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17 Reasons The Middle East Is Actually A Great Place For Vegetarians

So. Much. Eggplant.

Posted on September 17, 2014, at 10:27 a.m. ET

There's that moment every vegetarian in the Middle East fears: Dinner was going so well — until you came out as a non-meat eater.

Suddenly everyone begins to look at you like you've gone mad. Then come the various stages of denial: Oh, so you say you're a vegetarian? Well, let me put some meat on your plate as if you didn't say a thing.

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I mean, why wouldn't you eat the most expensive part of the meal? You'll die otherwise.

Sure, everyone is fretting because they just want you to be happy. But let's be real here for a moment: There's still SO much vegetarian goodness to enjoy.

1. Because everywhere you go there's a stand like this bursting with fresh flavor.

And maybe some extra protein masked as bugs.
Flickr: backpackfoodie

And maybe some extra protein masked as bugs.

2. Or fast food joints like this to get your fried-vegetarian fix.

Answer with care: Chickpea-based Falafel fried balls or Egypt's fava bean-based ta'amiya take?
Flickr: roba

Answer with care: Chickpea-based Falafel fried balls or Egypt's fava bean-based ta'amiya take?

3. And always yes to all the salads and side dishes. All the time.

Beets! Muhammara! Grape leaves! Labneh! Halloumi cheese! Mousa'a!

4. The seasonal vegetables are guaranteed to delight.

if you've got the kusa, you've got all the power.
Sheera Frenkel/BuzzFeed

if you've got the kusa, you've got all the power.

5. So. Much. Eggplant.

Babaganoush eggplant dip and garlic-filled makdous pickled eggplant.

a sabich eggplant and egg sandwich [center], or

Eggplant and egg filled sabich sandwich and eggplant and tahini-based Mutabal.

6. Around every corner there is a ful (fava bean) cart or shop to get your sandwich on the go.

If your stomach can handle it.

7. And homemade ful that's always sure to nourish.

And which everyone's mother does best.

8. Then there are salads like fatoush and tabouleh with fresh parsley and mint.

Steven Depolo

9. A perfect compliment to the onions, lentils and rice pilaf deliciousness that is moujaddara.

10. Or a carb like mana'eesh with Za'atar (thyme leaves).

11. And Egypt's legendary-ish combination of rice, pasta, lentils, garlic, and tomato: koshary.

Finish the bowl at your own risk.

12. Of course, don't forget the shakshuka.

Eggs stewed in tomato and spices, oh my.
iconosquare.com

Eggs stewed in tomato and spices, oh my.

13. Or the "Mediterranean salad" of tomatoes and cucumbers that every Middle Eastern country seems to claim as its own.

Let's all at least agree that it's a delicious combination?
Flickr: grandgrrl

Let's all at least agree that it's a delicious combination?

14. Yes, it can be a bit daunting as a vegetarian when you're given a big bowl of hummus as your main course and expected to finish it.

Miriam Berger/BuzzFeed

15. But then friends feel bad that you "didn't get enough" and you happily devour their extras.

Just don't ask whether there was any animal fat used in the frying.
Flickr: noneck

Just don't ask whether there was any animal fat used in the frying.

16. Because you know you'll stay fortified from all the region's vegetarian goodness.

Sheera Frenkel/BuzzFeed

17. So don't fret. And eat up.

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Sahtein, Jon Stewart. And don't forget the molokhia.

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