What should I bring back for my friends and family?

So I’m heading back home to Miami in a few weeks, and I really want to bring back a few things for my friends and family..So I was walking around the office today asking my colleagues to suggest some things I should take back..

“Lebanese sweets!”

“Jewelry from Henry’s Handmade!”

“A Lebanese flag!”

“Olive Oil!”

“Wine from Ksara!”

and then came the kicker..

“Negro’s Head!”

……………………………..

“Waaaaaait.  what?” I said.

“hahaha..yeah..it’s a candy that was originally called Ras el Abed (Negro/Slave’s head)..but was later renamed “Tarboush Gandour,” my friend said. (Tarboush is the traditional Lebanese hat, and Gandour is a family name – for all my non Lebanese people) ..even so, the Lebanese people, out of sheer habit, still ask for “Ras el Abed” whenever they go into the store to buy some..”

So what say you?  Should I introduce my friends to Ras el Abed?  My black friends may just be light hearted enough to get a kick out of a racist candy..

Photos taken from the Ras el Abed group on facebook.. yes they actually have a facebook group that 32,880 people like! Ras el Abed is quite popular it seems!  I guess I’ll have to try some Ras el Abed for myself!

Ras el Abed

Neatly wrapped Ras el Abed..

Ras el abed

Ras el Abed close up!

Ras el Abed

So thiiiis is what it looks like inside a Ras el Abed!

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101 Comments

Filed under life in Lebanon

101 responses to “What should I bring back for my friends and family?

  1. Basterma and Soujouk from Bedo. Oh and some labneh baladi!

    • meinlebanon

      What is Basterma and Soujouk? How can I bring back Labneh? Wouldn’t it go bad on the flight over? Thanks for the suggestion though!

  2. I second Mark for the Labneh, and I would personally go for the Lebanese sweets, the best you can get (IMO) is from Al-Baba Sweets.

  3. Kai

    3 things,

    1. In my continuous search to find entertaining and lasting sites online to make the ridiculously long day at work pass faster your blog has been the perfect find. I’m afraid I’ve been through the whole thing already though, kept me busy yesterday and today. Thanks for that :)

    2. I’m not sure if you can take food to the states or is there some airport security thing about that, but if you can then i guess you must. I’ve tried to make labneh at home, and it works, to a good enough extent. I’d take sweets, Baklewa! And that Abu el abed joke book.. although the jokes are quite disappointing in english compared to their arabic counterparts.

    3. I’m abroad now and i have an immense craving for ‘msabha’, so if you haven’t tried that yet, go ahead and discover yet another great meal for breakfast.

    • meinlebanon

      1. Wow Kai, thanks for the praise! I see my efforts to make my blog mildly entertaining are paying off! Glad I can ward off the work place boredom.. Keep coming back, there will be some interesting posts coming up with my trip to Miami and all.. ;)

      2. You can bring food into the states, but I’m sure only certain types of food. I think the sweets should be ok, not so sure about the labneh though!

      3. “Msabha’? Can’t say I’ve ever had that! Yay! I have something new to try! I love eating here..

      If you can think of anything else, let me know! Have a goood one..

  4. Actually, we didn’t invent this. The original name of this treat is flødebolle and it was invented in Denmark about 200 years ago.

    Since then, there have been many variations of it all around the world, including Lebanon’s “tete de negre”. Oh and by the way, in Denmark, it is also called negerbolle (negro bun).

    More about it here.

    But to your original point: Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything you can find in Beirut that doesn’t exist in Miami in some middle eastern grocery. Only the prices differ..

    • meinlebanon

      Thanks for the information..

      But I think I still want to bring something back from Lebanon and not buy it in a grocery store in Miami..

