August 31, 2014

Green in Summer

Greener parts of Lebanon
You probably wonder where to find these green places in Lebanon. Because Lebanon is bone dry right now. Last winter was a dry winter to start with, and it hasn’t rained seriously since March. It is yellow and dusty wherever you go.
Yet some mountain areas are green, because giant aquifers inside the limestone still release water at a regular pace. Lebanon has a number of these giant aquifers. Water from rain and snow percolates through the limestone rock and stop at a harder layer deep within the mountain. If you’re interested in aquifers (which I am), here’s a link.

In the Falougha mountains, some 35 kilometers above Beirut, is the Sohat spring (where the Sohat factory gets it water from), one of the (minor) aquifers. And so in Hamana and surroundings, below that spring, you will find green patches with large green trees even now, and some people have actual lawns near their houses. A lawn is a luxury in this place. Being Dutch, I have an affinity with green lawns. I’d love to have a house with a lawn. With a lawn however, come spiders, and so I don’t nag too much about the lawn part.

Falougha Mountains

So when we walk the dogs in the morning in the mountains, you'll walk past all these lovely villas with green lawns, and I dream. If you wonder who lives there, I can tell you: janitors and gardeners. Most villas are empty. Some of them are inhabited by Lebanese, but the majority is owned by rich Arabs from the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. They do not come anymore, ever since the war in Syria went full-force: Syria used to be there way out of Lebanon in case the Israelis would start bombing us, and so in case of a calamity now, they’d be stuck. The janitors and gardeners have sprawling estates all to themselves (the garden part, that is).
The fourth dog on the right (the white one) is not ours; he was a visitor over the weekend
The janitors and gardeners come in general from 3 places; Syria, South-east Asia, and Central Africa.
I like the janitors  and gardeners from India, or Sri Lanka, best: they do not fear the dogs and will talk with you. The Syrian ones are afraid of the dogs (and when running away, becoming an object of play for our new dog, which results in rather embarrassing situations), and do not talk to women. They have no problem ogling you though. Maybe they're surprised at my clothes; I tend to do the morning walk in my pajamas, and look not as composed as most Lebanese :) The Africans stay at a distance; they don't mind the dogs, and will greet you, but they don't seem to be interested in talking.
It’s odd, but there are no Lebanese janitors or gardeners there. The pay is probably the reason, although the surroundings are beautiful.

The green patches are few, however. Beyond those, it is dry as can be. The rains won’t come until November. It's nice to stay among the green trees, but my daughter's school starts tomorrow, and so I will be descending to hot, humid and overcast Beirut.
The Parasol Pines on the cliffs are green al year round.

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