October 23, 2016


Civilizations tend to build on top of their previous accomplishments. At least, that was what they used to do. So there would be no reminder of what once was, unless you’d dig it up. And then you’d find the foundations, together with the kitchen midden.
These days we scrape our buildings into the crust however, and leave no trace of former styles and preferences. We’re pretty good on kitchen middens though.

Doesn’t help much that the garbage collectors are on strike. Just grant. First the government won’t pick it up, now the garbage collectors have thrown in their lot. I just read that a former Supreme Court Justice in the States is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ If he’s worried, what about us?

Luckily the hot season is over, so the food is not exactly fermenting in its bags, but it is still not a pretty sight. Feral cats scratch open the bags at night, and strew the contents over the sidewalk. Due to our rather shoddy sewer system, most houses resort to throwing their used toilet paper in bins rather than flush it down the toilets. That's out there too. 
I’ve got to navigate in between that early mornings in the dark while walking my dogs. It doesn’t help much that most people do not bother to drag their garbage bags all the way to the dumpsters anymore; they just rather get it out of their front door, and then abandon it by the side walk. So it is no longer collected in one place but rather spreads all over the street. 
Add to that the fact that no one seems to have much qualm about dumping their food wrappers, water bottles, beer bottles and empty cans of coke from the local chicken restaurant right there where they have taken their last bite, and you get the picture.

 In the ‘old’ days, I’d meet a Sokleen guy in my street every morning at 6:15 , who would be sweeping the remains of our ‘civic ignorance’ of the night away, so that during the day nobody would notice our inability to clean up after ourselves. We'd look all tidy and nice and proper. Now that the government is in disarray, they’re no longer paying these guys. You get the picture.

What I find ironic is that lately, local residents have resorted to sticking papers on trees telling dog owners to leash their dogs and pick up after them. Just imagine the effort they put in finding a carton the right size, writing it in BIG letters, and then actually going out to stick them on trees with intricate designs of plastic tape. Not that I do not agree with them, but they somehow make that effort to point out the unpleasant habit of leaving dog poop on the side walk, but they apparently are not in the least bit bothered that everybody just dumps their trash wherever they happen to stand or walk.

So this judge is worried about ‘civic ignorance in America and the effect of that decline on the state of the democracy.’ Well, at least they still have their garbage collected. The trash situation is not going to be solved as long as we do not have a president. We haven’t had one for two years now, and most likely won’t have one any time soon. We have been pretty much abandoned by our government.

Another thing that is abandoned are the houses in the mountains in the villages above Beirut. I frequently walk there, and especially the areas where once the Syrians forces ‘settled’, as well as the villas purchased by rich Saudis and Gulf Arabs in better days, are pretty much empty. The Gulf Arabs won’t be back any time soon, but their houses are still maintained by a vast army of Syrian janitors, who now occupy the guard houses of prestigious properties all along Sawfar and Hammana.

What is more interesting are the houses that were once owned, or probably still are owned, but abandoned, by their Lebanese owners. There must be thousands of them. All empty. The owners do not have the money anymore to restore them, are dead, or are no longer interested in spending time up in the mountains. Before the war (we’re talking the 70’s and 80’s), families would spend their summers in the mountains. My husband still remembers school holidays that would last over three months. He wouldn’t start school until October, and spend all that time somewhere far away from Beirut. With the decentralization of the country, everyone wants to live and work in Beirut, and the summers are spent either abroad or on the beach. Very few people still move an entire household for several months.

And so all these houses just stand there, empty and desolate. You could probably house a good part of the Syrian refugee population in there. I’m afraid that might get people here up in arms though. But the garbage situation won’t.

I’m not trying to make a point here. Just observing.

October 09, 2016

On Too Many Apples

It is fall, and the harvest has started. Next week, I will be picking olives (provided there is no rain), the vineyards are bustling with activity from the grape pickers, and people should be picking apples right now.Only, apples are left hanging on the trees this year. I walked by an orchard this morning, and the place was deserted.

