Beirut, once a model Levantine Mediterranean city, is quickly losing its traditional character to modernization. Its Ottoman-style mansions with lush interior gardens and triple-arched windows, and its French colonial buildings are increasingly being bulldozed to make room for modern high-rises. Fifteen years of a destructive Civil War, in addition to an Israeli invasion, caused extensive damage to the city, but a postwar development and reconstruction spree is turning out to be more detrimental.
Life persists, among a field of death, shallow, bleeding but still with breath. A flag once soaring high, now bathed in red still lies standing, among the fallen dream. The skies are smoke, thick and hot like an inferno of battle and shells. The earth is painted in shades of brown but where splashes of red taint the ground. While innocence dies, the flag endures to war’s overtures.
As you drive in a state of beauty, watching a world pass through your tinted windows, Jezzine unfolds in front of you. Surrounded by mountain peaks and pine forests, Jezzine, the most picturesque town in Southern Lebanon, is famed for its glorious waterfalls that cascade down from a height of 40 meters. The town rises on the Tumat Niha hills amidst lush pine forests, sweeping vineyards, and orchards, overlooking the beautiful Bkassine forest beneath it.
There is something about festivities that render the air around our household full of joy mixing with the aromas of butter, sugar, rose water and nuts, as the smell dissipates from the kitchen into the rest of the house. Religious traditions and love of family become the essence of the month of March. Ma’amoul are the holiday cookie par excellence in this part of the world; every family has the designated maamoul maker and in mine we luckily have my mother who would make them and decorate them by hand. These light golden crumbly sweets are very popular in the Middle East, and although they are particularly associated with festivals, it is not uncommon to find ma’amoul around the house at other times as well.
The Cippi of Melqart are a pair of ornamental pillars with engravings found by the Knights of St. John on the Island of Malta in the village of Marsaxlloc, they are considered to be from the 2nd century BCE. It is in this village that the Phoenicians reputedly landed in the 9th CE BC and set up trading posts. In the temple of Tas-Silg, the Cippi were unearthed, one cippus being gifted to Louis XVI by the grand master of the knights of St. John in 1782. This cippus now sits in the Louvre and the other in the National museum of archaeology in Valetta.
There is something about old glamour that lingers in the air of Al bustan hotel like an old whiff of Lebanon that has almost disappeared. Built on the top of Beit Mery hill, overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea, the Hotel Al Bustan has been a city landmark since opening in 1967. A favorite among discerning travellers, this luxury property combines breathtaking views a quiet location away from the bustle of the city.
In Lebanon there is a heritage so rich in history and an influence that pervades through the ancient Mediterranean basin. The mysterious nature of this time makes myth and legend the ancient’s form’s history. The mythological assimilation of ancient Gods and Goddesses creates a weave compounded by time, mystery and interpretation. In this way a beginning can be found in a seed or a stone and the worship of the mythological Astarte, the queen of heaven and her son, Baal.
Za’atar is a blend with deep historical and emotional roots. The smell is strong but not hot, rich but sharp, lemony and a little earthy. Za’atar has an amazing and unique flavor that is aromatic, and tangy at the same time. Eaten in the Middle East for centuries, Za’atar has a fascinating history. The word refers both to the alluring spice mixture that you eat at home, and to the wild oregano. It’s been part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years.
This day is different from the other 365 days because it is made to celebrate the person who brought us into this world. We have a hundred different memories of our mothers, a few more prominent than the rest, but they’re all funny, warm, and loving. My mother is a life giver, a home, a friend, a gift with no ribbons, and a star with no award.
Things we never thought
Thoughts we never think
Things we put behind
Things we never find
Things we never forget
Never wondering why
Times that we forget
And things we burry behind
Things that we miss
Are easily found
Things we never hide are our
Heritage, Roots, and Pride
Youmna Medlej is a photojournalist born in 1956. She studied photography in France and started making reportages on geographic and historical landmarks upon her return to Lebanon, as a way for Lebanese to rediscover their country after the war. But it was during her participation in Solidere’s excavations in the early 1990s that she discovered and developed her passion for heritage and archeology. At the time, the market was virtually devoid of heritage-oriented material. She thus resolved to introduce the young and old readers to the most prominent cultural and historic icons of their country.