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!

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Image

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.

Continue reading

20 Reasons Why I Love Beirut… And You Should Too

Beirut is a city of contradictions. It’s 1000 other places and things and at the same time it’s utterly unique.

It’s Roman ruins…

…and it’s Dunkin Donuts. Continue reading

Healing Images – Beirut’s Graffiti

A couple of people expressed interest in seeing more of Beirut’s graffiti. In my previous post on Beirut’s Street Art I posted pictures of the art around Hamra and Gemmayzeh, two central, residential districts of Beirut. In the process of researching my article on graffiti in Beirut for Hibr online I subsequently made a trip to Karantina, one of Beirut’s industrial areas out by the port, in order to photograph the graffiti art there, which is a lot bigger and more impressive, as artists go there to bomb the ugly concrete walls along the main road in and out of Beirut so that people see their work on their boring commutes to and from work from Northern Lebanon.

A skeleton road-sweeper surrounded by ravens on the side of a bullet-ridden building

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Living life à la Shakespeare and an offer of marriage

I start an internship with Lebanon’s biggest English language paper, The Daily Star, on Monday. My nervousness is battling my excitement at the moment and I’m not sure which is winning. I have been doing some freelance writing and translation since I’ve moved to Lebanon, but this will be my first time in a news office – first time in an office at all for that matter! Any tips on how to make a good impression would be very welcome – while I’m not expecting a short internship to lead to a job offer it can’t hurt to give it my best shot…

Yesterday I spent the morning interviewing a graffiti artist for my graffiti article (more on that soon) and then went to Karantina, a big industrial area of Beirut near the docks, to photography some of the graffiti in a less residential area – lots of wall space and factories plus less people milling around at night equals bigger, bolder and more imaginative graffiti. On the way back I took a servees and met a fascinating man, in some ways the epitome of Lebanon’s two sides: modern, liberal and forward-thinking, while at the same time still very traditional and conservative about certain issues. Continue reading