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

Warwar


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.”

Maggots? 
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 blasĂ© 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.
Deal.



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?”

“Beirut.”
“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.”


Pity.

August 28, 2016

Back Home and In Your Face

Back home, back in Beirut and back in business. And it is good to be back. The summer isn’t over yet, but the holidays are. I have changed jobs, and am super excited about it; this year I should be a more productive writer.

It can take some time to get back into the Beirut mood, for this town can at times be like its heat; repressive, especially after two months in an environment where it does not get above 29C, where there is no humidity, where there are no traffic jams  and where no one really cares what you wear or if you’re wearing anything at all.

However, this time, I was right in the mood even before landing.

My phone broke this summer. And while at the airport in Amsterdam, waiting for my flight to Istanbul, instead of playing Sudoku on my phone or flipping through Instagram images, I really had nothing else to do then to observe my environment.

And it was a quiet environment, almost demure.
People sat around, each in his/her own personal space, doing their own thing. No one was really interacting with others, and conversations that did take place were in very hushed voices. No eye contact. No loud noises. Very quiet. Very peaceful. Very lifeless too.

And then you get to the Beirut gate at Istanbul Airport (which somehow often gets placed right next to the one to Tel Aviv, and so the two peoples are quietly ogling one another with some fear - from one side -, and lots of curious glances from both sides), where things are slightly different.

A profoundly different atmosphere.

Personal space? What personal space? It is loud and ‘in your face’ communication. If you do not know anyone, you make sure you find someone you know, you are either related to, who’s from the same ‘dai’a’, who knows someone you are related to or whatever. You will do whatever it takes to find someone you have some sort of connection with. Any connection.
And then you talk. And laugh. And share your opinions. And you do this very loud so everyone can listen in, whether they like it or not, and join in.
If the flight is late, everyone complains out loud. If there is food, everyone shares. If you need help, everyone will advice.

I was looking at 5 older men, in their late sixties, sitting together, who had absolute laughing fits. One of them was telling either a joke or a story, and you could just see them shaking in their chairs. It was like looking at a couple of teenage boys, you could not help but laugh along.
Maybe it was because the majority was Lebanese going home, or visiting, but it was a good atmosphere. An ‘in your face’ and loud atmosphere. A joyful atmosphere.

And it was fun.  There was this love of life that is so evident in Lebanese. This joy, this feeling that people really make the best of what they have, this ‘Life is short and you may not have been handed a very good deck, but what the heck, you make do with what you have’.


And it was good to realize that. Good to come back to. 

June 23, 2016

Holidays

Sietske in Beirut is currently on holidays and will return end of August.

May 29, 2016

Beirut For You


As mentioned before, May and June are the months when everyone is organizing fairs, events and happenings in town. It’s not too hot yet, people are still in town (Beirut is sometimes a bit like Paris in August; all the locals are gone), chances of rain are small (although that did not quite pack out like that this weekend with a thunder storm over town), people haven’t quite taken to the beach either, so now’s your chance to gather a maximum amount of visitors. We’ve just had the outdoor fairs of the big universities (LAU and AUB), the schools celebrated their Spring fests as well, Makdissi Street and Sadat Street held their street fairs. The Hamra festival is today, and there is the Beirut Design Week (with a Dutch design studio!), the Garden Show, and the Designer’s Week,  among many (check for more here).


That last event (Designer’s Week )is not related at all to the Beirut Design Week, although the name implies it does. A smart gimmick, and I fell for it. I thought I was going to visit a design exposition in Zaytouni Bay, but instead it was more like those summer markets they stage all over Europe, with summer stuff and faux bijoux and some industrious people trying to sell the fruits of their hobby.   



But the mood was good, the crowd happy, the weather fantastic at sunset and the scenery quite glamorous, so it was all good.  I could post all kinds of lovely pictures, but what really caught my attention was this lady.
 An absolutely stunning looking bride. There was something about her, as she strutted over the boardwalk with her one bridesmaid, and I assume her mother. On her way (I asked) to her engagement party. So she was not even a bride yet; this was just the engagement dress. Can’t wait to see her wedding dress.

 I don’t know where she got this dress, but I am strangely mesmerized by it. Sometimes things are so absolutely out of place and odd that the combination becomes beautiful instead of ugly. The color, almost shocking pink, helped as well. I know that this must have been my dream dress when I was about 8 or so. I bet she has been thinking of this dress since she was that little as well. And she pulled it off. Well done, I’d say. Whoever said you can't be glamorous with a veil? Quite the contrary, it seems.


We tried to locate the groom, wondering whether he had been coaxed into wearing something pink as well. But she was walking the other way, so we never got to see him. I just had to share this lady with you. This is Beirut for you.

May 27, 2016

Destress in the Mountains

 
It’s been a bit busy lately. That’s a bit of an understatement. Actually, it’s been an extremely stressful year. What am I saying, it’s been two years of stress and utter exhaustion, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Only three more weeks to go, and then there’s a job change on the horizon that I am extremely looking forward to. I think it’s been the reason for my rather spotty posting. Stress does not work in harmony with creativity (in my case. There will be people who claim the opposite).
 
 Last Wednesday I went up to the mountains to de-stress. It worked well, I think. I did a 7 AM morning hike of 5 kilometers with the dogs through the fields and forest, and came back all invigorated.  Each season has its advantages, so I can’t say that spring is my favorite season, but the abundance of plant life, and the vibrant green colors all around, do inspire.
 

