A falafel sandwich in Sidon’s souk

My first cousin Michel is visiting from Copenhagen (Denmark) with his adorable (and gorgeous) wife AnneLise and their four children; a day in Sidon was in order.

After all, Sidon is considered the most important city in the South; occupied by the Crusaders (and many others), it boasts a sea castle, a palace,  souks, a caravanserail, a soap museum, hammams,  several ancient mosques, Greek Orthodox and Melkite cathedrals, an ancient synagogue; Christ is said to have preached there. In addition to all of these historical facts, it is a city dear to me, because it is where part of my family was established for several generations and where my grandparents  are  buried.

Unlike Beirut which is rapidly losing its character as a Levantine city, Sidon has retained its middle-eastern cachet; for one thing, there were no tourists save for us! When we finished touring and had worked up an appetite, we remained  in the old souk teeming with local Sidonites, ordered a falafel sandwich for each one of us and sat down to savor it; it was light yet filling and absolutely not greasy; the tarator (tahini)  sauce was a perfect balance of creamy and garlicky and citrusy. Price for one was LBP 1500  or one dollar!

NOTE: For a falafel sandwich recipe, click here.

A foodie-related fact: the Crusaders took back with them the tradition of sweetening food with the sugar cane, which was prevalent in Sidon; prior to this, they only used honey.

What to get in Sidon?

A bottle of orange blossom water, which is made locally from the blossoms of the bousfeir oranges; several soaps from the museum, including the one made with laurel leaves, extremely fragrant and beneficial for one’s skin; and if you like Arabic pastries, a stop at Al-Baba Sweets is in order, for some Arabic ice-cream flavored with pistachios  or mandarin and an assortment of baklavas and pastries of all types.

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40 Comments

  1. Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    The sandwich looks really good and refreshing. I’ve never had falafel anything…can you believe that?

  2. Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    OMG, I love felafel sandwiches!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Just wonderful!

  4. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    How wonderful that you are getting to see your extended family along with such wonderful sights and flavors! Such an interesting fact about the sugar cane.

  5. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    hello Joumana, interesting that you should post on Sidon on the one day I have a few minutes to visit on the net as my husband just said to me today on the way back from Beirut that we should go to Sidon and spend a day or two there. I will take your advice and visit the places you suggest…or as many as our roaming will fit for as you know there are plans in Lebanon and then there is what actually happens. Do you know of any place to stay there that is quaint and not the same old same old?

  6. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    oh, I forgot to say, I think we drove through your neighbourhood today: Ashrafieh. The name rang a bell to me as my sister-in-law said we are going through Ashrafieh. I thought this is your neighbourhood? Or am I mistaken?

  7. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Lovely pics and falafel sandwich /wrap sounds interesting..surely must be very yum

  8. Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a wonderful spot! Those ice creams sound absolutely refreshing on a hot day!

  9. Posted July 14, 2010 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I love this falafel sandwhich! I see many people eat falefel in sandwich!

  10. Posted July 14, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I love the pictures!! gloria

  11. Posted July 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    That falafel from Sidon looks so good. I had a non Sidon one the other day that was ho-hum. I’ve never seen them with sesame seeds like in your recipe! Is that traditional?

  12. Joumana
    Posted July 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    @Taina: Achrafieh is not my neighborhood, it is my sister-in-law’s though! I grew up in Sanayeh, near Hamra. I don’t know of any place in Sidon to stay but I do know a wonderful hotel in the Chouf called the Mir Amine, a former palace nestled in the valley and with amazing views and architecture; the food though is just OK; it is not too far from Sidon but being in the mountains it is a lot cooler!
    @Adair: falafels when ordered in advance can be done with or without sesame seeds; I like them with, as I can never have too much sesame seeds!

  13. Posted July 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    The sandwich looks so delicious!

  14. Posted July 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Popped in to say hi! I’ve always wanted to try falafel!

  15. Posted July 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Love falafel and they sound wonderful in a sandwich with tarator sauce. The laurel soap must be wonderful. I remember as a teenager I used laurel oil for my hair before shampooing and it was very good to get rid of split ends and made hair very healthy and shiny.

