June 28, 2010


The Dutch watched the math Holland – Slovenia in a pub in Monot (Beirut); The mood was good, the company colorful. We did well. Not much more to say. It is funny to see how the Lebanese can get even more enthusiastic about the World Cup than the Dutch. Up to the next round.

Sunday Picnic in Baskinta

Somewhere around Mount Sannine

This Sunday got me in the neighborhood of Baskinta. Never saw a place in Lebanon so green in summer. Oakforests all around. The weather has been unusual though, with several showers in June – something that is not supposed to happen according to climate graphs, but I think this place seems to have enough ground water to keep it green, since it’s right around Mount Saninne. Mount Sannine (Arabic: جبل صنين‎) is a mountain in the Mount Lebanon range.

Geological site and water resources; Surveys undertaken by hydro-geologists have revealed that the aquifer had several advantages: (…) it consisted of alternate strata of basalt, sandstone and fine sand (…). Third, the source basin flowed beneath the limestone formations of mount Sannine (2.300 meters) as well as those of Kanate Bakiche (1.800 meters) (source)

On Mount Sannine

I saw beautiful properties; old stone houses with arches, and orchards around them and rose bushes, all dilapidated and abandoned. I always get inspired by this, wouldn’t it be wonderful to retire here when you’re 65, raise chickens and goats and bake your own bread? Things don’t quite work around here that way though.
picnic in an apple orchard

The other day I saw a fantastic mountain house (I am not talking of Baskinta now, in case you misunderstood), with an inner court yard; a perfect fixer-upper project. When I mentioned it to hubbie, he asked me the specifics.
Ohhhh,” I thought, ‘I caught him on the right moment, he’s in a buying mood.’ And I mentioned the name of the village.
No way,” he replied, “they’ll never sell to us.”

The hooligans in an apple tree (H and cousin N)

Us? What do you mean, 'they won't sell to us'? Are we notorious or something, a severely dysfunctional family that no self-respecting citizen would want as a neighbor? Do my kids run wild, do we drink all night, play loud music and dance naked on the tables? Are we the ‘there goes the neighborhood’ kind?

Oak forests all around

No, Siets, our kind. Our religion. That’s a hard-core village you’re talking about. Even if you find someone who would be willing to sell to us, then in case of a conflict, you’ll always find yourself on the short end. And if ever we return to the events of the civil war, you can kiss your property goodbye. Not a risk-free investment. You’ve got to find something in a mixed village (as in mixed religion).”

Picking cherries

There is some truth to this. The mountain house we own currently had to be bought through a secretary in my husband's company (who is of the 'right' religion), who then sold it to us. Not because the owner didn't want to sell to 'us', but because of the backlash he feared from his surroundings if he would sell to 'us'. And that IS in a mixed village.
Back to the drawing board, I guess, with my retirement plans. That sort of limits the possibilities quite a bit – ‘a mixed village’ - but it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Every girl should have a pair; cherry earrings

We found a picnic spot in an isolated apple orchard. The apples weren’t ready yet, but in the cherry orchards next door they were picking the last bit of the cherries; the cherry season is almost running to an end.

Something you should do regularly; blow the seeds of a dandelion (or thistle), and make a wish.

While researching Baskinta on the Internet (long live the Internet, definitely my choice for best invention after fire and stone tools), I found this odd bit of information: It was also the capital city of the Syriac Christian state of Marada.  The Marada apparently were ‘a group of autonomous communities living on Mount Lebanon during the Middle Ages’ (source). A civil war militia named itself after them.
And that's enough information. I've got one beautiful picture, but somehow blogger has decided it won't let me upload anymore, so I guess that's it for the day.

June 24, 2010

Dutch Soccer Tonight

Although Holland seems to be ignored in this ‘Battle of the Flags‘ in Beirut, the Dutch are quietly moving forward. Very few places sell Dutch flags, but I think they are going to regret that after tonight. The more popular teams, such as France and Germany, all received a beating, but not the Dutch. And no, you cannot rotate the French flag 90 degrees and pretend it is Dutch!