These dogs of ours are a bit of a ramshackle collection.  None of them were really chosen. They sort of chose us. Two just sort of stuck to my husband as he hiked in the mountains. Actually, they both just installed themselves at our front door and then pretended they were our dogs. Over time they indeed became our dogs.
 
The small black one was from a pet store. We went to get a hunting dog, and walked out with the puniest little dog that the pet store owner no longer wanted and couldn’t sell. “Here, they take it, people do not like black dogs in this country.”
 
 
The white one (not in the picture as he is too old to go on strenuous hikes, he got hit by a car some years ago and is – as  a result – half blind and deaf, has only half a lung)  was found by the side of the road many years ago.
If it weren’t for the price of gas, and the poor traffic condition, I might consider living in the mountains. The birds in the early morning, the settling down of village life at sun set, the simplicity of it all, it’s mighty enticing. The massive spiders, however, are one reason to reconsider that plan. A reall reality check.ber, is the morning traffic. Go drive down from the mountain, in the morning, trying to get to work in time, while everyone around you drives like Nicki Lauda, and that shelves that plan.
 
 
I once had a friend, an American, who used to do 60 miles one way commutes in Arizona. She thought nothing of a 60 mile drive in the morning, she did it twice daily, 5 days a week, for many years. When she moved to Lebanon with her Lebanese husband, they thought of buying a house in Deir el-Qammar. Her job was in Beirut. She wanted to live out in the country. “You’ve got to be kidding, right?” we said, when she mentioned that bit. “Oh, that’s nothing,” she said, I am only doing half of what I did in the States. It’s easy,” and they bought the house.

Easy. Yeah right. In the States maybe, where everyone takes over from the left sides, and people stay in their lane, and use their signal light and what not else. Within a year they were looking for an apartment in Beirut. She couldn’t quite explain exactly what the difference was between her 60 mile commute in the Sates versus her 45 kilometer commute in Beirut. But it was enough to consider a house moving. In the end, the stress in Beirut did her in. She ran at the same pace as Beirut, and that’s something even the best amongst us can’t handle for long.
 

The end of the academic year does levitate the stress levels anyway. It’s the season of goodbyes. Goodbye for good for the expats that move to the nest post. Goodbye for the summer, for those that sent their summers with family abroad. It is a flurry of birthday celebrations (six for my daughter alone these coming two weeks), goodbye dinners, farewell parties, and in between there are the fund raisers, the board meetings, the street and music festivals, the schools’ May fests, the universities outdoor activities and the days on the beach. I am always glad when summer truly starts and everyone is gone, so I can finally get some rest.

May 14, 2016

One Hundred (and going)

 
in Baalbeck
 
My dad’s in town. It’s not his first visit. Ever since I’ve moved to Lebanon, he’s been a regular visitor. Actually, he was already visiting Lebanon well before I was even born, starting  way back in 1947 or 48, he does not remember exactly what year. In those days, the KLM was still flying on Beirut. The visits continued until 1965, when he changed jobs, and started again in 1990, when I moved here.
 
So it is not his first visit.
It might be his last visit though.
He’ll be a 101 this September.
 
Dad in the middle, somewhere in Lebanon (undated)


He’s well though. Very well even, considering his age. He roamed around Hamra street (came back with eight stitches, but was impressed with the medical care at AUH), walked the entire Corniche and wanted to go sightseeing, so I dragged him to the sea, and the mountains, the ruins and pillars, to the north, the south,  and all over town. He knows most of this country, he’s accompanied me on quite a few of my trips.
 
And as he sat behind a cold Almaza beer at a cafĂ© besides the Roman ruins in Baalbeck, he commented on the fact that - when he had sat there in that same spot, with a beer, somewhere in the fifties, at the age of 35, - he could not have imagined that he’d be sitting there again, some 65 years later, at the age of 100. With his daughter no less. He wasn’t even married back then.
 
 
I mean, you probably think you won’t make it to a 100. Not many do. Not only does he make it to a 100, he travels back to that same place, and has another beer in the sun.
 
But he knows that the odds are against him.
 
 Those that have their lives ahead of them -  if not all, at least long stretches of it - do not walk around with the notion that this might be the last time you see this, or visit that, or walk here.
 
At 100 however, this is a real thought.
 
My friends all ask him how he does it; Getting this old.
He doesn’t really have an explanation for that. It is not a matter of genes. Both his parents died at a relatively young age. His mom at 37, his dad at 51.  But his older brother will be 102 this summer. And several of his siblings made it into their nineties. He lived a sober life, but then everyone did in those days. He drinks, smoked when he was young, and eats his eggs with bacon. He survived the Spanish flu (his mom did not), and has seen probably every country that has an airport.
 
Qurnet esSawda
 
He doesn’t have many pictures from those very early days here in Beirut. He had a Bolsey back then,  but it had no light meter, the film had to be turned manually and frequently got stuck, and developing pictures was not a cheap affair. You’d take a picture a day, instead of 31 in an hour. Most of those pictures are in slide form, and they’re somewhere in the attic. My brother is in the process of scanning them, but it is a lengthy process.
 
 He kept a sparse diary; I should dig through that one. I was reading this diary; gives an interesting look of Beirut as well, the way my dad probably experienced it as well.  
 
But at the age of 100, he remembers a Lebanon that most Lebanese have never seen.