Earthquakes and tarantulas – Lebanon’s unexpected extras

Last night after nine months in Beirut two unexpected things happened which freaked me out. I am used to worrying about the normal things: money, work deadlines, walking home by myself at night – but then up popped two things I had (perhaps foolishly) not anticipated.

Firstly at ten o’clock last night I was in a fourth floor flat in Gemmayzeh, babysitting and watching a DVD, when I felt the sofa rocking under me. The dog was some way away and couldn’t possibly have moved it and I was alone in the house. I got up and walked around it, trying to work out what had happened, then decided I must have imagined it. I sat back down and a minute later the same thing happened. I realised that the sofa couldn’t moving by itself – which meant that the building must be moving, which meant – earthquake!

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Strolling the streets of Patan

On our last day in Nepal Everitte and I decided to pay a visit to Patan, a city very close to Kathmandu with its own Durbar square, one of the Kathmandu Valley’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The city was originally built in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma Chakra, or Wheel of Righteousness, and is, if possible, even more full of beautiful old temples than Kathmandu. Continue reading

Kathmandu’s Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa

Our return to Kathmandu was once again very temple centred. We returned to the Indian Embassy to hand in our visa forms and passports and pick them back up again in the afternoon on Friday. In the meantime we filled our time with a visit to the ancient cit of Patan and a visit to Kathmandu’s two biggest, most important and most spectacular Buddhist temples, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath.

Swayambhunath is on a lovely wooded hill to the west of Kathmandu, around 20 minutes walk from Kathmandu. On the way we crossed the Bagmati River, which sadly is one of the most rubbish-filled, polluted stretches of water I’ve ever seen. Continue reading

Snow and Cedars

The cedar tree is the national emblem of Lebanon and is the centre-piece of the Lebanese flag. Cedar trees used to cover 70% of Lebanon, however nowadays due to excess deforestation they are a protected species and cover only around 7% of the country. Most of them are found in two protected groves, with some trees over 1000 years old.

We went to visit the biggest of these, the Chouf Cedar Reserve, which covers around 5% of Lebanon’s total land, back in January, to see the beautiful cedar trees in the snow.

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Inside the President’s House: Lebanon’s Ottoman Palace

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Just after Christmas Everitte and I took a day trip with my family to Beiteddine, an Ottoman palace which is now the summer residence of the President of the Republic of Lebanon (to give him his full and proper title!)

It is a beautiful old building, with the traditional Ottoman mosaics, Islamic decoration and carved wooden ceilings, doors and screens, as well as a beautiful courtyard with fountains and water-features.

The palace took 30 years to complete and was built between 1788 and 1818.

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Beirut Snapshots: baby versus dog, a burning car and the post office saga continues

Over the last week my life has suddenly got about three times as busy. I’ve gone from working for Everitte, helping to answer his emails and deal with commissions for his calligraphy, a job which clearly left me with far too much time on my hands – as evidenced by my taking an entire day to shoddily sew one giant pair of trousers out of two perfectly good, reasonably sized pairs:

And by my spending another whole day last month making my own Christmas decorations for our tiny Christmas tree: Continue reading

Breathtaking Baalbek: Wandering the Ruins of the Ancient World

Baalbek is one of the world’s largest and best preserved Roman sites, christened Heliopolis, or City of the Sun, by the ancient Greeks. The city itself is situated in the fertile Bekaa Valley almost exactly in between Beirut and Damascus, and is famous not only for its spectacular ruins, but also as the headquarters of Hezbollah.The site has been continuously inhabited for over 9000 years, with constant building and rebuilding under the Temple of Jupiter.

Rated one of the 10 best Roman sites outside of Rome, Baalbek is well worth a visit – or even two.

A few days before Christmas in the Bekaa Valley and the mountains are capped with snow

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