The Saint George Hotel may be trying to change the mood; they had red white and blues flying all over the place yesterday afternoon. Unbeknownst to them however (I assume), the choice of blue was not the right one; Light blue. And that makes it the flag of Luxemburg.  The Dutch flag carries a darker blue . As far as I know, Luxemburg did not make it to the World Soccer Cup. It’s the thought that counts though, no?

And so tonight’s the night! Are we going to make it, or are we going to lose from Cameroon? We beat the Danish and the Japanese, but neither had the Fifa ranking of Cameroon (Danish; 36, Japan; 45, Holland; 4, Cameroon; 19). So do we stand a chance? Yes. Are we going to win? I sure hope so. They did lose against the Japanese, but they beat the Danish. We will qualify for the 2nr round either way.

The Dutch don’t have a soccer spot in Beirut anymore. Both ‘Old Amsterdam’ and the ‘Rising Phoenix‘ did not make it through these difficult financial times, and thus we have to try a different venue. Where will we watch? I don’t know? I’m still waiting for the verdict. Give me some hint, Dutchies!

June 23, 2010

Window on Wednesdays VII

If you'd ever want it to rain in Beirut off-season, ask me to wash my car. I assure you; the moment I have washed my car, it always rains. On my beautifully clean car. It's almost scientifically proven.

June 21, 2010

Picnic on the Ibrahim River

H, uncle W, cousin N and cousin O floating in the Ibrahim River

I spent my day in the Ibrahim River this Sunday. It is one of the few perennial rivers we have in Lebanon. Water is a bit of an issue in the entire Middle East, they even say the next war will be over water. But then again, they say all kinds of nonsense in this place. But our water situation is one thing we do not share with the rest of the Arab world; we’ve got plenty. Even though it rains decently only from November till February (that’s when 80% of the precipitation falls), the sedimentary rock type we have (karst) stores most of it, and releases it throughout the year. And so the Ibrahim River receives its water from aquifers within the Homsaya Mountains (More on that topic here).
Ibrahim River

Summer has really taken off now, which means that even the beaches right now are too hot and too busy! Best time of the year to go to the beach is May and June. Now that July is coming closer, and we get daily readings of 34 Celsius and above, complete with an almost 100% humidity, it’s time to head for the mountain rivers.
Cousin N, H, Uncle W and cousin O on the river bank

The problem is that quite a lot of people have the same idea, so you’ve got to find an empty spot on the river banks. Most Lebanese, being the convenience lovers they are, will prefer a spot accessible by car. So that eliminates 75% of the people, but you still have to compete with the remaining 25%. We were lucky today; no people in sight and very little garbage to deal with as well.
I will not share the coordinates with you on this one, as I would like to keep it for myself, but it is somewhere near Khdayre. So that’s what we did on Sunday, lounging in and near the water with the kids and family.
Every child should have a pocket knife. There's an interesting Ted Talk on this topic, called 'Gever Tulley on 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do'.

June 20, 2010

Beirut Dog Show

The participants for Best Female at the Beirut Dog Show

While the rest of Beirut gathered around their TV sets to see the Dutch inch themselves closer  to total victory, I joined the ranks of dog enthusiasts at the Beirut Hippodrome.

Beta (Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) organized a dog show. I’d never been to a dog show, not here, and not outside either. But a friend asked if I was interested, and my daughter Hana got hold of that conversation. “Dog show? Yes! We are going to a dog show!”
Beirut dogs at the Beta Dog Show in the Hippodrome of Beirut

And thus we ended up at this Beta Dog Show. You could even participate. Well heck, if you’re going to visit a dog show, you might as well join the fun. The categories of ‘Best Senior’ and ‘Best Disabled Dog’ were the only ones where our old dog would stand a chance. After all, he’s positively ancient, deaf, and blind (progressive retinal atrophy, they call it, seems common with his breed, a bearded collie). We bought the dog, Boeffie, at the birth of my son, hoping that the presence of a dog would instill in him a lifelong love and respect for animals. While that failed to materialize, we did end up with a dog that has clung to life with a vengeance. And so, with 16 years of life to his name, we thought he’d stand a chance as ‘best senior’. All the other categories (best male, most obedient, friendliest, best breed, most beautiful) were not applicable to our dog. He doesn’t even look like a bearded collie anymore, since we shave him every spring, in order to help him make it through the summer without a heat stroke or a heart attack.
Lots of photographers making pictures of the dog. This lady helped her dog a little getting a close-up.  

