BEIRUT: It’s April 30, and tonight many people will allow themselves the luxury of violating their weekday curfews and go out late to celebrate Labor Day. But where will you enjoy the start of the extended weekend? This afternoon from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Souk El Akel – Arabic for ‘food market’ – will launch in Beirut. The market represents a joint initiative by Solidere and Beirut Souks; Souk El Tayeb, the Beirut’s farmers market; NoGarlicNoOnions, Lebanon’s leading food blog; and Chef Wael Lazkani, Master Chef at Jai Beirut.
Held in Youssef Rami Street, behind the downtown municipality building, the market is a celebration of food, and will showcase regional and international cuisine from Lebanon’s vibrant gastronomic scene.
Foodies can sample signature bites from nearly 30 vendors, including Souk El Tayeb artisans, celebrity chefs, pop-ups, famous Beirut restaurants and purveyors of classic street food.
Designed as a public market space, chefs and producers from acrossLebanon will serve an array of delicious meals to suit all budgets.
During the two-day celebration, Souk El Akel invites visitors to enjoy a dynamic food experience while supporting the community, restaurateurs and the local economy.
Kamal Mouzawak, founder of Souk El Tayeb, is very excited. “It is just a normal evolution from Souk El Tayeb to a fun, tasty, street food-only market. It is a wonderful partnership with new family members, Anthony and Wael,” Mouzawak told The Daily Star.
“Souk El Akel is about a new food experience, putting traditional Lebanese dishes and street food like falafel and saj alongside international street food – Asian, French crepes and more.”
NoGarlicNoOnions (NGNO) also knows a thing or two about street food. Since its inception, the blog has featured a drooling street food column, visiting Lebanese villages from north to south and hitting every food truck in between in search of the best dishes.
“Lebanon’s street food market has been created for people to gather around a feast, have fun and enjoy a good sandwich, without having to go to a restaurant and pay a pricey check,” Anthony Rahayel, founder of NGNO, told The Daily Star.
Rahayel said the market also gives a chance for local food artisans from the four corners of Lebanon to showcase their dishes in Beirut. “In this market, we will have vendors from Faraya, Zghorta, Zahle, south Lebanon and many other places, each providing their best offerings.”
“This street food festival is the start of a long series of events. We hope to be able to have a weekly street food market for years to come,” Rahayel added.
Souk El Akel is part of a larger initiative by Solidere to revive street markets in Beirut. “We have supported street markets since the inception of the company. This street food market comes from the success of Souk El Tayeb, which takes place in Beirut Souks every Saturday and has been held in downtown Beirut since 2004,” a Solidere spokesperson told The Daily Star.
“The infrastructure and urban design of downtown Beirut creates lots of pedestrian public spaces that are ideal for open markets and other community activities,” they added.
The organizers plan to hold the market every Thursday, but it will open tomorrow to mark Labor Day.
Tonight, in the same street, Solidere will also host a celebration of International Jazz Day. Jazz festivals are held all over the world to mark the occasion, with Paris being named the global host city this year.
Local bands will begin playing the open-air event at 7 p.m. “It is also a platform to promote local jazz and blues talents. This is the third edition organized by Solidere under the patronage of UNESCO,” a Solidere spokesperson added.
The musical lineup includes new talents like Ruby Road, who play ’60s and ’70s-inspired blues-rock and the Rafi Mandalian Jazz Quintet, as well as Lebanese jazz and blues veterans, including the Monday Blues band and Real Deal Blues band.
Xango, a Lebanese band that covers Brazilian music – from smooth Bossa Nova to Samba and upbeat African rhythms – will also perform songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendez and Gilberto Gil. The night will end to the sounds of new all-girl funk/rock/pop band, Iklil.