November 29, 2009
November 27, 2009
November 26, 2009
But with all this hype about swine flu, I call her doctor.
Should I worry?, I ask him.
I like a level-headed doctor. The Dutch in general do not like to medicate their children. Better to ‘sick it out’, and build up a resistance. I took me quite some time to find a Lebanese doctor who understood that cultural quirk.
“It’s green,” says the doctor, “I got to go. Call me if it gets any worse.”
November 22, 2009
You can see the crusader castle on the right (yes, I'll provide a microscope), and the old souqs in the middle.
We have this very old, trice-removed aunt in the family, that recently moved from Zghorta to Tripoli. We went to say ‘mabrouk’ (congratulations) for the new house.
Whenever I go to Tripoli, I am reminded that I live in the Middle East. This may be obvious to you, but when you hang around Beirut and surroundings, it’s all very western. Even in the south it is pretty much familiar. So you tend to forget at times at times that you in fact live in a totally different culture. But whenever I go Tripoli, I am surprised by the ‘Arab’ness of the place. It reminds me of Cairo, which is a #10 on the ‘Arab’ scale, whereas Beirut would rank as a #1. Damascus is somewhere around a #6.
So Tripoli is (for me) the only city in Lebanon where I get reminded of the Arabs as a culture. I find that quite intriguing. It is almost like traveling abroad when I go there. Maybe it is because Beirut got partially destroyed by both the Israelis and the Lebanese themselves. Tripoli – although it has seen its share of fighting – was left pretty much intact, and as such is original.
Tripoli is dustier. Simpler. More men on the streets than women. More pious maybe. More real. And definitely poorer than Beirut..
The Saint-Gilles Citadel
From this old aunt’s (new) balcony, you have an incredibly view; all the way from the cliffs of Shikka to Syria, and right over the old town.
The old town is interesting. Tripoli is known for its traditional souqs, and the one in Tripoli remind me of medieval cities.
But what I find (from a European point of view) much more interesting is the crusader castle. There’s a crusader castle right on her street! The Saint-Gilles Citadel (Qal’at Sinjil in Arabic).
It’s close to 900 years ago that Raymond de Saint-Gilles – originally from Toulouse – came with the first wave of Crusaders in 1099, occupied Jerusalem, and then besieged this exact hill, overlooking the old town and the sea. He called it Mount Pellerin, and wanted to turn it into a fortress. He died there 3 years later, still laying in siege. They finally got it in 1109, and had a citadel built. The original castle burnt down some 180 years later, in 1289, when the Mamlukes threw them out again.
With a little imagination, you could assume that these cobblestones have been here for about 1,000 years. The steps into the castle are very similar the ones in Crac des Chevaliers; they’re low enough for horses to climb them.
It is so weird to look at a monument that less than 1,000 years was part of a massive movement of Europeans, mainly Franks, moving into the Middle East and occupying large parts of current Israel, Syria and Lebanon. Apparently Tripoli thrived quite well under the ‘Franks’.Wooden doors covered with sheet iron, and nailed tight
From Wikipedia: ‘Tripoli was home to a busy port and was a major center of silk weaving, with as many as 4,000 looms. Important products of the time included lemons, oranges, and sugar cane. It is curious to reflect that for 180 years, during the French rule, Langue d'Oc, the language of Provence, was spoken in Tripoli and a neighboring village, owing to the influence of a number of Provencal nobles and courtiers who came here.'
When you speak to Palestinians here in Lebanon, at least the ones that know their history, you sometimes discuss the fact that it has been so incredibly long since they’ve lost their land, 60 years for most, so aren’t they about to give up on this dream of returning? I mean, 60 years; the fourth generation is announcing itself already!
And then sometimes they answer that in retrospect, 60 years is nothing. The crusaders were here for more than 200 years, and what’s left of them? Indicating that Israel may have been around for some 60 years now, but who says they’ll still be there in 140 years from now?
It is an odd thought, but nothing ever stays the way it is, and so for them, this is not permanent.
I’m from a generation where the only thing that ever changes was the Berlin Wall. Other than that, everything has been as it was since I was born. Well, and we got Internet.
The castle had maybe 8 visitors while we were roaming around. Keep an eye on your small children though. They do not believe in fences in this one.
The surroundings of the castle have ‘urbanized’ slightly since 1099, I imagine. All the orchards have gone, and there’s not much green in sight anymore. The Abu Ali River, which runs in the valley under the castle, has become a bit of a sewer canal.
The castle is not very well maintained. Another 100 year and there will be nothing left of it if they don’t take care of it. From the castle, you get a good view of the ‘other’ side of the Abu Ali River. It seems there was a crusader castle in Beirut as well at some point; a print shows the ruins. The stones have been re-cycled into other building projects since then. Just like the crusaders probably picked them up from earlier civilizations.