And so we went, with dogs in tow. Two friends dragged their dogs (participating in the best male, best female, and friendliest category) along as well. I must say, the atmosphere at the Hippodrome was positively relaxed.
It was clear that everybody had the same attitude as we had. They all came with the family dog, and inscribed the poor mutt in a category, without much faith in the outcome. After all, most owners either didn’t know the exact breed of their dog, or had a mutt, or thought they had a pure bred dog which turned out to be a mix after all. They didn't come to win, they came to have fun. And fun we had!
And I dare say, politics must be kind of slow these days as the entire press corps seemed to be present. There were big dogs, small dogs, dogs with jackets and booties, dogs with massive chains, hairy dogs and groomed poodles with nail polish. They behaved quite well with one another.
The 6 participants in the Best Senior category in front of the jury; Hana is the 2nd on the left (yellow T-shirt).

To our great surprise, our dog, Boeffie, won First Prize in the Best Senior category. The others (between 12 and 9 years old) were no match for our 112-year old deaf and blind centenarian (one dog year apparently equals 7 human years).
What do you mean, lack of news? The Israelies must be laying low these days.

My daughter was pleased to no end. She got a trophy. When some time later, he was called in again for the ‘most disabled’ category, he was up against a 3-legged dog and a limping one; that was a hard act to follow. He got 3rd place there (out of 3 participants). Another victory, as far as my daughter was concerned. We went home with a bag of dog food, 2 trophies, and lots of stories to tell. We're going again next year. If he's still alive then.

June 13, 2010

La Vache qui Flotte

We’re at the beach, right?
The kids are inflating their rubber boat (which won’t make it intact past the first rock, but never mind that, it will sure save you dragging it back all the way home again), the moms are applying the oils and sunscreens and what not and the dads are dragging parasols around.
Kids are playing in the sand or splashing water, the adults are gracefully bobbing around in the water.
It’s a wonderful day to be out on the beach. All of Beirut must have thought this; the beach is packed!
And then, what do we see in the distance? Something’s afloat. What’s that thing bobbing around, moving right into our private little bay?
It seems everybody has spotted it now. What, o what, could it be? We’re all curious.
It’s white and black.
Mom, there’s a cow in the water!”
“Oh really, well, cows get warm too.”
“No, it’s a dead cow

A dead cow. Oh yes, of course. Why not? I tell you, how do you get an entire beach to leave the water in a split second? If you would have yelled ‘shark!” you couldn’t have done it any faster. But ‘dead cow on the horizon’, that sure does it.
They brought in a boat to tow it out of our private little bay. I bet they released it just a bit further, so it can float peacefully to the next beach. The current goes northwards. But that pretty much was it for the beach day. Everyone was lining up at the showers, and home they went. It didn’t matter; it was the end of the day anyway. And I remember thinking that yesterday I heard on Euronews that for the first time the quality of swim water in Europe has gone up rather than down. Right now in Europe, in 96% of the places where they’ve checked, the water met the minimum requirements for swimming. They specifically checked for ‘fecal matter’. I guess cows don’t fall under ‘fecal matter’.

It didn’t bother me one bit. I thought it was a lovely day at the beach.

June 10, 2010


I know it's  cliche, but I just never can get enough of it. I make my entire family watch the sunset every evening, Every evening.
I tell them (also every evening) that in ten years time from now, we might not have this view anymore, and then they’ll regret that they didn’t look at it when they could, right from my dinner table, and that is why they should turn around and look at it consciously. And that there are people that work all year to get 3 three weeks off with pay to go to a holiday destination where they can just look at the sun set in the sea, and then they tell each other how lucky those people are that live in that place, and if these people realize how lucky they are to see that every day. That is how I pester my family around dinner time every evening.

