Captured By The Recipe Hunters In Lebanon
Soumaya was born in Canada to a Lebanese father and German mother. She was raised in Lebanon since the age of 3 and like most Lebanese, her whole extended family helped raise her. Her family upbringing is probably a key influence to her dynamic and charismatic personality. One thing is for sure, when meeting Soumaya you will be blown away by her positive energy and great spirit. Catch Soumaya on Saturdays hulahooping at the Souk el Tayeb, during the week chatting with locals in the streets of Tripoli, or any and every day just making the people around her smile with her healthy handmade sweets.
What is your background Soumaya?
"I went to primary school in Lebanon but left to Montreal for University. I studied anthropology and sociology undergraduate and then earned a Masters in Business from Concordia University in Montreal. After graduating from Concordia, I returned to Lebanon to help my father with his struggling bakery in Tripoli. I noticed some inefficiencies and stepped in to help. Little by little I took over. With my prior work experience at a French Café in Montreal and having previously worked with Earth Circle Organics, I had a better understanding of the food industry. Combining my background knowledge and passion for making positive change, I knew that I could not only promote my ideologies but spread my teachings through food. That is why I transformed BreadBasketSquare into the company it is today."
What is Soumaya's mantra?
"BreadBasketSquare is an artisanal wheat-free bakery in Tripoli that is providing a healthy twist to traditional Lebanese pastries. Our philosophy is to work with high quality, local products aiming to revive ancient grains, like spelt, and empower local small-scale farmers. BreadBasketSquare was given birth due to the ambiguity of the gluten-free wave and the lack of knowledge of the benefits of other grains. Our goal is to offer a variety of products for individuals who are health conscious and for sporty people who desire to consume GMO-free products and products free from synthesized sugars."
Why do you make everything by hand?
"Did we ask our grandparents to put on synthetic gloves and to only use machines when they cooked for us? No…so why should we?
Every single one of my cookies is handmade with care. Think about it...If I were to buy a cookie machine, I would no longer need employees. This would not only hurt the community but also hurt my business because if we didn't have each other’s support everyday, a lot of the frustrations in Tripoli would be hard to overcome."
How is Soumaya received by her coworkers in Tripoli?
"BreadBasketSquare consists of 5 guys and I. All the workers think of me as this crazy girl with all these foreign ideologies. I am not the status quo and it’s not what they are accustomed to. They are used to a different lifestyle. One of my coworkers was married at 18 and had two kids by 23. Another coworker left work one day and his best friend was sniped and killed as they traveled home together. He was back at work the next day. Although sad, it is part of life here. He feels that he was lucky that day for not being the one shot down and is motivated to keep his life going and to stay positive. All my workers are my friends and as friends I treat them like people, I pay them well and provide them with medical insurance and benefits. Our team is loyal to me and to each other. The concept of BreadBasketSquare helps us stay motivated because we are doing something productive and good in our community. I can only hope more people would open up businesses in Tripoli because maybe things would change!"
Can you explain your Taqabars?
"Since I love to run, swim, participate in outdoor activities, and eat healthy, I want to inspire others to do so too. I want people to explore the amazing nature that Lebanon has to offer while providing them with the energy they need. Taqabars are natural energy bars that are high in calories but easy to pack. They are made with dates and nuts and are considered recovery or endurance bars. We have four different flavors; Pistachio Orange Blossom, Almond Rose, Hazelnut Cacao, and Coconut Lemon. Don’t forget to pack one on your next trip!"
Why the name Taqabar?
One day I was cooking the traditional Louzina nut cookies with my grandma and I was thinking that Louzina has similar ingredients to the energy bars I used to eat. I started to develop the bars and I asked my grandma what to call them. Since she never heard of energy bars I started to explain to her what energy was by saying, 'you know energy like the word Taqa.' Since she didn't have a clue what I was talking about she kept repeating 'Taqabars, Taqabars' and the name stuck ever since! Shukran ya teta!
Soumaya is one of those people you meet whose impression stays with you forever. She stays with you in her young wisdom, her determination and perserverence, in her bravery, her bright optimism, and her joyfulness. After meeting and speaking with Soumaya you can't help but feel motivated to make a positive change in your community. She is a leader of our generation, a person who puts her community and country before herself.
Where can you find Soumaya, her taqabars and her healthy Lebanese sweets?
You can find Soumaya every Saturday at the Souk El Tayeb and every Saturday and every other day at her bakery in Tripoli. You can check out her online shop at: