Thursday, December 6, 2007

The beauty of Lebanon

With all the political ugliness of, oh, the last three years, it is easy to forget how beautiful Lebanon actually is. Last weekend, I took a drive across the country, roughly going north on the highway, then up to Qartaba. From there, I continued to Ouyouni Al Siman and via Farayah, I went back to Beirut. As always, it was a mesmerizing experience.

Most Lebanese, including Brigitte, prefer loud noise above silence. So off she went to the German Christmas Bazaar which apparently was crazy busy. Me, I took the car and went for the silence. Looking for a place that the Bible so aptly describes as “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was barren, with no form of life”. While driving from Qartaba into the Bekaa valley, my first reaction always is “ hrm, seems like God has forgotten a few spots here and there:-)”.

Photo 1: "God has missed a few spots while he made Lebanon"

The road takes you through a landscape one expects on the moon: lots of rocks and hardly any vegetation anymore. You feel like you’re sitting on top of the world and there’s absolutely no one else mad enough to drive along the same road. In other words: simply perfect!

Everywhere you look, you see…well…vast stretches of emptiness. It makes you feel very small, almost humble, and as such it should be a standard prescription for anyone feeling stressed out by the ever-increasing chaos of the country. Even with the increased fuel prices, it’s still a lot cheaper than Xanax. Pity the Lebanese who have never been here.

Photo 2: Endless roads ahead...perfect!

At the crossing of Ouyouni Al Siman, the soldier at the checkpoint was inspecting an oncoming car in much detail, so I already got all the papers ready. Imagine my disappointment when he simply nodded me through while saying "tfaddel, estaaz" ("you can continue, sir"). It happens every time: ever since I came to Lebanon, they never once asked me for my papers. Either I must look really reliable or they don’t want to bother with Westerners. I hope the first, but fear the latter.

Photo 3: Far away, some snowy mountain tops...

Going up from Ouyouni Al Siman towards Farayah, the road was barely passable: already plenty of snow has fallen and with the precipitation of today, the mountain pass surely will be closed. The virgin snow on both sides of the road and sometimes partly on the road gave the trip an almost mystical quality: here I was driving around while somewhere down in Beirut, politicians were anxiously fumbling around like kids around a birthday cake. How irrelevant!

Photo4: Our CR-V in the Lebanese snow. Honda should pay me!

Upon arriving back home, Brigitte asked me how the drive was. “Completely uneventful”, I answered, and that was just how it should be.


Harald Doornbos said...

Great story Riemer...reads almost like a Carmiggelt 'Kronkel', thanks.