  5. you already have prepared the best souvenir possible: this blog. there’s not much you could bring that would give any better “taste” of lebanon than what you have described here in your daily observations
    i read this quote yesterday- “”It’s beautiful, Beirut, beautiful and ugly and pock-marked and damaged and glamorous and unstable and exciting and just a bit mentally unhinged. It’s the Elizabeth Taylor of the Mediterranean”. The Observer”
    grab a box of something from the duty free and tell them some stories of your adventures in beirut, then hurry back, we’ll miss you

  6. A Voice from NY

    I’m a part-time Miami resident and I can attest to the fact that there’s only 1 Middle Eastern grocer – he’s insanely overpriced and doesn’t carry an extensive stock of items. I have to admit that it’s kinda’ sad to say, but everytime I head to Miami (from NY), I load up my cooler-pack with kafta, kibbeh, sujuk, bread, and ma3nik (sp?). As for lebneh, bread, and akawi – you can get that in Miami, but be prepared for sticker shock! The same can be said of EVERY Lebanese restaurant in Miami – OVERPRICED!!!!!!!!!! On that note – if you want to treat your family to authentic (good tasting) Lebanese food in Miami – there’s only 1 I would suggest . . . Marhabah (sp?) in the Coral Gables area (it’s right by the movie theater) . . . but again, bring a credit card with a high limit because those prices are really up there.

    As for Ras el Abed . . . I know it’s readily available in NY, but honestly don’t recall seeing it anywhere in Miami.

    From my experience, the best things to bring back from Lebanon . . . Baklava, nuts (yeah, we have Lebanese style nuts in the States, but it’s just not the same), Lebanese coffee, and Lebanese candy/chocolate.

    As for what they’ll allow at customs . . . you can’t bring in meat or raw/plantable nuts and seeds.

  7. Annie

    Just make sure you say it’s for travel when you’re buying the sweets, they’ll package it accordingly. Just came back to the States myself and had no issues at customs and I had a lot of food with me.
    You can bring spices if there’s something you love like zaatar :)

  8. M

    What to take :

    1- You won’t find anymore Ras El Abed (negro’s head) boxes because they don’t last in long in the heat , so the shops stop buying them and the company stops producing them during summer. If you do find , you MUST take a box or two, but take them out of the box and place them in taperware.

    2- Go to “Al- Baba Sweets”or “Al-Hallab” Sweets “and get your family a generous plate of Beklawa. There is an “Al-Baba” shop on the street that is called ” Autostrad Qraytem” 10 minute walk from Hamra Street. I would go for “Al-Hallab” becuase they have the best collection of sweets on EARTH ! Especially the one in Tripoli . You can find many “Al-Hallab” shops but they differ. The best one in Beirut is “Ahmed Aouni Al-Hallab” on Raouche ( http://www.5indextrade.com/directory/search/detail/more.php?id=40171&mId=38&sId=658 )

    3- Get them a bag of the huge bread we have in Lebanon.

    4- Bonjus!! :) If you can get them there safely :P

    5- Makhloota! Mixed Nuts! from “Al-Rifai.”
    Taking Labneh is not a good idea, because it will go bad on the plane. Plus I don’t think Lebanese Labneh is the best. Turkish Lebaneh such as Pinar or Ulker is way tastier. They don’t have it in Lebanon :(

    And forget about taking Basterma ( Pastrami) or Sojouk ( sausages) from Bourj Hammoud. Unless you would like to smell like spices the whole time in the ariport and even when you get home.

  9. Martin Scott

    Just bring yourself and lots of patience and time to educate me about the things you have learned about yourself and developing as a citizen of the world.
    Grumpy

  10. Khalil

    Like someone else mentioned, food items can be made easily in the US (lebneh is just strained yogurt, made it several times this summer in the US) or conveniently purchased at a ME deli or store, I am sure Miami has several you can find.

    Items that you could bring back to the US would include books (maya’s Almalgam series or “driving in Beirut” are two good options), the handmade pine or cedar wood souvenirs from Bcharre are great too…you can get keychains for less than a dollar that are customized with a person’s name, etc. Sweets and wines are always good too.

    Over the years I travelled to Lebanon before moving here I tried to find things that were unique and not your normal touristy souvenir item. The longer I am here the thought of souvenirs still makes me a bit anxious though, when i need to go home.

  11. mariam

    hmm… picture books- might help those back home see what you see and maybe a little more.

    For food- there’s of course always baklava — because everything else will get ruined on the way due to the cream inside – too bad eh? but in my family we love bringing home Ka3k– which I know you didn’t like but get it off with the street with just the sumac and make it your family’s treat.

    Home decoration pieces made from cedars are nice too.

    Finally, in Jounieh where the telefrique is you will find a man who makes sand designs in bottles- I got one with my name, a cedar and “Lebanese” landscape. I love it dearly just be careful on the way that it doesn’t jump too much- it can get ruined or ask him to “extra” stuff it.

