never find their ways to fruition in Lebanon, be it in Tripoli or elsewhere, not now and not in the future. Why so? Because regardless of how downright despicable religious practices can get in this country, there are people who are aware enough to stand against them, people who managed to turn down that memo in mere hours after it was published. Those people are not Lebanese Christian-born activists who were appalled at a time when their breakfast options could be limited; they were Tripoli people born and bred and mostly Muslim.
Tripoli will not be Qandahar, not now and not in a future that many believe is upon us. Not when it has Muslims like the ones I know, friends and almost-family, who make sure you don’t leave their house on a Ramadan morning without them serving you breakfast.
Ramadan karim to everyone concerned.