The Cedars & North Lebanon’s Mountains

I finally had enough time on my hand to visit one of my favorite places in Lebanon: the Cedar mountains. They are probably the most underrated locations in the country and are nowhere near as visited as they should be because, quite frankly, very few places in this country can rival them in sheer landscape beauty.

Using my iPhone 5’s panorama feature, I was able to capture what I believe are pretty decent shots of the drive up to the mountains, the town of Becharre with its snowy mountainous backdrop, the Cedar Mountains themselves and part of the Kadisha Valley known as Qozhaya on the way back.

These locations may be far from Beirut – about 130 km – but they’re worth every single minute spent driving and every dollar spent in gas. I think I’m lucky that I live nearby and only need about 30 minutes to get there.

The slopes are superior to those of Mzaar/Sectarian-Kfardebyan and while they are less taken care of, they’re much cheaper and you will be able to get your full money’s worth out of them. The people are a whole lot friendlier as well.

So while many Lebanese are overjoyed that some international publication (click here) has chosen Beirut as the #1 city destination of the region – as if that’s a very hard thing to pull off – I felt like I ought to highlight something in Lebanon that is so ahead any form of “best of” competition in this region that it’s #1 always.

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars - 4

The Mountains from the village of Qnat

 

 

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars 13

The view from Hadath el Jebbeh

North Lebanon Mountains Becharre Cedars

Becharre (on the right) with its mountains behind it

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars - 6

The drive up to the Cedar Mountains

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars - 7

Some of Lebanon’s Cedars – not the main forest, obviously

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars - 8

Panoramic view of part of the mountains

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars - 9

Part of the Cedar forest

North Lebanon Mountains Cedars Qozhaya

The drive to Qozhaya

 

North Lebanon Mountains Qozhaya Annoubin Kadisha

The view from St. Anthony of Qozhaya convent (on the left) – part of the Kadisha Valley



 

 

 

Lebanon’s January 2013 Storm In Pictures

Lebanon’s weather was all over the place this past week. The “Bride” storm (Or Georgette or Olga as some have called it – we sure can’t agree on a storm name as well) is ending and it was one of the biggest snowstorms to hit Lebanon in years. Torrential rain and snow, including some accumulations on the Lebanese coast, have all been documented. The joke for the first days of the storm went: Skiing and swimming at the same time are now much easier because the storm has brought the sea to your home. For the next few days, the storm brought the snow to your sea.

Many casualties have fallen to the storm, notably young infants of Syrian refugees who died of the freezing cold. Many Lebanese have had their houses completely ruined in the Beiruti neighborhood of Hay el Sellom due to the nearby river flooding.

I have reverted to the following Facebook page (here) unless otherwise specified in order to collect as many pictures as I can and include them here.

Don’t you just love how Lebanon looks after a decent blizzard? I sure do.

Achkout

Achkout

Achkout

Achkout

View of Beirut

View of Beirut

This is Batroun's beach

This is Batroun’s beach

My hometown Ebrine

My hometown Ebrine

Sawfar

Sawfar

Jounieh Bay

Jounieh Bay

Aito, in the North

Aito, in the North

Hrajel

Hrajel

Hasroun - Picture from the Daily Star

Hasroun – Picture from the Daily Star

Jounieh Highway

Jounieh Highway

Ehden

Ehden

Jounieh highway

Jounieh highway

Klei3at

Klei3at

Ein El Mraysseh - Picture from the Daily Star

Ein El Mraysseh – Picture from the Daily Star

This is a picture in the Jbeil caza

This is a picture in the Jbeil caza

Raachine -

Raachine –

Manara, Bekaa

Manara, Bekaa

Bteghrine, Metn

Bteghrine, Metn

Dhour el Choueir

Dhour el Choueir

Ajaltoun

Ajaltoun

Hay el Sellom - Picture by the Daily Star

Hay el Sellom – Picture by the Daily Star

Baalbak

Baalbak

 

A Visit To Bab El Tebbaneh

I recently visited an area of Tripoli that few want to think of, let alone set foot in: Bab el Tebbaneh. After my visit, I can see why. Even though the area is only a 25 min drive from home, it makes you feel like an outsider to your own country: nothing about you fits there. The people don’t want you to fit there. You don’t want to fit there.

The people of Bab el Tebbaneh thought I was a foreigner. I found it odd at first – we all share the same identification papers. But I later took it to my advantage. It’s much easier to pretend to be a gullible foreigner who has no idea what he’s doing than to try to reason with them using your native tongue. A foreigner can get away with more.

A few years back, when I used to visit the area’s vegetable market frequently, the people seemed to be much more at ease. They were poor back then as well and they were without prospects back then also. But they were hopeful. Little hope can be found in the faces of the people of Tebbaneh anymore. My visit to Bab el Tabbaneh exposed me to a section of our Lebanese society that is in constant paranoia – of that outsider walking among their shelled buildings, among their tarnished markets, violating their area.

We tried to delve deeper into Tebbaneh but faced resistance the likes of which I hadn’t seen in Lebanon before. We went up a flight of stairs that seemingly led nowhere only to have young men come out of nowhere to ask us what we’re doing there. Somehow they thought we were an “archeological team.” They let us through. Moments later they came back: “But there’s no archeology up this way.”

