Music, silly faces, balloons, water spurting here and there, and performers juggling around in glittery outfits, take action amongst a sea of laughter. “Come watch the show,” she shouts from deep within. For a short while, the children on the Greek Island of Lesbos are transported. Overcome with joy, a simple laugh that they haven’t experienced for weeks, had painted itself on their little innocent faces. It’s a very beautiful thing to see, to see children become children again and bringing a moment of relief to anxious parents. These are not the only faces that Sabine Choucair has seen, and I am guessing not the last ones too.
Origanum Libanoticum or Hopflower oregano is native to the mountains of Lebanon. This species of oregano is ornamental. It has attractive flowers and foliage and is not used for culinary purposes. It’s exceptionally sun loving. They have tiny pink or purple florets peeking out of prominent papery bracts that cascade over rocks in the wild. Their Flowers bloom summer to fall from August to October. The flowers elongate as the summer progresses, eventually drying to a papery brown by summer’s end. Loved by bees, they are found in the very North and South of Lebanon (Quammouha, Qoubaiyat, Bcharrem…).
Hamra Street runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast. It is one of the main streets of Beirut. Due to the numerous sidewalk cafes and theaters that used to be around it, Hamra used to be the center of intellectual activity in Beirut during the 1960s and 1970s. It remains one of the last authentic bastions of liberalism and tolerance in the Middle East and the only cosmopolitan street in all of Lebanon. It’s the one place where sectarian, religious, and political differences don’t matter much for the people who live there. Streets have a life of their own, a life that they claim. They don’t just document the walk of history, the sound of wars and victories; they also go a long way to establish the culture of a city.
To2borne, meaning may you bury me, is by far the funniest and the most Lebanese of expressions. Try explaining it to a non-speaking Arabic friend and you’ll understand how completely absurd it is. It’s a word of endearment from one loving person to another. Parents when talking to their children or about them, grandparents, and family members, most commonly use it. It is said to a loved one meaning you wish to die before them, thus them burying you so you never have to live a day without them.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of every day life and the youngsters’ busy nightlife in Gemayzeh, lies a small shop, a very small Dekeneh of 3m x 4m. Fahed Bou Dagher owns a small grocery shop located just before Joe Penas on Boutros Dagher Street. He sells chocolates, biscuits, chips, soft drinks, nuts, a little bit of alcohol, cigarettes, and some other random things like Hummus cans, Picon cheese, and ice cream.
Marjeyoun’s name (meaning meadow of springs) comes from the 54 springs in and around town. It stands majestically at a hill facing Jabal El Sheikh to the East, the old Crusader Castle (Sh’ief Arnoun) above the Litani River and overlooking Jabal Amel to the West, The Rihan, Niha and the Lebanon Mountain Range to the North and the fertile plains of Sahil Marjeyoun between the Galilee finger and plains immediately underneath the Golan Heights.
Driving up and down the mountains, you can see it hanging above in the mist, pure and gentle still waiting to be kissed. A village all forgotten, somehow time had missed it yet its people revive it with tender care and loving hearts. This village protected by the trees that embrace it among the scattered little old houses with red roofs like little rubies on the land. As we drove to it, I pulled on to the shoulder and tried to see as best I could this simple town that had not aged. It was perfect, untouched, special, a village bathed in grace. Maybe it was just a trick of light and sun manufactured through the haze. The village may be magic. It may be something in between. In truth all I can tell you is what I saw through my heart and my eyes.
Behind every passionate story, there is a protagonist who’s the avid champion of its idea. Born and raised in Batroun, Jamil Haddad is a sun kissed 32 year old adventurer at heart. He started brewing beer at home at the age of 22, mixing, trying different tastes and flavors, and inviting his friends over for tasting. When he decided to follow his passion, he travelled over four years around Europe and stayed in London learning the ropes of brewing. In the summer of 2013 he quit his job to focus on founding the brewery and a year later, in June, he started to sell the first bottles of Colonel. Everything about Colonel beer has been thought of, the man dressed in army clothes wearing a pirate hat on the bottle is an ode to the stretch of land where he surfs with his friends, which is located next to Colonel Bitar’s chalet by the sea in Batroun.
In the heart of a beautiful village in the north of Lebanon resides a 19th century Lebanese house that has just been turned into a bed and breakfast. As you drive by the old village center of Douma with its beautiful old buildings and picturesque views of the sea, perched on a hill just a top the village center resides this beautiful old house with yellow and burgundy shutters
Twin suicide attacks in Borj al Brajne claimed the lives of 44 people and injured more than 200, but in the aftermath of the tragedy one man has been credited with helping to save the lives of hundreds after he lost his own life tackling one of the bombers who was preparing to blow themselves up in the crowd. As crowds began to gather outside the mosque targeted by a suicide bomber, Adel Termos, a 32-year-old car mechanic and father of two, spotted a second bomber approaching and threw himself at him. The intervention forced the bomber to detonate his suicide vest and thus saving hundreds of lives. Termos, however, died in the blast.
The sea to the left, the open sky above, and the exposed land ahead of us, we arrive to what is by far my favorite checkpoint in Lebanon. Just before you arrive to Batroun, stands a small checkpoint by the sea. Settled there is always a soldier dressed in his green army uniform. As we slow down and reach him, I open the window to the car and both my eldest son and I are waiting in anticipation to say the 2 words that not only are quintessentially Lebanese, but carry so much love in them. As we stand to a halt, looking at him waiting for his nod of the head signaling us to carry on, we look at him and say “marhaba watan” (hello country).