|The ski slope in the Cedars (with the emphasis on 'THE'). The forest is in the distance, right side.|
For those unfamiliar with Lebanon, the Cedars is a place up way up north , in the mountains, where the last remaining bits of the original cedar forest can be found; a forest that apparently once blanketed all the upper regions of Lebanon.
‘Once’ is a loooong time ago; cedar wood was already in high demand way back when the Egyptian pharaohs build their temples in the Nile Valley, and when King Salomon constructed his temple in Jerusalem. Heck, even Gilgamesh, some 7,000 years ago, knew where to get his wood. As such, 'forest' is only a relative concept; there are some 300 trees left in this particular spot.
|I'm zooming in on the forest|
A friend of mine, new to the country, recounted her visit to the forest for the first time. All the way, from Beirut to the Cedars, and that’s some 120 kilometer, she was hearing about this ‘forest’. And coming from Holland, a forest is defined as a vast region full of trees. And so, after a very long drive over little narrow country roads that slowly snake their way up, she turns around this corner and sees this . . . . this park filled with some trees. “I came all the way for this?” she remembers saying.
And it is true, if you want to see an impressive Cedar forest, the Barouk one is a bigger one, and the one near Hadeth el Jibbe more authentic. But still, the Cedar forest in the north is a regular stop for tourists.
|And here it is. Quite impressive in the snow.|
And in winter you go there to ski. ‘Skiing’ is also a relative term up there, it seems. Lifts open en slopes get groomed only if there are enough people to make it profitable for the family operating the hill (yes, it is only one hill), and if they feel like it. As such, opening and closing times are changeable, and availability of lifts and slopes equally unpredictable. You’d think at least the prices of their services would be competitive, but no, that is not the case either.
|A Dutch/Lebanese melange with some hints from Asia as well|
This could be a post about how not to run a ski resort, but this rather homely style of running a business make the place a little rustic and endearing, and so we’ll keep it as it.
Instead, I’d like to talk about the self-assessment of Lebanese men.
I was with a group of Dutch/Lebanese couples. In this case, most of the Dutch are women, and the men Lebanese. Any married woman can tell you that getting married is easy; it’s staying married that is the tricky part. Most definitely when it concerns a Lebanese man, as the cultural differences are not insignificant.
|Some of the offspring of Lebanese/Dutch connections, with some real Dutch in there too, and hints of Tunisia and Vietnam (someone at work today called the Dutch 'swamp Germans' I thought that was quite funny)|
Now most of us have managed to circumvent the major problems, and have arrived at a relatively satisfying status-quo.
One of us, however, is about to embark on this journey; She is going to marry a Lebanese man. Her own dad was Lebanese, so she is not totally unfamiliar with the species, but still, what is in store for her? What advise could we give her? What does it take to make it work? This particular conversation generated such incredible laughter and noise level that the other hotel guests, one by one, vacated the premises. Lebanese men – for the uninitiated – come with a manual thicker than what you get when you buy a 3D flat-screen TV.
|Ah, and finally, the patient Dutch ladies. Samaritans we are :)|
But the interesting part came when the (Lebanese) men got their turn.
And there were two things they brought up, I thought were of particular interest.
The first one was that each and every one of them said that (even after being married to a Dutch woman, go figure!) they would never ever marry Lebanese women, for ‘they could not be trusted.’ “Sly bitches,” was the term one of them used, if I remember correctly. (Sorry ladies, I am just quoting.)
|Why Samaritans, you ask? Ah, if only you knew the story behind these feet . . . .|
And the second interesting bit of advice they gave the future bride was, “Don’t let him walk all over you.” Their general message was, be strong, stay independent, don’t be his door mat, and show him right from day one that you cannot be taken for granted, otherwise he will take advantage of you, and treat you like you are his maid. What an insightful self-assessment that was!
|When in the snow, build a snow man|
The bride-to-be thought it all sounded rather negative. Of course, she is still madly in love and her hubbie-to-be is still the knight in shining armor, and she’s talking to a bunch of old-timers; we’ve each clocked some 20 years or more in marital positions. And so this mixed Lebanese/Dutch crowd of pros smiled at her endearingly, and said in unison: "We’ll talk in a few years time.”
This dude of hers is so not going to thank us for this! And we had a good time. With our Lebanese counterparts. Despite? Or thanks to? I leave that up to you to decide . . . . ;) But the mix sure makes for beautiful kids. If I may say so myself.
|And that's me (thankfully unrecognizable), stolen from Mai (thank you Mai)|