Bab el Tebbaneh is now a place where you are not allowed to take pictures and where you being out of place might warrant the Lebanese army to come hassle you as well. The people of Bab el Tebbaneh who were more than welcoming way back when look at every outsider suspiciously now. Their eyes will stalk you like a hawk whenever you move, tracing your every step, wondering what your plans are.

It is an area where the mosques are shelled, where little kids feel that those semi-demolished buildings are a point of pride and want you to go check them out. It’s a place where poverty is so entrenched in every fabric of that society that you have absolutely no idea how or where to start fixing.

“We are all poor people here,” a man came up to me and said, smiling, as I made my way through his street. “You won’t see anything but poverty.” I smiled back and moved on. There was really nothing I can do.

Where can one start? The politicians promise these people better lives every four years and end up doing nothing. They are untouchable. The religious men who sport the latest cars and equipment use these people’s poverty to their advantage in order to radicalize them. Factions use these people’s needs in order to carry on with their battles after handing them copious amounts of weapons. Most Lebanese hate the people of this area and the “image” they give their country and are more than willing to bash them in and out.

As we reached the point of saturation of what little we got access to of Bab el Tebbaneh and made our way out, as a man shouted at us not to take pictures anymore, another stopped us and pointed at a mosque whose walls were filled with bullet holes. He was exasperated by all the fighting. But he knew there was nothing he could do.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when I reached the newer parts of Tripoli. It’s hard to imagine how this poverty can be found at a stone’s throw away from the house of one of Lebanon’s richest men. Then you realize that all of Lebanon’s richest men feed off this poverty and help perpetuate it. It’s how they remain powerful.

The mosque and its bullet holes.

The mosque and its bullet holes.

The section we couldn't visit

The section we couldn’t visit

"Come see all the destroyed houses."

“Come see all the destroyed houses.”

"You can't take pictures here."

“You can’t take pictures here.”

People used to live here.

People used to live here.

Lille, France

I spent the month of August discovering the gorgeous city of Lille in Northern France. I went there for a clerkship at one of the city’s hospitals and I absolutely fell in love with its culture, its people and everything it had to offer. Lille is one of France’s biggest cities and yet it still has this rustic feel to it – especially in its older streets, aptly called Vieux Lille.

I made a lot of memories in that city. I won’t go down memory lane and enumerate them for you because I’m fairly certain you couldn’t care less. But I am thankful for getting the chance to go there and meet the people that I met and make those memories that I cherish now.

Xavier & Camille, our amazing French hosts and friends that made us feel at home – literally – for the entire month that we spent there, this is for you. Thank you for everything.

Here are some of the many pictures that I took of the beautiful city of Lille. I’m not a professional so these are not meant to be impeccable – but I do hope my love for the city comes across in them.

Palais des Beaux Arts

Palais des Beaux Arts

Another old street in the city

Another old street in the city

A parc bench in the city

A parc bench in the city

Rue de Bethune

Rue de Bethune

The city's opera house

The city’s opera house

Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille

The view from our apartment

The view from our apartment

A statue next to Palais des Beaux Arts

A statue next to Palais des Beaux Arts

A war monument

A war monument

One of the city's cathedrals

One of the city’s cathedrals

Lille France Street

Welch - one of the city's specialities

Welch – one of the city’s specialities

Lille France Restaurant Comptoir 44

Inside one of Lille's cathedrals

Inside one of Lille’s cathedrals

A mural found in one of Lille's subway and train stations: Lille Europe

A mural found in one of Lille’s subway and train stations: Lille Europe

One of the specialties of the North

One of the specialties of the North

Beer, another specialty

Beer, another specialty

Another street in the old parts of the city

Another street in the old parts of the city

One of the streets of Vieux Lile

One of the streets of Vieux Lile

The opera house

The opera house

Gargoyles

Gargoyles

The city's heart - place du General De Gaulle also known as Grand Place

The city’s heart – place du General De Gaulle also known as Grand Place

Lille doesn't like Sarkozy

Lille doesn’t like Sarkozy

Old Street Lille vieux Lille France

Another street in old Lille

These pictures were taken using a Nikon D5100 and edited using my iPhone 5’s Camera+ app.

2012’s Most Powerful Pictures

Buzz Feed has recently published a set of 45 pictures that they’ve called 2012’s Most Powerful Pictures. And the least that can be said about these pictures is that they’re chilling. Some of them are haunting, others will bring tears to your eyes. And they are all supremely striking.

Woman suicide Greece

A Greek woman’s suicide attempt as she’s told she would be laid off work

Bangladesh Riot Beating woman with baton

A woman from Bangladesh defies the police

Palestinian girl punching Israeli soldier

A little Palestinian girl tries to punch an Israeli soldier

Syrian Father saving daughter hospital Aleppo

A Syrian father trying to save his daughter’s life after his city, Aleppo, was shelled by regime forces.

Father begging Bangladesh soldier Myanmar

A father from Myanmar begs a border control officer from Bangladesh not to deport his family back to Myanmar

An American woman mourns her son on Memorial Day

An American woman mourns her son on Memorial Day

Check out the rest of the brilliant pictures here.