November 16, 2014

Road Trippin' Up North Part I

Qalamoun Main Street; rain is looming in the distance
Had to go up north this morning to buy some olive oil.
Why not go across the supermarket and buy a bottle, you wonder? Only suckers by olive oil by the liter. Here in Lebanon, we buy our olive oil buy the ‘tankeh’, which is slang for 20 liters. Actually, we buy more than just 20 liters; I think we’re going through some 60 liters a year if not more. I’ve been living here like forever, and have grown to not only like olives and olive oil, but to even develop a preference for the color and type of oil. Olive oil is a bit like wine for the ‘connoisseurs’, they can taste the region it comes from (who knows even the year?). I like my olive oil a little spicy.  Sometimes I buy it straight from the press up in Douma, but that’s quite expensive, especially of you go through a liter a week, if not more.
This old house had some fancy balcony corbels with painted dragons. Wonder who thought of that? The balconies are missing though.

Another option is to buy it from a wholesale dealer. It is key to buy the very first oil of the season, which is about now. Or at least, that is what I have been told. Actually, we were a little too early; our regular wholesale dealer up north didn’t have the harvest of 2014 in yet, he’d have it by next Saturday. We tried some other places, but it was pretty much the same story: the olive harvest was not in yet, but they were working on it.

Oranges hanging right over the garden wall
What you do with all that oil? I am not sure. You bake in it, you add it to the salads, you eat it for breakfast with Labneh (cottage cheese) and zaatar (thyme with sesame seeds), I sometimes eat it just with toast, and the old aunt in the house rubs it on just about any ailment she can think of. And she's got many.
Many Lebanese still have a connection with the ancestral village, and they get it from the family’s own olive orchard. The benefits of olive oil are quite substantial, it seems. ‘Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat in the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a low death rate from cardiovascular diseases compared to other parts of the world’ the article claims. Of course, something else will kill you in this place.

Port of Qalamoun
Fixing the nets
Anyway, no olive oil yet, but since we were there anyway, we drove by the port of Qalamoun, and decided to look around a bit.  It’s a small town on the old coast road to Tripoli. Not much happening there these days, but it was already knows in Greek time as ‘Kalamos’ and during the Crusader time, it was called ‘Calmont’, and that’s all I can tell you about that. These days it is a mainly sunni enclave. But what do you know, a fellow blogger and volleyball enthusiast from New Zealand apparently spent some time in Qalamoun: the Internet is an amazing invention. 
Abandoned material used when building the port
The current port is quite new, but it’s pretty amazing to see how quickly they’ve managed to turn it into a dump. A young pelican was standing near an army post, no idea how it got there, but it didn’t seem very scared of people, or dogs, for that matter.  
Nets were stacked everywhere, but little fishing activity; a big storm was on the horizon, and the fishermen stayed on shore.  I’ve written before about the fate of the Lebanese fishing industry, so I won’t repeat myself. It is a pretty bleak existence.

Pelican versus dog. Both seemed not very interested in one another.
On the way home, we stopped in a number of interesting places. More about those later this week. I am working so hard that I cannot even blog anymore regularly; I need to cut up and spread my adventure into 'adventures'. Talking bout a dog life. Time for retirement, so I can spent more time hanging around in this country, methinks.

This man had an impressive beard; it reminded me of the article about hipsters in Beirut who were mistakes for Jihadists

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