    Finally, chocolate (someone suggested above)- I know in Miami they will have good chocolate- but I personally find Lebanese chocolate special- it tastes different and knowing it’s handmade is pretty awesome- just be sure to ask around and taste before you buy.

  12. A Voice from NY

    If you’re willing to take a risk on packing fragile bottles in your luggage (checked bags only because of the “no liquid” rule when flying into the States) then I would HIGHLY recommend Lebanese wine or Arak. These are items that you can’t get at a retail shop in Miami – you can only purchase them online or at a restuarant (and then you’re looking at really high, over-inflated prices).

    As for whether or not you can find Ras El Abed in Lebanon right now because of the heat . . . you certainly can find it because of the Ramadan holiday now.

    BTW – on a side note, if you don’t feel like carrying baklava with you, then here’s a tip . . . you can order authentic (and delicious) Lebanese baklava, attayef (sp?), and kneffeh, etc. online back in the States. There’s an awesome Lebanese bakery in MI (shatilla) that ships!!!!!! Comperatively speaking, their prices are GREAT!

    Trust me . . . maintaning a Lebanese culinary lifestyle in Miami is difficult and expensive if you don’t have family in NY, NJ or MI who are willing to send care packages.

  13. Alf

    Go to Al Andalos, Jal El Dib Highway. It’s a lebanese roastery that sells the best of all kind of nuts… When I was living in Europe, I used to bring with me always to my European friends and everyone loved it!!!!
    Oh you should take zaatar as well!

  14. Everyone mentioned the food, but no one said anything about the crafts (“artisanat”:).
    Of course, everything (sweets, wine, arak, bread, nuts…) mentioned above would be a delicious sample of what Lebanon has to offer, but you can also take things that will last and remain as souvenirs (abaya, small purses, mirrors, shawls, and myriad other small accessories that are handcrafted).

  15. Ah and i thought u were saying what should i bring back to my friends ad family ….. in lebanon :D

    Ah fool me :)

    Lebanese Bread is good :)

    Have a safe trip

  16. Simon

    Why limit urself to food?
    wat about;
    - Tarboush (that red lebanese hat)
    - Abeyi (Lebanese/Arab traditional Robe)
    - Derbaki (leb drum)
    - A Calendar featuring different tourist attraction

    unlike food, these will last a long time and are practical :)
    many men/women still wear the Abeyi around the house coz of their comfort.

  17. BeirutiAdventures

    OMG! In a lot of my posts I talk about Rass El 3abed, and thats what it is…Negroes Head! My favourite thing in the world! Take some of this backw ith a Rose Wine from Ksara…or better yet… Kefraya and your set! :)

  18. Sorry I clicked on submit before I was done writing.

    I was going to say you need a trip to Varouj so you can take everything in all at once. Check out the link above

    • meinlebanon

      Yeah! I just read your review! I think I have had Soujouk,,its that awesome sausage in a red sweetish sauce, correct? That is amazzzzzing! I went to Mayrig in Gemmazye,,,but this place sounds more authentic, I will def check it out! Although I don’t think I will be able to get through customs with sausage. ;) But thanks for the suggestion, really!

  19. Ras el Abed….”nigro head” hahahahahah dude i never thought of it that way.. in sydney we have to drive for 80 minutes just to find shops that sells them… u have to come here, in some suburbs you feel that you are in beirut or tripoly with all that arabic type and signs….
    hahah “nigro head” i never thought of it that way can’t get over it… hahah

    • meinlebanon

      That’s amazing! I have family that lives in Sydney actually. I went there for a month when I was 16. Can’t say that I noticed any Arabic signs or shops though, I was too trapped up in my world to notice anything but myself! Anyway, now that I’m older and just a tad bit wiser, I can’t wait to go back and discover Sydney again! Where do you live in Sydney? My family is in Mosmon. ;)

      • Simon

        @ Mosmon! sweeeeet right on the beach! i’ll definitely come visiting hehehe

        As for me, i live in an area nicknamed little lebanon! it’s called Bankstown.
        There’s a lebo shop on every corner :D Man2oush everywhere, more lebs than other natios in this area. (and trust me, it’s not a good thing, we don’t have a good reputation here!)

