DUBAI: A game-changing online platform is bringing the premium tastes of Lebanon all the way to the UAE. It all started with the Lebanese lawyer-turned-mompreneur Annabelle El-Fanj moved to Dubai two years ago and couldn’t find the food she grew up on.
“Food is a part of culture,” El-Fanj told Arab News. “The more diverse the culture, the more exquisite is the flavor of the food. This is what I want to share with the Emirati market — the diversity of our culture and the know-how of the Lebanese people when it comes to food.”
She called her family-run startup “Jarra,” which is a traditional type of jar made of clay. “I wanted to have something that unified everyone,” explains El-Fanj. “Everyone has a jar in their culture, whether in Europe, Africa or Asia. It’s one of the basic things that humanity created for the kitchen.”
Ever since launching Jarra in October 2020, she has worked hand in hand with Lebanon’s local artisans who export a select variety of handmade Levantine delicacies from Beirut and other Lebanese villages, including dairy products, olive wood spoons, award-winning olive oils, jams, marmalades, jars of honey and vegan options. Aside from the fact that all used ingredients are locally sourced, El-Fanj believes it’s the passionate artisans behind the products that give the products soul.
Small jars of green onion pesto and garlic honey confit, among others, have been created by brothers Dany and Nabil Khoury, who founded Beirut’s organic food shop “Dry and Raw” in the midst of the country’s ongoing banking crisis. Meanwhile, in West Bekaa, a cooperative of 11 senior women have contributed their high-calcium goat labneh. “They don’t know how to write or read, but they make the best labneh ever. They do this with pride,” El-Fanj said.
Although Jarra’s offerings have attracted Lebanese consumer expats living in Dubai, El-Fanj is heartened by how the city’s British and French communities have also warmed to the products. “I love to meet people,” she said. “This is what life is about, it’s about meeting people and sharing a good meal.”