Courtesy of the war in Syria. Lebanese apples used to be exported all over the Middle East. But with Syria at war, transportation through Syria is no longer viable, and sending them by plane will make them too expensive to compete with other apple producing countries. Europe apparently won’t take them either due to the fact that there is no supervision on the (type of) pesticides that are being used.

The apple orchard I raided this morning

And so all the apples are now offered on the local market, which is currently experiencing an apple overload. It’s cheaper for a farmer to leave them on the tree than to hire people to pick, pack and transport them, because the earnings won’t cover the cost, and you end with a loss.

Apples currently sell at 5,000 ($3,30) a crate, whereas they should sell at 17,000 ($10.60) if a farmer wants to make any money at all. Farmers have now demanded that the government help them sell their produce inside Lebanon and abroad. Antoine Howayek, head of the Lebanese Farmers’ Association, says the state should support them by purchasing apple crates, weighing 20 kilograms, for $5.30 each.

This could just be the apple of Snow White

Well, I do not know about Howayek’s experience on dealing with government institutions, but as they’re not even capable of providing constant water and electricity, or picking up the garbage, for that matter, I don’t think his demands are very realistic.

Apparently there are some 300,000 apple farmers (which, I have to say, I find a tad bit too much for a country with some 4 million people. Really? Is it economically sound to have that many apple farmers?) who are facing either bankruptcy, or a mighty hungry winter. But back in 2013 it was already clear we had an overproduction of apples. Unfortunately, when you have an apple orchard, it is not so easy to change to another product.

Bringing home the loot

In the meantime, their apples are rotting on the trees. I can think of some interesting things to do with apples, such as apple vinegar, apple chips, apple juice, apple sauce, apple pie, or better yet, apple cider, but this requires equipment and knowledge which most apple farmers do not have. .

I went home with a bag full of free apples. I think I will go for apple sauce.

Just got this through Facebook:

I'm a priest and an apple farmer living in Tannourrine.
As you know this year was a hard one for us farmers, in terms of selling our apple stocks.
So I decided to lower the prices and sell the apples in bulk.

I invite you to come over to my fields and pick the apples you like, this week, Monday October 10 till Sunday October 16.

You can have 22kg (minimum per person) for 8$ while enjoying the view and fresh clean air of Tannourine.

Also, my fields are close to "Tannourine Cedar Reserve" (10 min away by car).

I hope you can help these apples find a home in your belly and not go to waste.
You'll be also helping local production.
For more information, you can contact me on 03 32 29 01 .

October 08, 2016

Battle Field Archeology

A Syrian fox hole (hoel in the ground with a truck tire around it. The Mudeirej Bridge (Italian built, 44 million US$,)
in the backjground.

When the Lebanese government, half-wittedly, invited the Syrians in, exactly 40 years ago, in order to help out with skirmishes between christians and Palestinians, little did they know that these guys were not planning on leaving.  Like asking for a favor from your Mafioso neighbor, and when he generously complies, assume he will leave promptly and quietly after the deed. Not in your life time.

The Syrian Army did eventually leave, in my lifetime. Although not totally voluntarily, in the spring of 2005, some 35,000 Syrian troops that had been deployed all over the place , left Lebanon, leaving behind signs of 30 years of occupation.
And these signs, I find mighty intriguing. I encounter them regularly on my hikes through the Lebanese mountains. Trenches, fox holes, anti-aircraft installations and tank placements are all over the place. Some sites have buildings, guard houses, water wells and bunkers, most of them in poor condition.

A Syrian construction to house tanks

Like this morning, when I hiked the upper parts of Dahr el Baidar, the highest mountain pass between the coastal area and the Beqaa Valley. This area was significant, as they could shell Beirut from a safe distance, while at the same time controlling the road that linked Beirut to Damascus. (Both sides of the highway; I have also hiked the other side)

Syrian built water well
For years and years this entire mountain region was basically off limits for everyone except for Syrian soldiers; you could only drive the road, but not park or go on walks. Well, maybe you could, but I don’t think anyone would take the risk. The Syrians were notoriously shifty; you never knew what would set them off, and an unfortunate encounter could easily result in a one way ticket to Mezza, which was a (now defunct) jail right under the presidential Palace in Damascus.