      • hahahaha i live in riverwood… and simon hahah dude we really dont have a good reputation, it took a group of leb guys to ruin it for all of us, now ppl see a leb guy they run the other way hahahah
        bankstown is one of those places i was talking about.. lol

  20. Jara

    I would like some jewelry please ;)

  21. ZouZeta

    Hey
    i liked your blog a lot and it is nice to see someone appreciating Lebanon in his own way.

    As for the gift you have many possibilities:
    - Sweets and no offense to Al-baba sweets and knowing i am from its region but if u can manage to come to Saida, you should get the sweets from El Kassir. the best Maamoul Mad in lebanon and they are still preparin that the old fashion way. and also u can ask for a box of baklawa. both in boxes for travel and have them fill it to the top, a bit more than 1 kilos. keeps the sweets safe to get to the states.
    - Ras il abed is a great Idea and u can put them in the same boxes for the sweets, that u can get at any patisserie.
    - a knife (and all the other stuff like cake knife, cheese, salade spoon, turkey knife with fork) handmade From Haddad, they are in Furn il chebek next to the bridge of Ain il remeneh, everyone of my friends outside lebanon always appreciated them and they show a tradition started long time ago. (Fine Haddad Lebanon JEZZINE Ware- search for that on google)
    -Makhlouta is also not bad
    - Thym for the Manakish (Zaatar and u can prepare it wit the olive oil u are taking for your family to have a good idea of our breakfast :) and also lebanese coffee
    -the basterma can bear the trip if it was in the sealed bags for travel and it can last for one week. (tried it to the states already)
    -artisana stuff and portrait of old beirut
    - handmade soap from the soap museum, very nice too

    Good luck and have a nice day :)

    • meinlebanon

      Wow Zouzeta, thanks for the long commented!

      -So, El Kassir is better than Al-baba. The problem is I might not be able to make it to either Tripoli or Saida before I leave! So who sells the best sweets in Beirut? Man..I really hope I can make it to one of these two places, but if I can’t I’ll have to settle for something else, you know?
      -hmm,, the knives sound like a great idea. I don’t know the places you mentioned, but I’ll ask my friends to show me. I never thought of knives..I think my family would appreciate them!
      -Yes, I think taking Zaatar would be a great idea! I love it! I eat it everyday!
      -As for all of your other suggestions they are great, I will look into them!

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your suggestions! My family and friends thank you!

  22. ZouZeta

    my pleasure :)
    well for the sweets in beirut, mmmm
    - you can try Safsouf for the MAamoul also famous and perfect for the one with Achta (the white fluffy cream) well these u are the one who can try them only since they wont last, and also u can take Hadaf famous for them. but when are u travellin exactly, maybe i can help :)
    - Getting to Hadda is very easy, from Furn il chebbak right before Dunkin there take the right (coming from Mcdo Mathaf)directly next to the bridge Ain il rimmani way, 50 meters to your right.

    • meinlebanon

      You’re awesome! You live in Tripoli? I’m traveling next Friday, September 17th..will you be in Beirut at all before then?

  23. ZouZeta

    Sorry didnt mention where Safsouf is:
    next to cola intersection after the Beirut Arab University, you cant miss it’s always full :)

  24. ZouZeta

    well i live next to Saida, i am in beirut this friday before 3pm later have to pick my sis from the airport coming from the states :)

    • meinlebanon

      Hmmm, but I wouldn’t even know what to tell you to buy! I need buy a box for my immediate family as well as for two other couples, and maybe a small fourth for a friend. How much would all of this cost? I know this is a shot in the dark, but does the store have a website? I doubt! check out this website http://www.hallab.com/itemsproducts.asp?cat=3 will it be like the Baklawa mixed for $19 a box? Hmmm this is complicated..maybe i should just choose on my own..I remember when I came back from Beirut the first time I brought back some sweets, and my family only really likes the pastry ones (Baklawa fingers and pine nuts and Kolwashkor Pine Nuts and pistachio) not so much the ones that are a bit harder..on the website they are called “Borma Pistachio and Borma Pinenuts”..bllllahh too much information! hahah

      • ZouZeta

        check your email and tell me.
        as for the choice it depends a lot on what u like. and u can mix it like u want.
        have a nice day

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