The West have always been under the illusion they are the only ones that house a multicultural diaspora. West Africa has had its own version of invaders and traders for centuries. Of all those who have come and gone, its safe to say the Lebanese are the largest non-African ethnic minority in West Africa. And how did this happen? Research indicates that sometime in the 19th Century, certain Lebanese groups were on their way to Brazil and landed on the West coast by mistake believing it to be South America. These travelers were mainly Manorite Christians. However, the second influx (Shia Muslims) arrived intentionally during the Lebanese civil war and started trading outlets that grew into business empires from construction, telecommunications to import and export etc.
Afro-Lebanes in West Africa
It wasn't long before the Lebanese mixed in with the locals and their offspring were identified as 'Afro-Lebanese.' At first the whole 'mixing in' thing didn't go down to well, especially from the families left behind in the impoverished Southern Lebanon region. A Lebanese man was going against the grain when he took a black African as a wife. Indeed it was rumored that it was difficult to do business back home if he married one. Despite protests from all camps the inter-racial relationships did not slow down and have become part and parcel of the diaspora on the West African Coast. Indeed there are many famous 'Afro-Lebanese' personalities in West Africa such as: Juliet Ibrahim (famous Nollywood Actress, Majid Michael (Lebanese/Ghanian actor), Roda Antar (midfielder) and many more...way to many to mention. But the course of love never runs smoothly and the love affair has it's ups and downs. It isn't only the Lebanese side that remains skeptical and suspicious of this illicit love affair, there are the black Africans who make their feelings known through the laws of the land. In Liberia, those of Lebanese descent are unable to buy property and in Sierra Leone, 2nd and 3rd generation are refused Sierra Leonean citizenship/passports. My opinion is that these governments should take a leaf out of the British, South American and North American experience, if your worried about loyalty..get some citizenship lessons going in schools and get everyone to pledge allegiance to the nations flag....but that's just my opinion.....
African food and Lebanese food
And what has this got to do with food? You ask....well, would it interest you to know that despite the longevity of the love affair with Lebanon. African food and Lebanese food has failed to blend and multiculturalise itself. (Yeah I made that word up). Lebanese food remains Lebanese food and African food remains African food despite centuries of love making and hating. Is this a bad thing? Nah, not really. Africans can cook popular Lebanese food and flock to Lebanese restaurants whenever they can. If you cant get African food...you look for Lebanese food. It's second nature to us. Similarly, Lebanese cook and eat African food as well as their own. Both cultural foods are too independent to be bastardized and yet still independently they lock arm in arm, complementing each other with difference.
To the point, the most popular Lebanese food amongst Africans are Shawarma, Kebbe (Lebanese Meatballs), Fataya, Pitta bread, Balawa and Taboule salad. I grew up on Shawarma and Taboule salad visiting my numerous Lebanese boyfriends, lol. Not all ingredients for preparing Lebanese food are readily available in West Africa so they have to import some ingredients such as Bulgur wheat/rice, cinnamon etc.
African Cookery show
In case you missed the boat, you should check out the lively African Cookery show straight out of the Gambia - Driss Kitchen, on OBE TV hosted by Driss Bensouda, owner of the butchershop.com. Driss Kitchen is an exciting program of African/Western style cooking enhanced with local flavours and guess what he's Lebanese too!
Anyway now that you've had your history lesson and appreciation time. I leave you with two wonderful recipes from our African Lebanese brothers and sisters....at the end of the day, that's exactly what they are African Lebanese...whether the Lebanese or black Africans like it or not.
My new Lebanese boyfriend gave me two recipes - If its wrong then blame him not me.
If you have Lebanese bread/Pitta bread in your house and nothing to eat it with here is a simple recipe for a starter
Pitta bread with Avocado
You will need 2 Avocado, a clove of garlic, Salt, Olive Oil
Grind the Avocado (in a pestle and mortar or with a fork)
Grind the clove of Garlic
Add a sprinkle of salt and Olive Oil
Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (to taste)
Eat with Pitta bread
How to make KEBBE (Lebanese Meatballs) at a glance
You will need mincemeat, Onions, , Bulgur fine grain wheat, Parsley, Cumin seeds, Pepper, Salt
Chop Onions, hot pepper
Fry onions and pepper
Fry half of the mincemeat with salt
Add parsley, cumin seed
Get half of the uncooked mincemeat and mix it with Bulgur
Roll it into a ball and poke a hole in the middle
Put the cooked meat into the hole
Close up the hole
Fry it till it turns brown
If this recipe doesn't match up to the way you want it...Login and add your own goddam recipe.