A house, confiscated by the Syrian army, above Dahr el Baidar, with a view on Beirut

Now the area makes for some great hiking as years of Syrian deployment did not exactly entice urban developers.  Not much of their bases are left now; Syria being a rather poor country, its soldiers left nothing of value behind.  But the signs of occupation are everywhere.
Who were they? According to one (rather unreliable) internet source, it was the was the 10th Mechanized Division, that had its main units along the strategic Beirut-Damascus highway with the 85th Armored Brigade, deployed around the complex of positions at Dahr al-Baidar. (Source)

And as I hike through the remains, I would love to have some type of explanations on the site, just like they do with World War I battlefields in Northern France and Belgium.
There they have information pamphlets and visitor centers in just about every major spot, complete with extensive libraries and museums.  Of course, that took a while to establish. WWI started some 100 years ago (1915), and although battlefield tourism took off pretty soon after the end of that war (1918), it took another 50 years before anyone even thought of writing visitor guides.  There is even an actual science, called Battlefield Archeology.

A shelter that leads all the way into the mountain, must have been great during Israeli bombings

Trench soldiers, such as Robert Graves, Wilfried Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Henri Barbusse  started publishing almost immediately after their ordeal. Erich Maria Remarque, from the German side, published a book, some 2 years after the war, which eventually sold over 30 million copies. The book was eventually banned by Hitler, who deemed it poor for moral. 

We, however, are some 26 years after the civil war, and some 10 years after the Syrian occupation, yet  I know of no soldiers/militia members/writers (that I know of) recounting their experience in Lebanon. We do not even have a history book regarding the civil war yet, and it is a topic that is carefully avoided in the current history curriculum in Lebanese school.  Let alone provide leaflets with background information on places that were interesting enough for the Israelis to regularly bomb the smithereens out of them.

Which is a pity.

October 02, 2016

Fall & Cows

I love little country lanes (no matter that they;re only half a kilometer long)

It never ceases to amaze me how the seasons here shift according to the calendar. Like picture book magic: You turn the page, and when it says it should be fall, ‘kachingg’, fall starts. Temperatures drop overnight, the discoloration of leaves starts, and pumpkins suddenly turn orange.  In Holland, fall starts somewhere in summer, although sometimes summer can extend into fall, and you can have a spring with snow. The lines are ‘flou’, but not over here. The seasons are punctual, which is rather un-Lebanese, come to think of it.

Home on the Range: Rosa (seriously, that was her name) looking at her friends. 

I spent the last two days up in Laqlouq for work, and up in the mountains the change is even more pronounced. It’s long-sleeve weather in the evening, and nature is changing its hue.
I encountered some cows. You don’t see a lot of cows in Lebanon, other than the ones you see on the highway in trucks, being hauled from the port straight to the butcher. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of Brahman cows being transported. I wonder where they get them from because we do not have them in Europe.

Nature changing her (its?) hue

Anyway, I encountered cows. Scrawny little fellas, they were. This is not exactly cow country, because a cow needs to eat about 3% a day in their body weight. These were about 550 kilos, so about 16 to 17 kilos of grass per cow. Except, there is no grass here because of the lack of rain.  You’ll need to feed them other things, which costs money, and so you end up making virtually no money. The cows in Laqlouq belong to a farm called La Vallee Banche, which is part of a touristic project, and I think they make more money giving cow milking & cheese making workshops then on the actual milk they produce. The Jesuit priests down in Tanaayel have a nice collection of cows as well.

Tete a tete with Rosa

But I come from cow country, and I like cows. Their smell, their warmth, their wet noses, the fact that they can stick their own tongue in their nostrils and lick their snot, I mean, what’s not to like about cows? 
Fall is in the air, my phone is (finally) fixed, and life is good. Now if only I can figure out why my Internet connection is sooooooooooo o o o o o o o o o o  incredibly slow. 
Not a sun set  but a 6:36 sun rise.

