I spent six days in Lebanon last week, ringing in the New Year and visiting family I hadn't seen in twelve years. It was fast and fun, with less time to sketch than I had hoped. Lebanon is a beautiful country with dramatic green hills that gently slope into the Mediterranean, and giant snowy mountains that loom in the distance. It is possible to go skiing in the morning and swimming in the sea in the afternoon, provided of course that the traffic flow is on your side. Traffic can be insane in this little country, roads seldom have lanes and driving seems to be a sort of free-for-all. I loved all the tiny bumpy roads that curve up and down the hills. There was always something to see around the corner.
Like Turkey, Lebanon is a country of contrasts— women in headscarves walk past women in tube tops and miniskirts, modern blocky apartment buildings tower over ancient stone houses. French, English and Arabic is heard and read on the streets— almost every sign is in either one or all three languages. There is so much history in Lebanon with the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the French, Muslims, Christians and of course, the war. Everyone has their own personal story of survival, of trying to live as close to their normal life as possible, with rocket fire outside. When I first visited twelve years ago, there were more bullet ridden buildings by the airport than there are now. New apartment buildings, malls and shops (and of course, the inevitable Starbucks) have taken their place.
I had a wonderful time, there was always something to do and somewhere to go— drinks at a café, driving by the mountains, dancing at a club, shopping and of course, three hour long delicious lunches. There is nothing like a Lebanese mezze. Dish upon dish of cheeses, salads, hummus, moutabal, kibbeh, meat filled pastries, kebabs, fruit and soft warm Lebanese bread. There is so much more to eat and see, I feel like I've scratched the surface of the surface. The next trip will be a longer one, with more time to explore and sketch. And eat.
Taken at Harissa.
The Jeita grottos.
Taken in Jbail.