Well, that’s enough history for today, which happened to be the Lebanese Day of Independence. And which I chose to ignore. Quite wisely I might add. Tripoli was much more fun.
November 21, 2009
The first thing that comes to mind is that this guy REALLY messed up. Did he forget her birthday? Her Mom’s birthday?Is her name Tamara? Samantha? Did he get caught cheating? Did he stand her up at the altar?
What did he do that got her so upset that he had to go for a public apology?
I am dying to know.
November 19, 2009
November 18, 2009
So the hills are bare, and the mountain formation not very spectacular. But my SIL has a place there, and the kids wanted to picnic, but she has a 1.5 month old baby, so Zaarour was the most convenient ‘outdoor’ option.
Fossils; this bunch was found in under ten minutes by 4 children.
According to this site: Lebanon's geological structure dates from the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods (146 to 65 million years and 206 to 144 million years ago). Fossils obtained from Lebanon generally belong to these periods. In particular, much of the Lebanese mountains consist of sedimentary rocks that are ideal for the preservation of fossils. Rock strata close to the surface contain large numbers of coral and sponge beds, as well as the fossil skeletons of a range of Jurassic crustaceans.
November 17, 2009
Hmm, if I think we are going to get any more publicity like this, we are going to get jinxed. Mark my words!
From The Observer.
From The New York Times
November 14, 2009
Hubbie joins me and says “Nice birds, eh?”
Birds? I see no birds.
“There, those pelicans up ahead,” and he points to something in the sky.
“I tell you, those are pelicans.”
He gets out the binoculars, and sure enough, there’s this flock of pelicans circling right above Beirut. We have huge swarms (or flock, I should say) of storks every spring. They soar around on the air current.
But I’d never seen pelicans. White pelicans, to be exact.
The Middle East, located at the juncture of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, makes it a region second to none in the world for tracking, research and study of the phenomenon of bird migration. The Middle East is a “bottle neck” for the migration from Europe and to Africa and back. More than 500 million birds pass over the Middle East twice a year in the autumn and spring migration. Source
They migrate from somewhere in Europe or Asia, to Africa, along the Eastern Mediterranean coast. Beirut is sort of jutting out into the sea, and so if you go in a straight line, you end up right above my neighborhood. You can see that in this shot I took this afternoon while coming down from the mountains. The sea goes around Beirut.
November 13, 2009
Daily Star link
A certain Peter F. was arrested at Beirut Airport with 10K of hashish.
And I am thinking: Why would anyone want to smuggle hashish to Holland, when you can by this stuff in Holland legally? Well, maybe not in quantities of 10K, but heck, you can’t smoke 10K away THAT fast. By the time you’re halfway, the remaining stuff will be old.
And at the age of 68? Maybe one of the old hippies?
I know just about everyone in the Dutch community, but no 68 year old Peter F.’s. I know a Dutch Peter in Beirut, but he’s like 35. I know 68 year old Dutch men in Lebanon, but none of them is a Peter. Maybe one of the Dutch ladies stuffed it secretly in her dads luggage as he came over for a holiday? I know one who would be very capable of doing just that, but her dad is not a Peter either.
With 10K we can assume that he’s not going to smoke it himself, so who’s he transporting this for? Maybe he has his own coffee shop? But at the age of 68? I know that in Holland the government is trying to push the retirement age from 65 to 67, but that’s not this year. So who does Peter know that I don’t know? Just when certain organizations are accusing other organizations of using certain agricultural produce from the Beqaa Valley (nudge nudge) to finance their operations? Hmmmmm.
More on the Dutch law on drugs (opium wetgeving) here.
November 12, 2009
From the Observer. Read the rest here.
"Religious extremists," I say. "Armed militiamen."
"Exactly. If you want religious extremists, we have religious extremists. If you want mountains, we have mountains. If you want lingerie shows on the ski slopes of Mount Lebanon, we have lingerie shows. We have everything. Everything."
Hey, I've been telling you guys this for some 4 years now.
November 11, 2009
November 10, 2009
November 08, 2009
November 06, 2009
The owner of the establishment is a very friendly and becoming gentleman, one of the 90-something brothers of the man that the George Bush has been after with a vengeance for some eight years now. Without much success I might add, but then again, Bush is not exactly known for his rate of success. He happens to see me leaving in my car and says: “Nice wheels.” And I’m like, 'Hmmm.'
I so absolutely love this town. I know this place’s got ‘issues’, but they’re well worth it. This is going to be a good weekend.
November 05, 2009
November 01, 2009
I had an excellent excuse to go shopping. It is odd. I understand that a 15-year old boy abhors shopping (especially with his Mom), but a girl? Especially one with Lebanese blood? Never mind, I dragged her along anyway.
Of course, when I needed to pay, I was told they preferred cash over plastic, because ‘due to the rains’, the phone lines couldn’t reach the bank, and paying with a bank card might take a while. That felt just right. Don’t worry, I can wait.