September 22, 2016

Utterly Frustrated

August 1st. My phone stopped charging.

It took me some time before I figured that out. It was 47%. 
First I thought I hadn’t put it on the charger, so I tried again.  Then it was 23%. I assumed I hadn’t plugged it in well, so I made it sure it was plugged in well. I ended up with a critical 15%.

Maybe the cable was broken? I bought a new cable. 7%.
Okay, it must be the electricity plug. So I bought a new plug. 2%
Maybe it needs to be an official Apple charger? So I went out and bought that one. Those are expensive suckers. The phone was now dead.

Nothing worked.
I called the Apple Store in Holland. Could I please make an online appointment to visit their store?
Come again? An online appointment? I needed the phone fixed right now, because I am flying back to Lebanon.
Try Apple Lebanon, they said.

I tried Apple Lebanon. They don’t do phones. I kid you not.

So I went to the local repair man.
It’s the battery,” he said with authority, and he replaced it with a new one.

That worked for a day or 3, and then we were back at 0%.
Maybe that was a faulty battery,” he mused, slightly less confident, and replaced it with yet another battery.

That worked for a day or 3, as I saw it slowly drain in front of my eyes to 0%.
Hmmmmm,” he wondered, now seriously confused, “could it be the part between the battery and the charge plug?” and so he changed that part.
A day of a functioning phone. And then it slowly drained again.

I decided to go to a more reputable phone repair store downtown. They’ve got several branches, over 6 employees in a store, people lining up and valet parking to deal with the flow of customers. That must be a sign of professionalism.

They didn’t take any half measures. The battery got replaced (yet again), the part between the plug and the battery as well, and some other small chip processor type of thing. A whopping $210! But hey, you want your phone to work, right?

And it worked a bit longer, although I could not quite understand why the phone never really charged beyond 75%. Even after 24 hours on the plug. And then it didn’t charge beyond 53%.

Back to the store. “We’ll fix it,” they said with confidence, as I dropped it off. Yeah. Right.
Today I called them. Yes, it was ready for pick up.
So I drove to the store, where I retrieved my phone with a mere 23%.

“No, I said I’d pick it up if it were a 100%.”
“But I swear it works. It was a 100% when they dropped it off.”
“That’s what you said before.”

“Ya wallah Madam it work.”
We came to an understanding. I would go shopping for an hour, and if I would return, they’d swear, it would be a 100%.

And so I went shopping.
And I came back after an hour.
And it was 26%.

The manager now took charge.
Tomorrow, you come pick it up, and it is fixed. If not, your money back.”

Tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Any suggestions?

September 18, 2016

New Hipness

There’s a new hipness in the air in Lebanon. It’s called camping. It’s been a hype in Europe since the 1940’s, but had been already a ‘thing’ among the more affluent since the turn of that century, and recently, the Lebanese have seemed to discover it. 

The scouts of Lebanon always camped out, but recently others have taken to the tents as well. 
Maybe because many have encountered camping abroad, or maybe because Decathlon has made camping gear more accessible, whatever the reason, camping is ‘in’. If you've been following LiveLoveLebanon on Instagram, all you see these days is pictures of mountain tops, starry skies and campers.

I notice it on my early morning hikes in the mountains with the dogs. It used to be just the scouts I encounter in summer. This morning, I walked along five encampments.

Some camp on their own, just boyfriend and girlfriend. Some are hunters, who are too lazy to get up early and drive to the mountains, and who - complete with argilehs and barbeques - sleep amids the birds they will kill the next morning. Others are groups of friends that just want to hang out among the stars at night, and chill. 

One of the groups looked more like a hammock convention. You need trees for hammocks, and there’s plenty of those around. It was a wonderfully colorful displays, hammocks strung up everywhere, creating an intricate spider web.

I am all for this new camping movement. Spending time outdoors should definitely enhance your appreciation of nature, and the importance of conserving it, although how these hunters fit into this picture, I cannot quite explain yet.  Apart from environmental awareness, it seems to have all sorts of other positive side-effects.  

