Informit article: Almaza

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A letter from the Saifi in Beirut, a haven amid the rising tension

You reach the Saifi via a narrow, steepish alley which steps down from Pasteur Street towards the bus station, below via some terraced garden beds. Most of my time, here at least, is spent at Cafe em Nazih on the ground floor; it mirrors the veranda areas two floors above me. A quarter circle perhaps six or seven metres in radius, a bar and another room behind it, tiled floors, a high ceiling. A kitchen buried behind the bar. Inside, scattered tables and chairs, a couple of low sofas. An outdoor area for sitting and cooking, with a wood oven, barbeque and a saj, a gas-fired round metal dome for heating bread and manaa’eesh (a sort of calzone of unleavened bread stuffed with cheese or a combination of herbs and spices, meat and vegetables). Did I say the kitchen was buried? Not so. It is the focus of all here at Cafe em Nazih: it’s where the Saifi draws its breath in the morning.

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