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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Two Easters in Lebanon

One week back in Beirut and I’m struggling to get back into a routine now that I’m not in the office everyday. I’ve spent a lot of my time baby-sitting little Sam, celebrating his first ever easter by decorating the little tree on the balcony with easter decorations (Sam was far more interested in the packaging that the decorations) and dying eggs to make a colourful easter basket. Sam loved the dye, as he is going through a phase where he is obsessed with water, and very much enjoyed splashing the colours all over me, himself, the table, the floor, his high-chair and everything else in a three-metre radius.

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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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Beirut Snapshots: Valentine’s in a gay bar and the invisible man

I’ve had a rather exhausting but very fun week reviewing three plays in Arabic, followed by a lazy weekend which was spent not partying but doing rather mundane but necessary things. I spent yesterday cleaning the house, which in my absence has become a cess-pit, then baby-sitting last night and today cleaning all my clothes, which over the past couple of weeks have over-flowed the basket and made their way in a steady mass across the floor forming an impregnable fortress between bed and door.

Everitte went to the post office again on Friday and was once again served by Shireen. Having not seen Noor in a long time he inquired as to her whereabouts and was told that she had left. “She told me you upset her very much,” Shireen said to him. “But she wouldn’t tell me why.”

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Crossing half a country for lunch

Last weekend once again we decided to take advantage of the sun and head down south for the day. The restaurant we had discovered on a previous trip to Tyre with my family was so lovely, perched by a lighthouse and practically in the Mediterranean, that Alex, Renko, Everitte and I decided it was worth the 5 hours of travel time in rickety old service taxis to go there for an open air lunch.

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So many words, so little time…

This week for the first time I’ve got four articles in the paper, which is great, but has left me no time to write my blog, something I’d been trying very hard to do regularly.

The work for the paper has been amazing, I really love writing every day on topics I’ve chosen, after the years at university writing about topics chosen for me.

In the past few weeks I’ve covered five art exhibitions, with another one scheduled for tomorrow, as well as three concerts, a graphic novel and a web-documentary. I’ve met some very interesting people and so far have enjoyed every stage of the process, from the preparation to the interviews to the writing.

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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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