June 08, 2010

Cinnamon Yes, Cardamom, No

A friend of mine sends me an e-mail with the question: “Any idea why the spices are on the No list?”  What she is talking about, I am thinking and I click the link, and this is what I get.

It is pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? These are the items the Israelis will, and won’t let, into Gaza. I don’t know about the spices. Why the cinnamon and the black pepper, but not the coriander, the nutmeg and the ginger? Or, why even any of them at all.
Picture from The Economist (source)

Finkelstein has a good story on it, but I’ve read it with that voice in several sources now. It's all tongue in cheek.  Who are they to decide over others? 

I have been warned by other bloggers that if you write anything anti-Israel, or anti-zionist, you end up in a rink, as they call it, where your comments box is flooded with posts from fictional characters, who pretend to be real, who will publish very lengthy stories about how delusional we are to think that they are wrong. I know from one Dutch bloggers who actually stopped blogging, because he got a certain “A.’ on his tail, as the person identified himself, who dominated the comment box of all his post, wishing him horrible endings as he did not like the content of the blogger's posts. We’ll see.

Here is a list of things that have been permitted lately.

June 05, 2010

When Hashem met Salwa Part II (Or the general’s son and the farmer’s daughter)

Remember Salwa and Hashem? Well, that did not quite work out. Did they not like each other? No, that was not the problem. Was he turned off by her veil? No, that wasn’t the issue. Was it his bald spot that got her thinking twice? No, it wasn’t that either.

The fact is that they never got to meet each other.

Even though I thought it was a match made in heaven (they both wanted to get married, they’re both professionals in the medical industry, he wanted an educated working woman, she wanted an educated working man, she was beautiful, he was successful, and they were – the cherry on the cake – of the same religion), that was apparently from my Dutch point of view.

The background did it. She was from Tripoli. Tripoli? Yes, Tripoli. (Now if you are from Tripoli, please do not get offended. The views in this blog are not necessarily the view of the writer, or of the people speaking in this post. I’m just reporting, so don’t shoot the messenger.)

People from Tripoli are just … well, different,” explained the mom. She laughed a little uncomfortably while saying it, as she was obviously a little embarrassed with that statement. But there it was. “Like villagers.”

I shared the reply with hubbie when I got home that night.
"Ah, she's been talking to her husband," he concluded.
What’s wrong with people from Tripoli?” I asked. He should know. His family is originally from Tripoli.
Well, they’re a little simple. Sometimes. Not everyone, of course. But some are.” The look on my face made him restate that. “They are perceived as being a little ignorant here in Lebanon. You know, peasants. I am not saying they are. It is just that’s how they are looked upon. By Beirutis, that is.”

My father-in law, also orginally from Tripoli, added to the spice. “These people do not get out much. Mountain people. Can you imagine how his family will react when her family comes over to stay in Beirut for a visit?

But there was another background issue, besides the Tripoli thing. A bigger issue, that was conveniently covered up by the Tripoli thing. The fact that Salwa’s father was a farmer, was another obstacle, according to the aunt that lives in our house. An obstacle that could not be overtaken. After all, Hashem dad was a big shot in the army. How could a general’s son marry a farmer’s daughter?

How couldn’t he? I asked. What’s that got to do with it?

Aaahhh,” was the reply, “maybe in Holland it doesn’t, but here it does. What is the dad going to tell his friends when they ask what the bride’s father does? Grow tomatoes? When you marry in Lebanon, you marry the family.”

And thus it was deemed – yet it remained unspoken – better that these two would not meet each other in order to avoid the embarrassment that it would cause the others.

And that, dear readers, was the end of my match-making efforts. I’m too Dutch to understand the finer points of this society, but somehow I think that matches are made in heaven, and not in Lebanon.

June 02, 2010

Window on Wednesday IV

So what is it with this passion for windows (and doors, I might add)? Flickr has entire pools for it, and here’s another Beirut blogger, Ginger, who’s got an infatuation with the Beirut windows and doors. (it’s under photos)