Mhaydsé: In the name of roses

To reach this peaceful village 1,500 meters above sea level, it is popular for mountaineering, just take the road towards Baker. Mhaydsé, also known as the more poetic of Nezmet El-Sobeh, can be seen after walking for an hour and a half or about 80 kilometers. “Nezmet El-Sobeh or the Morning Star, the nickname given to our village by Alfred Nakache,” says Ayub Jamal proudly, who, like many residents of Mahidis, participates in his own way under the influence of village cooperatives. “It has this nickname for its strategic location that ignores all the surrounding villages like morning stars,” he continued. The village is famous for its old buildings of white stone and black basalt stone derived from the once volcanic soil of the region. It preserves in its mountain caves, according to some experts, the tombs of the Byzantine era, as well as the first inhabitants who lived there for centuries. 400 years ago, the ancestors of the inhabitants of Mhaydsé, of which 70% of the 14 km2 area is mountainous in nature, left their caves to settle in the foothills where the climate is milder and the land more exploitable for cultivation. Then they built a new village there, hence the name Mhaydsé which means new, modern.

Wafa Jamal, vice president of the cooperative. Photo by Joao Susa

First stop in front of the rural cooperative where, immediately and almost naturally, a sweet and delicate fragrance emerges and fills the air with a beautiful sweetness. Follow it to reach a room where thousands of rose petals rest on the ground, covering its entire surface on a white sheet. Several women smile and work to separate the rose petals. At the center of this festival of colors and smells is the face that strikes the heart of the village. Nezmet El-Sobeh Cooperative Hall is its social and economic center.

Mhaydthé, or Nejmet el-sobeh, is a fascinating village in Bekaa. Photo by Joao Susa

Transformed life

Launched in 1998, it offers a permanent job to 20 women and 3 men, but offers several fixed-term jobs according to demand and season. “Our goal is to improve the social and economic living standards of villagers in general and women in particular,” said Wafa Jamal, vice-president of the cooperative, which has grown exponentially over time. “No one will believe that we will be able to make it a successful organization. Thanks to the support of Fair Trade Lebanon and other contributors, we have benefited from numerous training courses that have enabled us to meet international standards today, ”he explained. However, in the early days of rural cooperatives, they did not benefit from the huge premises, machines, utensils or experience that exists today. “We started working at my grandfather’s old house and we each brought the necessary work equipment from home,” said Wafa Jamal. “Contributed 1,000 LL per month, which allowed us to buy basic products like sugar and gas and we received only an annual fee,” he explains, noting that the cooperative has increased and produced its production. Thanks to Fair Trade Lebanon and other organizations known in Lebanon itself and internationally, it greatly helps its members to meet the monthly expenses of their home during this crisis. “Farmers and herdsmen in the village and surrounding areas therefore benefit from cooperative work, which supports them and purchases their various seasonal products,” the vice-president added.

Strawberry salad with rose syrup and poppy seed powder. Photo by Joao Susa

A beautiful community

Ragida Manna Mahmud, a permanent resident of Maheds and a mother of six, was a housewife before joining the cooperative full-time more than a decade ago. “This work has given me a sense of freedom and great confidence and has allowed me to explore different regions and different cultures of Lebanon within the framework of fairs and exhibitions where we have participated. Considering cooperatives as his “second home,” he insists there is no hierarchy within the organization. “We’re all equal, we work together, we live together, we eat together, we share everything,” he says. The relocated, Wafa Jamal, who has been involved with the cooperative since day one, has assured that the organization has opened him up to the world and allowed him to leave the village on the occasion of various exhibitions sponsored by Fair Trade Lebanon and other contributors. Seeing her proud, she shakes her salt-and-pepper hair and puts her hands on her hips. “We believe it! We have faced all the criticism from our men and from those who see this collaboration as a waste of time and an insult to our role as mothers and housewives. The cooperative has allowed me to educate my children and a large number of women like me today.” “Everyone who works there pays for most of their families. Now, everyone respects us and recognizes our efforts and our success,” he said with great confidence and a big smile.

Welcome to Mhaydthé, famous for its roses. Photo by Joao Susa

Roses in all its forms

Nezmet El-Sobeh Cooperative offers a large selection of technical food products, a Lebanese Maun modeled on our mothers and grandmothers, including jams, syrups, juices as well as herbal teas and herbal essences. Roses and dairy products. It is especially famous for its essences made from jams, syrups, herbal teas and rose petals. Products that require long preparation, sometimes painful and require extreme caution A method of preparation that Nezmet El-Sobeh Cooperative wants to keep secret.

At the center of the cooperative, several women, smiling, work patiently to separate the rose petals. Photo by Joao Susa

However, it is known that roses are harvested between April and July. After careful collection, the petals are gently peeled, then sugar syrup and a few roselle leaves (guinea sorrel or hibiscus sabdarifa, editor’s note) are added to get a natural color. Syrups, like all rose-based products, are made using a certain variety, the Damascus rose, which is famous for its incomparable finesse. Made according to traditional recipes, without dyes or preservatives, all these rose-based products have a preventive effect for brittle stomachs.

Range of products made from roses according to traditional recipes without dyes or preservatives. Photo by Joao Susa

Recipe: Strawberry salad with rose syrup and poppy crumble

For 2 people

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking: 25 minutes.

Material

For strawberry salad:

Strawberry 1 punnet

15 g rose syrup

“Terrace du Liban”

15 grams of golden sugar.

For Greek yogurt mousse:

1 Greek yogurt

60 grams of cold single cream.

For crushing:

80 grams of flour

1 c. s blonde sugar

50 grams of cold butter

2 tablespoons. s poppy seeds.

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180. To crush, combine the butter into the flour with your fingers to get a sandy mixture. Add sugar and poppy seeds. Spread crumbles on baking paper and bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool. In a saucepan, place half the chopped strawberries with the sugar. Melt over high heat, then simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before sifting. Then add the rose syrup, cut the remaining strawberries and set aside. To prepare the Greek yogurt mouse, beat the whipped cream in a food processor and gently fold in the Greek yogurt.

Presentation

In a vermicelli, add strawberry salad, 1 tablespoon mousse, a few strawberries, 1 tablespoon (or depending on taste) rose syrup and sprinkle with poppy seed crumbs.

Note that it is also possible to present this recipe on a plate.

Stay in partnership

To reach this peaceful village 1,500 meters above sea level, it is popular for mountaineering, just take the road towards Baker. Mhaydsé, also known as the more poetic of Nezmet El-Sobeh, can be seen after walking for an hour and a half or about 80 kilometers. “Nezmet El-Sobeh or morning star, nickname …

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