Souk el Akel

Lebanon’s street food market

Rasha Noureddine

“Souk El Akel” literally means “food market” in Arabic. But in a country such as Lebanon, with its rich food tradition, its openness to diverse cultures, people that can talk for hours about food, cheese, “douceurs” (sweets) and local specialties… and with so many expatriates travelling back and forth from all around the world, Souk el Akel is a street food festival like none other. Bringing together the biggest foodies with some of the coolest food innovations, mixing Levantine traditions and world fooding, Souk El Akel gives you the opportunity to rediscover Lebanon’s diverse food and culinary environment, uniquely prepared by over 25 handpicked food vendors and outlets.

Pictures: Rasha Noureddine for Orient Palms

It’s a weekly social event that takes place every Thursday from 5-11, in the heart of Downtown Beirut. Regularly, Souk el Akel also travels across different towns and cities in Lebanon. Even to Egypt…

With Anthony Rahayel

The man behind the festival, Anthony Rahayel, founder of nogarlicnoonions, suggests an original idea about the “roots” of street food in the lebanese way of living: “I always believed that we in Lebanon have created a concept of street food, but we didn’t know it was named street food: we eat manousheh, we eat shawarma sandwiches, we eat falafel, we eat anything on the street and we never knew it’s a street food until lately!

Soon as you enter the market, you will immediately be hit by a waft of delicious smells. Specialties from all around the world are revisited in a local manner at Souk El Akel: the market boasts a wide selection of foods ranging from Japanese with the new Sushi Burrito, to Nigerian street food with Sirreh on a stick. Deserts take on their own special twist in this food festival with local businesses such as Froozabooza and Pop City Lb.

Travelling has almost become a “raison d’être” for Lebanese people. So don’t be surprised when you meet Fadi, owner of Ichi Ban, explaining that: “The sushi burrito is a concept that started in Singapore and then moved to the U.S.. It’s still at the early beginning, and we did it in Lebanon. Of course we did it with passion, and it’s doing very well.

Or the people from Raclette Cheese, who brought back this melting cheese from the Alps mountains: “I’m serving Raclette, a kind of Swiss cheese that melts really quickly. It’s Swiss, but it is served a lot more in France. I got started when I saw it in Paris, and thought of bringing the idea here.

Changing every week, the list of foods offered at Souk El Akel are ever diverse. From fish sandwiches, all kinds of burgers, specialty fries, gourmet manakish, ice cream, popsicles, cuban sandwiches, sushi burritos, tacos and tortillas, to vertically smoked salmon, Souk El Akel is where the best food is. The event sees hundreds of visitors on the weekly with fan favorites often running out fast. With an exciting ambiance and welcoming atmosphere, Lebanese foodies get to meet their favorite local chefs and vendors, creative artisans and talented cooks, all at first hand.

But is all this only about food? Anthony Rahayel confides: “I always had the idea of gathering people around food, because unfortunately in Lebanon we only gather around politics. So it’s all about gathering people on a Thursday, putting a smile on people’s face, and reviving Beirut, that has unfortunately become a ghost city.” Socializing has never been so delicious.