Right now it’s mainly a thing here among the generation that is sandwiched between high school graduation and marriage - but that may be because that’s the only time in their lives in Lebanon when they have actual freedom - but taking your kids camping has ‘educational, psychological and social benefits’ , according to this study.

Camping is a humbling experience; the realization that living with less clutter is liberating, and whenever I come back from my 6-week summer camping trip, I rage through my house and get rid of things. Hubbie is now well aware of that annual de-clutter drive. He warns me in advance “Throw away what you like, but don’t touch my things.

And so camping should – in theory – function as a reminder that this consumer society we live in, is of course not a trend we can continue.

Groups of fiends camping in the forests and fields indicates there is a mentally shift in the air. There’s one thing, however, they haven’t figured out yet:  what to do with their trash? Their shit is literally all over the place. If I were mayor of a municipality that has campers hanging out in my town, I’d provide garbage cans, and signs reminding them to pick up after themselves.

But in the end, it’s the campers who should take that responsibility themselves. Hopefully that mentally shift will follow.

September 13, 2016


Found a bird up in the mountains. Found it flapping around the field, unable to get up and fly.
Hunting season is in full swing, and you practically have pellets raining down on you as you hike. They shoot at anything that moves, and often don’t even track what they shoot. Hence this beautiful
bee eater, or warwar in Arabic, shot in the wing, on the road. They pass by twice a year on their migration between Africa and Europe.

I am not into eating birds, which is a bit of a local delicacy, so I do not get the whole bird hunting thing. This one was easy to catch, but what to do with a wounded bird? They only eats insects while flying, but will ignore them as it perches on a branch.  

I found one a couple of years ago. Same scenario; a hunter not picking up what he shot. That one didn’t make it.

It's a beautiful aqua-greenish bird, with a long beak. 
"Take it out of its misery," suggested hubbie, who can break little bird necks without flinching. But I cannot. The bird shop owner in the village knew what to do; he splinted the fractured wing with cardboard and surgical tape.

“Give it water and maggots. If it is not dead yet in two days, it will live. Then come in 10 days, and I’ll renew the splint.”

We’ll see what happens.

September 11, 2016

Simple Things

A little lane with -what turned out to be - walnut trees
I come from a place where all edible things are found in supermarkets. You want to eat, you go to the grocery store. There were some orchards around with cherries, apples and pears, but those belonged to farmers and thus ‘technically’ not available. I did not grow up with the notion that of food equals nature; these were two entirely different concepts. 
When I was young, I remember once seeing an orange in the store that had the little stem with one leave still attached. I was totally mesmerized by that. “Wow,”  I was thinking, “it comes from a tree! To go out into the woods and gather your own food is an alien notion.

Now I live in a place where that link is a lot shorter. Seeing bananas and oranges just growing on trees was an eye-opener for me. On trees!!! You cannot imagine what a joy that gives you when you come from an urban consumers society where food is shipped in, as if it comes out of factories.

Walnut trees against the mountain ridge

Like this morning. As I was walking the dogs, I noticed a man with a stick in a tree along my route. Why on earth would he be climbing a tree with a stick, I was wondering, as I walked on. Reliving his youth? Something got stuck there?

Then I found a walnut on the ground. Again, this surprise. Why would there be a walnut here? Did anyone walk around eating walnuts and dropped one? 
And then I see a round green thing, the size of a prune, and suddenly it dawned on me! Walnuts! They grow on trees! These were walnut trees and the guy was gathering walnuts!!

I got my bag, and started gathering too. First the ones on the ground, than the ones I could pick from the branches myself, and pretty soon I was whacking at branches to get my stash with childlike enthusiasm.

I had to Google how to get that thick husk of the shell, but I got it all organized, and I now have my own stash of freshly harvested walnuts! How simple, yet how rich I feel.

