Last Saturday, Cyclamen, a division of Lebanese tour operator TLB Destinations, organized an outing to the women’s cooperative Wadi El Taym, Rashaya, Lebanon. This was the first in a series of outings in recognition of World Responsible Tourism Day on November 11. TLB Destinations, a member of TOI (Tour Operator Initiatives for Sustainable Development) promotes visits to women’s cooperatives to raise awareness for rural women’s achievements and production of organic produce.
The road to Rashaya leads through Lebanon’s stunning wine country. Located a 2-hour drive from Beirut is one of the most picturesque villages in Lebanon, featuring traditional architecture of stone houses with red roofs. It is known to few; most Lebanese have never even visited this region due to years of political instability in the region.
“The community from the village of Rashaya should somehow gain from our visit, so we encourage people to purchase products from the local cooperative,” said Nassim Yaacoub, program manager, Cyclamen. The women’s Mousakka btein Jein, an aubergine, tomatoe, and chickpea dip, is now exported to and on sale in a London gourmet shop. Such buying trips are clearly a boost for Fair Trade to the rural communities in Lebanon.
“Our visit during the day to the women’s co-op raised awareness for local products and food traditions, and it certainly raised my interest in regional specialties,” said Susan Short, a university professor who joined the outing. “These women’s achievements are really inspirational, and we should support them.”
The day ended with a visit to the ancient caves of Ksara winery for a wine-tasting session and a film showing about Bekaa winemaking traditions.
“What really impressed me about the day were the inhabitants of Rachaya village, they are really welcoming; as we walked past homes, we were constantly invited in,” added Diana Baily. “A real eye-opener, and I would recommend a trip to explore rural Lebanon to everyone – you will discover great hospitality, wonderful food, and marvelous initiatives.”