We were able to visit so many incredible places while we were visiting Lebanon. I think it was part of our family’s plan to make us fall in love with Lebanon, so that we’d be sure to come back and visit. Little did they know we’d travel anywhere to see them again! Lebanon is an absolutely gorgeous country, filled with the most hospitable people, who happen to be the craziest drivers.
I will not be touching on the politics too much, as that’s not my forte. I do think it’s very unfortunate that Lebanon is smack in the middle of so many warring countries that they can’t seem to get ahead before problems arise again. People ask me all the time if I was ever afraid before or during our trip, and I can honestly answer “not for a moment”. I think this is due in large part to the fact that our family never expressed any worries, and they also guided away from any areas of “unrest”. Yes, we could hear the Israelis “training” from our home, and we happened to be in Beirut the morning two rockets landed in the Beirut area, but I was still not scared. This is their life; it’s their norm that they never know if a rocket could land on their head on the way to the market to buy vegetables. I accepted this much in the same way we acknowledge everyday in America that we could get hit by a car crossing the street. That being said, I wish this wasn’t the case, and I pray for the day that there can be peace in the Middle East.
Now, get prepared for some beauty! We started out visiting the Jeita grotto just north of Beirut. The caves are full of the most beautiful limestone stalactites and stalagmites. We couldn’t take any pictures inside, but you can see some on their website; absolutely breathtaking. We rode trams up to the entrance of the cave.
Next we visited Byblos; the city sits right on the water and is filled with incredible history. We toured the castle at Byblos, which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century. The best part of touring places in Lebanon is that they’re generally not so big on the rules, so we could just climb all over the ruins.
The limestone rocks were enormous and beautiful.
Sunday we went downtown for liturgy and walked around a bit in search of some kanafe for breakfast.
On the way to the museum we stopped to see the Rawshe Rock on the coast. Apparently it’s a good place for boating or suicide. The Beirut National Museum was pretty incredible. It was filled with Phoenician, Roman, and Lebanese artifacts. It always blows my mind how old things are in other parts of the world. They have so many sarcophagi sitting around that they have a few propped outside the front door to the museum.
Loved our time in Beirut. The city was fast-paced, and rather hodge-podge, but it was nice to see the contrast between city and village.
Next adventure was Marjayoun, where our family lives.
The city is much slower-paced, still with crazy drivers, and still rather disorganized.
We went on a small road trip to check out the Israeli border.
You can see his face on every corner. Also, UN and Lebanese soldiers are constantly patrolling.
A small park and garden built right next to the fence.
Loved this shot that shows the city where ML’s dad is from, and the city where ML’s mother’s family is from. Also, every city is spelled phonetically a million different ways.
We visited the Qaalat al-Shaqif Castle near Marjaayoun on another day trip. They are working on restoring the castle, but didn’t mind if we tromped all over the place. This was another castle built by the Crusaders during the 11th century.
The views from the castle were down into the valley; a lovely sunny day.
From there we headed on to the city of Tyre. This city also sits right on the coast and has been an influential city for many centuries. Again, there were more sarcophagi then they knew what to do with. Rockstar Bro and I swear we saw human bones still inside, although most of them were robbed over time.
Pretty incredible to think that Jesus walked these same streets.
These were the stadium seating for chariot races, and also stalls for the marketplace:
Again, we could meander about as we pleased.
We had fresh fish for lunch and walked along the harbor.
We even had time to shop in the souk for a bit.
So glad we had a chance to visit this city, as the next day there were riots/parades and we would have missed our chance.
After our other cousin arrived, we took another weekend trip up to the Beirut area, and stopped to see Beiteddinen Palace on the way up. This is a magnificent building that was built in the 1700′s as and administrative building. The gardens are gorgeous and they have many beautiful greek mosaics.
We also visited Moussa castlewhile we were there, and saw all the historical artifacts and funny little character exhibits inside.
One of my favorite places we visited was Bsharri, where the original cedars of Lebanon are kept in a beautiful preserve. We hiked the trails and could have spent hours admiring the trees. With the snow-capped mountains in the distance it was one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever been.
Bsharri is also the home of Khalil Gibran, we drove by his home, but it was closed for Sunday. On our way down the sun was setting and the views seemed other-wordly. Because we were at about 5,000 feet elevation we were above the clouds as we drove back down the mountainside.
And the last place I wanted to show you was the the Marjaayoun Hospital. I work at a hospital here in the US, and it was fascinating to see the difference in the medical facility, albeit this one is in a small village. I would have loved to tour inside.
I promise I’m only sharing the best pictures! Check back soon for some photos featuring Lebanese cuisine, mostly by Auntie!