My stash

September 09, 2016

Bride in Baalbeck

We had friends over from abroad, and since Baalbeck is on the standard itinerary, we visited the temples. You tend to get a bit blasé about it, a bit like people who pass the Eiffel tower in Paris on their commute to work twice daily, and forget you’re walking around in one of the biggest temple complexes of the Roman Empire. 

It was a bit of an overkill, I had just spent the weekend in the Beqaa, but back over the mountain we drove.
 I am tracking my trips these days.

 I downloaded this fantastic free app , Polarsteps  (The app is Dutch and so am I, hence my joy over the ‘free’ part), last year, which traces your movement without you having to be connected. I left it on for a whole year (September to June) last year, and it gave a funny picture of where I hang out a lot. (This app is not recommended if you in politics, or a high ranking member of Hezbollah.)

I started it again this September, and wonder where my journeys will take me this year. I am kind of interested into hiking the forest way up north this year, and would also want to hike the Qaddisha Valley a bit more extensively. I got my eyes set on some caving and rock climbing this year as well, and oh well, I’ve got lots of things in mind. My goal is to create in even more intricate spider web on Polarsteps.

Anyway, so I was in Baalbeck, for the umpteenth time, but it was obviously ‘wedding day’. I saw at least four brides, in tow with a slew of photographers, romping around the ruins, looking for historic poses.  White is clearly on its way out, as I saw a blue bride and an aqua green as well.

But I kind of liked this particular lady; veiled and dressed up like a princess, a little bit like the pink bride I saw last spring in Beirut.  I guess I have a penchant for ‘big dresses’. This may stem from my eternal frustration of not having had a bridal dress myself. I got married in my lunch break, in jeans and motor cycle boots, and I don’t even have a picture of the event! Rather unplanned, as much of my life has been so far. We had to drag a witness from the street because one of the two witnesses we provide did not have ‘the right religion’.

I used to regret that, until an acquaintance of ours spent over 200,000$ on his wedding (which isn’t even that much, if I see some of these wedding pictures in society magazines), and by the time he got divorced, he still had to pay off about half of that amount.  I think my wedding cost 150,000 pounds in all (that is, and was, about a $100)

Anyway, here’s the bride in Baalbeck. May her life be a healthy and happy one.

September 07, 2016

Lost Knowledge

While hanging around Mount Hermon, we visited the temple of Ain Hirsh. It is an impressive one. Impressive in the sense that it is almost intact. The roof is missing and the floor has caved in, but the walls are in place. It is a small one, and rather isolated, which mean you’re almost always the only one there.

What I also find impressive is– just coming out of Europe – that it doesn’t have a fence. There is no entrance fee, no line up to enter, and no little pamphlets that will explain its origin. Partially due to the dense population in Europe, you will rarely see ancient monuments that are not exploited. Here you can walk around, touch it, climb on it, and look in every nook and cranny.

It’s on a mountain side, high above the village of Ain Hirsh, and stands there, abandoned for over hundreds of years. An inscription sort of dates it back to AD114, but it may have been built before that time, and was probably abandoned in the fourth century when christianity replaced the ancient religion of the Roman Empire.

To the ancestral god, Alexander, son of Alexander, following a vow, with his wife, for his children, has raised this altar, year 429.” This year corresponds to the year 114/115 A.D (Link)

Why they would built so many (there are over 30 around Mount Hermon) of these sanctuaries way up high, sometimes surrounded by sarcophagi, is unknown. It’s amazing, and a bit scary too, how all this knowledge can just disappear. The mountain used to be considered holy, (‘the semantic field to which ‘hermon’ belonged covered the notions of ‘forbidden’ and ‘sacred’. Link) but that is how far as it goes.

No idea why around the mountain, what for, why this particular place, who paid for it, who worshiped here, nothing.  All that’s left are the stones. And lost knowledge.

September 05, 2016

Mount Hermon

Some intricate art I found on the road leading to Mount Hermon

I have been living here for some 25 years, but have never hiked to the top of Mount Hermon, so that seemed like a good thing to do on Saturday morning. Mount Hermon, or Jabel elSheik (the mountain of the chief), as we call it in Arabic, lies in the southern part of Lebanon, on the border with Syria.

