An Exciting Journey to Lebanon
Raouche rock, Beirut
Travelling, no matter where, is always exciting, but when it involves a destination close to your heart, it turns out an invaluable experience. Nothing can be compared with the feeling of exploring different places, people, cultures. That was the way I felt when I visited one fascinating country, Lebanon. It is a country combining ancient and modern lifestyle, where Muslims and Christians live in peace, or at least they try in spite of social stereotypes and challenges. The unique blend of mountains and sea is all around you in Beirut.
I landed at the airport one early morning in November 2005. It was quite dark as I could notice the trembling lights of the sleeping city. That was a pivotal day in my life, which marked my unforgettable journey through this beautiful land. Beirut is an interesting city one will never forget. It still keeps the memories of the recent civil war. In some parts of the city the physical signs of the conflict are still visible. Yet the Lebanese capital has been gradually recovering from its painful past. This reflected in numerous buildings with modern architectural elements and luxury shops especially in downtown Beirut. The religious statues placed across the city arose my curiosity.
Religion has a specific meaning for locals, both Christians and Muslims. I found dedication to praying and deep beliefs a similar aspect of both religions. The Lebanese are friendly, hospitable, and courteous people. English language is widely spoken along with French and Arabic. During my first day in Lebanon I visited the American University of Beirut. It revealed a wonderful view to the sea, which is the perfect place to visit when you wish to escape from the noisy crowded streets of the busy city. You can enjoy a blissful moment of peace listening to the whispering leaves of the trees with birds singing about one impossible love, or the unexpected beginning of another. The park adjacent to the university was full of uncountable cats, white as snow.
Once I gained enough inner peace to continue my journey, I went to the Harissa Hill by a cable car. The twenty minutes’ trip was nice; it disclosed the beauty of the city below ‘The Lady of Lebanon’, the famous statue of St Mary. A lot of people were at the site, and it was not a secret that such a sacred place was visited by Christians and Muslims alike. The statue overlooked a lovely city called Jounieh, situated at the Bay of Jounieh on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Staying up there and thinking of the perfect nature created by God, I felt my soul lifted with joy, happiness, and intentions for good deeds.
I am also recalling a small neat town in the mountains called Mrouj, known for its pine trees and forests. Although the cedar is the most popular tree in Lebanon and its symbol, the pine trees have become a craved shelter during the hot dry summers in Beirut. You can have a delicious lunch under the shadow of a pine, trying the local food which is quite tasty: Shish Kebab, Fattouch Salad, and Arak as a drink, without forgetting the traditional Arabic bread.
While I was in Lebanon, I visited important religious places. Christianity plays a major role in building the modern society of the country. Impressive monasteries cover the country’s splendid landscape. I have been to three of them. The first one was the Monastery of Deir Nouriyyeh located in the town of Chekka. This coastal town was known in classical times as ‘The Face of God’. A peaceful, nice place where I experienced the simplicity of life emphasized by greenery and a crystal blue seashore. The solid stone buildings inspired confidence in visitors.
Another wonderful site I visited was St Shaiiah monastery in Baskinta situated at the foot of Mount Sannine. I was impressed by the tidiness and cleanliness of the nuns living in that monastery. I explored the pureness expressed on their faces and their firm decision to serve God. Apart from being so obedient, they were hardworking. They ruled the whole monastery. Different types of foods were produced. They were making clothes, even wedding dresses.
After leaving this quiet place, I continued my trip further up to the mountains. Baskinta is the native village of Mikhail Naimeh (1899- 1988), one of Lebanon’s greatest thinkers and writers, as well as a companion of Gibran Khalil Gibran. I couldn’t stop thinking of God’s benevolence displayed in so many ways. Lebanon is a small country but rich of different historical places.
Walking near the sea in Byblos was an exciting experience, too. I found similar features with the Bulgarian city, Nessebar. The beauty of the sunset and the squawk of the sea-mews were memorable.
A couple of days before I left I visited a small village called Afsidiya in Koura province, known for its olive trees and pure olive oil. I met nice people who had made labor their priority.
In my last day in Lebanon I went to the monastery of St Charbel. It is believed that the saint possessed excessive power he used to make miracles. Many pilgrims were in this holy site to receive his intercession. I lit a candle and prayed for the future, which ironically plays with people’s fate. I hope that this tiny but impressive country would enjoy more peaceful times.
Lebanon is worth visiting. Next time when you wonder which destination to select, do not hesitate to go to Lebanon and ‘The Eternal City’ of Beirut.