  16. Posted July 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Droolworthy falafel sandwich, makes me hungry..

  17. Posted July 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I see you are continuing to eat very well during your stay in Lebanon, I really enjoy seeing(wish I was eating one) a falafel sandwich, one of my favorites and I’m sure it was delicious!

  18. Posted July 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Joumana is it my idea or many of your relatives live abroad? I am asking this because same happened to many of Greek families after the 2nd world war. The pictures from your country look great. I should definitely visit Lebanon.

  19. Posted July 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh Joumana, I can only imagine Sidon… I will keep this stuff in mind though in case the fates have that I’m there some day. Hope your’e well! Salam. Stella

  20. Posted July 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I do love a good falafel sandwich – doesn’t everybody? It looks scrumptious – but it is Sidon of which I know very little that interests me. Its history is fascinating and it looks so beautiful.

  21. Posted July 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, these are beautiful. We need to meet someday. I would love to have a food photography lesson from you. Exciting news, we may move to Beirut next year. Fingers crossed for tasty food!

  22. Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Marvelous photos! The falafel sandwich looks fantastic–I could go for one right about now!

  23. Posted July 14, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Quand je viens te rendre visite, je me prépare a voyager et a découvrir plein de nouveaux endroits et spécialités Si jamais un jour je me trouve a Beyrouth, je ne manquerai pas de faire un tour à Sidon. J’ai souvent mangé les felafels en Sandwich à Paris, mais bon j’imagine que ca n’a rien à voir avec les locales.

  24. Posted July 15, 2010 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    mmm falafel…. love it!!

  25. Posted July 15, 2010 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I never thought of using falafel as a spread on a sandwich, it must be wonderful with tahini ! I will have to try it with my girls when school re opens!

  26. Posted July 15, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    God those falafel sandwiches look good. I need to find a good falafel place here in NYC!

  27. Posted July 15, 2010 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    What a lovely visit, Joumana. You must know by now how I adore, falafel:) I really think I need to come and visit. I’m also intrigued by the thought of a soap museum:)

    Enjoy and thanks for sharing…

  28. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I got spoiled by the falafel sandwiches I had in Israel a few years ago (with “chips”… oh fried goodness!!!!) and now it’s been tough to find anything that comes close to comparing. Thanks for sparking that memory! :-P

  29. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, what a great city. Adding this to my list of must-see places.

  30. Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Tried to get a falafel sandwich here-all grease. Jealous!!

  31. Posted July 15, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    The falafel sandwiches I ate in Greece all came with “chips”, a.k.a. French fries! I thought that was so strange. Yours looks even better than the ones I had. The bread looks especially great.

  32. Posted July 15, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely love falafels, I had my first one when in college many years ago, and have introduced them to my children, who are crazy about them
    Mimi

  33. Posted July 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    A felafel sandwich is my favorite kind of sandwich right after a shawarma :)

  34. Posted July 16, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    The town of Sidon seems to have captured a real sense of charm and warmth.
    Your photos give us a great sense of what your experiencing on your trip.
    What a really appetizing sandwich too ;o)

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

  35. Posted July 18, 2010 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Ok, I’m sold. Why don’t you organize a blogger trip to Sidon. We will eat, tour and yak. Sounds like a perfect holiday to me!

  36. Posted July 18, 2010 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Joumana, tu me donnes envie de voyager. Je te l’ai déjà dit mais ton blog est vraiment l’un de mes préférés, je découvre toujours plein de choses en venant te rendre visite. Là pour le moment, je mordrais bien dans un sandwich de falafel!!
    Je vois que ton voyage se passe bien en tout cas, profites-en bien!
    Des bises!

  37. Posted July 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Someday when I get to travel to Lebanon I truly hope it coincides with one of your trips there, and that you wouldn’t find it too tedious to show me around a bit. I would love it!!

  38. Posted July 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Lovely photos – thanks for the insight on Sidon. And I’m really craving a felafel sandwich now!

  39. Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    This is absolutely wonderful! I am craving a falafel sandwich now :-)
    I wish more cities would retain their character rather than blend into the generic masses

  40. Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    I just lvoe falafel- what a treat.

    How come you were the only tourists in Sidon? I so wish I could visit Lebanon.

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