A Dutch friend of mine here in Beirut mails me last night, asking if I am up to something this Sunday. Well, I thought about hiking in the hills above Beirut. Actually, the hills above Beirut didn’t appeal to me, I had signed up for something more spectacular; a hike way up north, in Dinnyeh, but that one got cancelled due to excessive fog way up north, and a hike through the hills above Beirut was offered instead.
The mountains & forest between Beit Meri & Broumana
A hike with friends is always fun, be it up north or near Beirut, and so we make some calls and get some more Dutch together to join the hike. This organization we hike with is a Lebanese outfit that organizes outdoor trips all over the country.
On my way up, just below Broumana, I pick up another Dutch friend, and while driving, we both see a lady standing by the road who looks strikingly Dutch. “I could swear that was Merijn,” I tell my friend.
Merijn, as you probably do not remember, is a Dutch culinary journalist, who is in Beirut now and then to work on culinary projects, and through whom I miraculously met the daughter of my cousin, right here in the heart of Beirut. But how could that be? Merijn is in Holland. We drop the topic and continue our way.
Then, while we park our car to hook up with the rest of the hikers, the organizer shows up with – in his car – yep, you guessed it; Merijn and Maaike! Now what are the odds? Of all the people in this country who go hiking with this particular group this exact Sunday in these mountains; it happens to be these two Dutch, who are in town for only a week, and whom one is related to me! Go figure!!
I tell you, you have a better chance winning the lottery than to run into a relative in the mountains above Beirut some 8,000 kilometers from home. That I ran into her once, by chance, is bizarre enough. That it happened a second time, that’s just so weird. Needless to say, I am buying a lottery ticket tomorrow.
The hike was a lovely one, from Broumana to Beit Meri, trough the pine forest on the Deir el Qalaa side. Unfortunately we didn’t see much of the scenery as all we did was talk. I will have to publicly apologize to the Lebanese who were also hiking with us. One man did remark that we seem to be talking faster than we walked. That’s true; the only muscles that ache right now are the muscles of my jowls. It was just so odd, to go hiking and for some reason, to end up – impromptu - with the large group of Dutch women. Serge, the organizer, did mention that there was only one group of people that was noisier than us; and that’s when he hikes with school children.