But I was slightly misinformed, and a little out of luck as well.

There is not one top, but actually three.
And the absolute top of Jabel elSheik, at 2,814 m, doesn’t lie in Lebanon, but in Syria.  Syria, right now, is not exactly a tourist destination (although I do know people that still go shopping in the old souqs of Damascus and they tell me that the prices are ‘a kill’, for lack of better word choice.

The other mountain tops are problematic as well, as one of them is occupied by Israel.  ‘The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights, where the Mount Hermon ski resort is located,’ according to Wikipedia.

And the third one, although in Lebanon, is no longer accessible since a few months: The road from Rashaya to Mount Hermon ends in a barrier manned by soldiers of the Lebanese Army. That’s where Lebanon ends for us mere mortals.

The quality isn't great. I lost the cable from my phone to the computer and have to do everything through e-mail. Cumbersome and slow, and I get all these tiny little zip files..

A soldier, not older than 18, stopped us at the checkpoint.

We cannot control anymore who gets off this mountain. There’s all kinds of gangsters there. The Syrian army, Daesh, the Israelis, and then there are mines all over the place. Before you could have walked anywhere. But it has been closed since a few months, so we can monitor who enters Lebanon. You need a permit from Army Intelligence to get passed this checkpoint,”

So no hike to the top of Mount Hermon.
I was secretly a little glad, because the idea was to go for a little hike, and I don’t think I’d have made it to the top in two hours.

 “But we can hike on its slopes,” we pleaded with the young soldier.
He walked around our car, took a close look at the dogs in the back, shook hubbie’s hand, thought a bit and said, “Just a hike?”
If we promised we wouldn’t try to hike to the top, and not stay away too long, he’d let us through.

The mountain had a rather shady reputation in the past as well, according to a book that never made it into the Bible. In the Book of Enoch, there is a story that some angels ran into trouble and descended onto earth, right at Mount Hermon, because they like the place and the women.  Things went rapidly downhill from there.
The mountain features in a number of Bible texts, as well as other ancient texts. Jesus and his disciples travelled to Mount Hermon in the book of Matthew, and the name is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament. There are some 30 shrines and Roman temples built on and around the mountain. Mount Hermon was apparently quite revered in the old days.

As promised, we just hiked a bit on the flanks. As a mountain, it’s not really a very impressive mountain, to be honest (hence the lack of pictures).  Qornet es-Sawdah, the highest top of  the Mount Lebanon Range, the other mountain ridge in Lebanon, is higher (3,083 m), and more impressive. But its fertile soil, and many water sources, make excellent farm land. We walked passed vineyards, fruit trees, almond and walnut trees and olive groves, but there was not a soul in sight, except for one goat herder. The few houses that are built in the area have all been abandoned, presumably because it’s not exactly a peaceful place.
But it was a lovely hike. A short one, as promised. We did not climb to the top.

On our way back, through the same check point, there was a different soldier. 

Where are you coming from?”

“No, I mean now.”
“Oh, we went for a hike on the mountain.”
“You’re not allowed in.”
“Well, we are in. So now we’d like to go out.”

He pointed  at me.”Is that a foreigner there?”
“No no, she is Lebanese.”

This all sounded very fishy to him. A foreign looking woman speaking English who pretended to be Lebanese coming from an area where she was not supposed to be, and nobody had mentioned anything to him about a foreign-looking woman being on the mountain. For all he knew, I might be a secret Deash weapon, or an Israeli spy entering Lebanon under a false pretext.

“Why did you go walk there? What’s there?”
Yes indeed, what’s there? How to explain to a soldier on guard that you enjoy walking in nature with dogs?
He studied our Lebanese ID’s at length.

I kind of wished that this would result in a long investigation; always great for a blog post.
He, however, figured it was more hassle keeping us then letting us go. Fishy or not, he was not in the mood for this.

“Well, next time you go to army intelligence to ask for permission.”