In the heart of the scenic West Bekaa region in Lebanon, next to one of the country’s last major wetlands, is Tawlet Ammiq – the country’s first eco-restaurant.
The restaurant aims to fund the conservation of the nearby Ammiq Wetland, a 240-hectare UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve, as well as help preserve local food traditions and offer employment to locals.
''This is a meeting place and a kitchen for producers and farmers and women from the region who do the cooking. It is a development project that is linked to the conservation of the environment and all the profits from this project go to the Chouf Cedar Society and A Rocha association to help their conservation projects in Ammiq which is one of the most important nature reserves in Lebanon and is here in the area.''
The founder of the restaurant, Kamal Mouzawak, nationally known for his interpretation explained the concept of the restaurant.
''Eco-restaurant means it is an environmentally-friendly restaurant. It is eco-friendly through the way it deals with the locals and the region, how everyone working in this project is from the region and the village and the nearby villages. Also, the architecture of this restaurant is 100 percent green and all the food that we use and the products are organic and locally-produced and it is a farmer's market to the best of our ability and we are also trying to preserve and support local food traditions through this project,'' he said.
Visitors can discover an extensive selection of locally made products such as fig jam and rose water.
The restaurant also houses locally produced wines, its racks showcasing over a 100 labels, arranged by type and region of origin.
The menu is made up of Lebanese staples side dishes like tabbouleh, fattoush, and hummus, and many main dishes incorporate red meat and chicken because the area is an important region for cattle.
In the kitchen, the local female staff found working at the restaurant rewarding.
''In the Bekaa, women rarely go out to work, especially the women who are over forty and don't have a certain skill. They like this idea and they feel independent and comfortable and that they can actually do something, even if they are not educated. We have something to give and to give with a lot of love,'' Rosy Haddad, a cook, said.
Heba Hage-Felder, a representative of the Swiss Development Agency which funded the project said the architecture of the restaurant focused on environmental efficient components like insulated walls during the winter and summer. Mouzawak also said the furniture was made of recycled wood and wine bottles.
The Ammiq wetland prohibits public entry without special permit, as well as hunting.