Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another amazing day in Lebanon. This entry will be pretty short because the photos will speak for themselves.

Quadisha Valley

I took a trip through the Quadisha Valley, home to numerous waterfalls, villages, and monasteries. We stopped in Bcharre, a small village that is the birthplace of Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and artist.

We stopped at the Cedars, a ski resort and home to a forest of the Lebanese national symbol.

We couldn’t go in because it was closed for the winter—the snow hides the baby cedar trees and tourists would trample them.

The fog rolling in en route to the monastery.

After a mezze lunch, we visited Dier Mar Antonios Qozhaya, an 11th century monastery that established the first-known printing press in the Middle East.

The monastery is built near a cave where miracles are said to happen. When we were there, a priest was praying over a sick girl who had been escorted to the monastery by her family.

Saint Anthony is the patron saint of those with mental illnesses and fertility issues. Pots are piled on one wall of the cave. When women who are having difficulty conceiving come to pray for a baby, they leave a pot open side up in the cave. After they conceive, they come back with their baby and flip their pot upside down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I’m pretty sure I walked most of Beirut today. I walked Downtown to get more photos of the stuff I missed. I got a good shot of the former cinema, which was bombarded in 2006, still standing. I went inside the Mohammed al-Amin mosque and revisited the burial site of Rafiq Hariri.

Inside the Mohammed al-Amin mosque

I went to the Virgin Megastore, then headed back toward Hamra. I walked by the Holiday Inn, which opened shortly before the civil war and was used as a sniper hideaway. Covered in firearm holes, it is apparently still structurally sound but stands the same as it did for the past few decades, as a shell of a building.

The Holiday Inn

From the Holiday Inn, walked down to the Corniche, where I hung out until sunset.

Corniche at sunset

It was a lot livelier than the first time I visited (no rain, and a Saturday night instead of Sunday). For a while I noticed some kid was always around me. Annoying kid. He walked up to me and said, “You have beautiful eyes. Can I take your picture?” “No.” “Please? It’s not for the internet, but for school.” “No.” He kept on talking, and asked me why I was taking pictures (because there’s pretty scenery, a-hole). He said his name was Hassan, but I probably met a lot of Hassans. And his last name was Mubarak, like the Egyptian president. Wow. He asked me where I was from, and I said the States. About Lebanon, he said, “Oh, I bet it’s not like in the news.” I told him it was exactly what I was expecting. Then he said he had a friend from America who hated the United States. I told him I loved my country. He then said it wasn’t the country she hated, but the politics. George Bush.

That’s when I got pretty annoyed. I told him I loved politics, and that I wasn’t a fan of Dubya. Honestly, he’s been out of office for over a year. I get that he fucked up, and if any region deserves to complain, it’s the Middle East. But just as Lebanon isn’t just the country of Hezbollah, the United States isn’t just the country of George W. Bush. There’s a lot more to the United States, and there’s a huge difference of opinions on everything. All comments like his show ignorance. Probably not the best way to hit on me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I took advantage of a mid-week day off classes and took a trip to Northern Lebanon. I took the coastal highway up and stopped at Rachana, an artists’ village. Three brothers, famous for their sculptures and carvings, live there and the area is dotted with their art.

One of the brothers and his wife live in (what I thought looked like) a Smurf home.

Unforunately, Papa Smurf wasn't home.

The village was also dotted with fruit (I can’t remember what I ate, but it wasn’t something available in the States) and almond trees. I had never seen almonds on a tree before—I had no idea they were green.

What almonds look like in nature. Who knew? Not I.

Hilla also put this weird plant that spun around on my coat. Better than a bug, I guess. We picked some fruit and almonds for a snack before heading back to the car.

Our last and most important stop was Tripoli, the second-largest city in Lebanon.

View of Tripoli from the Citadel.

It was huge, but we spent most of our time in the Old City. We climbed up to the top of the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, which was built in 1102.

Tripoli Citadel

It was another example of how the archaeological and architectural sights in Lebanon are the embodiment of Lebanon’s layered history. When one ruler comes in, he builds upon what the previous rulers had built—Ottoman upon Crusaders, etc. We also wandered through the souqs. At one bakery, we all got free bread because the owner thought I had beautiful eyes.

The bakery where I was given bread for mis ojos.

After getting most of my souvenirs, we got lunch at Rafaat Hallab and Sons, or the “Palace of Sweets.” Tripoli is apparently famous for its sweets, but it kind of tasted like all the other sweets I’ve tried.

I was told this was the spoils of war.