January 26, 2014

Mountains in the Morning, Beach in the Afternoon

Ehmej mountains: they're supposed to be covered by snow around this time of year.
It is supposed to be the skiing season in Lebanon right now. But the mountains that are usually covered in snow now, are all green.
The new weather trend that is currently flipping weather patterns all around the world is treating my daughter quite nicely. She hates skiing with a vengeance.
I am glad I am not in the business of winter sports. I wonder how the ski-lift operators are doing up in Faqra this year. I bet they’re crying buckets. The hotels usually get tourists from the Gulf, but they are not coming anymore, due to the situation next door that is slowly making its way to the Mediterranean coast.  And now even the Lebanese are not coming anymore, because of lack of snow.
But what is one man’s poison is the other man’s meat (d'e een zijn dood, de ander zijn brood', as we say in Dutch, quite appropriate in this country), and now that we cannot go skiing in the mountains, we go hiking instead, which fuels the income of the hiking outfits. 

Sunday’s hike was in Ehmej, an area above Jbeil I’ve driven through many times, but never hiked in, even though they’ve developed a number of hiking trails in the area.
The guide we got was slightly . . .  disturbed, shall  we say, of our seemingly lack of management over our children (we had 13 of them with us), who ran all over the mountain, did not listen to what she had to say about the local plant life, and instead engaged in loud snowball fights over that one little patch of snow we encountered on the way.
Those are just appearances; it is part of our Dutch child raising strategy. I think. Freedom creates a sense of boundaries. But the hike was quite beautiful. She (the guide) was going to show us what kind of animals lived in the mountains, but with our children, all wildlife had decided to migrate to more peaceful regions for the day; not even a field mouse in sight.
I loved the discussion around this tree. Someone's son had climbed into the tree, way up high.
Mom: "Now that's quite high enough, dear."
Dad: "Can't you go any higher?"
It didn't matter. It was beautiful as it was. We did find quite a few hematites; I did not know we had so much iron ore in the country, but apparently in the old days, it was one of our major export items. Even King Solomon knew about it, it seems, although I thought he was after our cedar wood.
Iron oxides occur locally in the mountains and were some of the first iron ores to be exploited; by the 7th century BC Lebanese iron was being exported to Babylon. Unfortunately iron smelting requires high temperatures and was a major factor in the deforestation. (source)
 We do not export iron anymore; too expensive to smelt it all down. But the mountains were quite lovely.
My daughter, a fifth grader, is currently studying a unit on culture, and has discovered that in Lebanon they say (at least the internet does) that you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon. “Is that true?” she asked. 
Well, if the climate would cooperate and there would be snow, and the traffic would cooperate as well, and you don’t mind swimming in 18°C, then this claim is – in theory – accurate. But who would?
The kids on the pebble beach
However, after the walk, it was decided to have lunch. Where? Well, at the beach of course. And so we drove down the mountains, and went to the beach, teaching my daughter that it is quite feasible in this country to spend your mornings high up in the mountains, and your afternoons down by the sea side. Another stereo-type established.
There aren’t many people out these days; restaurants are empty, although I have been told that Zaytouna Bay was packed this Sunday.  Everyone is waiting for the next bomb.

Don't you just love how most of them have discarded their shoes? One seems to be emptying them . . .  while their moms - unaware of anything - have lunch.


Anonymous said...

Nice to read about Ehmej on your blog!!

Tanya Dernaika said...

A nice healthy way to spend Sunday in Lebanon. Available to all, adopted by too few unfortunately.