Try to capture the sun-soaked skin and those visionary sparkles of the sea, which exist only between blinks. Some places you discover, somehow stay with you long after you’ve left. Places that seem to have lost their notion of time, where life seems to march to a different rhythm, a much mellower one.
Located near the hot springs ruins, its entrance just after the old fanar (lighthouse) of Tyre, Al Jamal dwells. Al Jamal, meaning the camel, is a rocky beach at the southwestern tip of the peninsula where the ruins of an old Phoenician port can be seen with small wooden shack like restaurants that extend into the sea, mostly owned by locals of the area.
As you drive through a sandy parking lot and drive down a constricted road that leads to the rocky seashore, a couple of humble restaurants laze there outspreading their huts to the sea.
Jaafar Hayek owns one of my favorite restaurants there. Jaafar, a character not to be missed, oozing masculinity and a certain Mediterranean charm, has been in the business for the last 28 years. Having lived most of his life in Zanzibar he is now the proud owner of his restaurant in Al Jamal. When I asked him what’s the name of his restaurant so I can direct my friends there, he looked at me and simply said: “just tell them to ask for Jaafar!”
Jaafar doesn’t need a menu in his restaurant. When asked for it, a proud large man with a complexion that exudes his love of sun and beach, wearing nothing else other then his bathing suite, he strucks his chest with his robust hands saying “I am the menu, my name is Jaafar but they call me Jef. Ahla wo sahla (welcome)”
People who live by the sea live a laidback life, as if the passing of time is of no concern of theirs. This beautiful little area, a hidden gem, holds many stories of small family businesses and characters larger then life living in contemplation of the delightful clear waters of the Mediterranean sea. Restaurants honest about what they have and who they are, humble with a one of a kind Lebanese hospitality, awaken the nostalgia of a once much simpler Lebanon.
In this pristine water, just beneath these restaurants, there is a spot that seems like an ancient swimming pool carved in rock, 1m deep and some 30 x 20m in size. There are also roman columns lying dormant just beneath the surface of this sparkly water with sea turtles swimming peacefully amongst them looking for a shore they can call home. This life is there underneath ours within hands reach.
The sea nearby sways with the nostalgic and heartbreaking voice of Fayrouz as life goes on forever perpetual by the sea. The rolling waves of foam slap against the wooden polls with its water glistening bright from the sun shining high. In a sky as clear as crystal, reflecting on the waves, you can feel freedom in the air, fresh and clear as the sea.