It was hard to go back to work after being away for more than two weeks but so far the vacation memories are all still fresh and lingering in my mind. I wanted to share some photos and details about our trip. We arrived in Beirut the day after Christmas and the sun came out. Miraculously we had beautiful weather for our entire trip (I just love when that happens).
On our first full official day we had a family reunion lunch scheduled in a mountain village that looks down over Beirut and the Mediterranean. We drove narrow, curvy roads at an uphill climb to arrive at a traditional Lebanese restaurant where the family had gathered. We spent an afternoon feasting on mezza followed by shawarma and shistaouk with pita fresh from the oven. Of course this is followed by a round of sweets, fruits, then by Arabic coffee flavored with cardamon. You will notice that for some reason the men always congregate, as do the women. Funny but at every gathering this is noticed and someone will make a comment about the sexes being divided into two groups but no one seems to really care.
After a fine afternoon of feasting together we all gathered outside for a family photo.
Our family is a bit like a mini United Nations. Besides the Lebanese delegation, the family is composed of members from the U.K., U.S., France, Brazil and other Eastern European countries. Along with the many nationalities brings a representation of religions - from Islam to Catholicism to Judaism - we are an interesting group. There were lots more family visits and time spent together but we also had time to do plenty of sightseeing. It is the sightseeing that I will be sharing with you over the next few posts.
Our first stop was visiting Lebanon's National Shrine, Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. Harissa is a Holy site and it has one of the most amazing views looking out over the Mediterranean coast. We were there on a Sunday afternoon and there were services, pilgrims and tourists from so many countries. It was really interesting to listen to the various languages of the various visitors. Lebanese typically speak a combination of Arabic, French and English. I mean it when I say they speak a combination. It is not uncommon to hear words from all three languages used within a single sentence.
One of the things I saw was the Christmas tree right in front of the Rafik Hariri Mosque in Downtown Beirut (more about the mosque in another post). In Lebanon one thing you will see regularly are mosques next to Christian churches. In the newly developed downtown you will see the mosque, Orthodox and Catholic church and the synagogue under renovations, all beside one another. This is one sight that makes me believe that peace will eventually be restored and maintained in Lebanon.
More places tomorrow. . . .