25 April 2012

Byblos and Beyond

My first day in my Beirut office was Orthodox Easter Monday so at about mid day the people I was there to work with declared it a holiday and took me sight seeing! Our first stop was Byblos which is a charming (if touristy) port town on the Mediterranean.

 Hurrah for shopping!

 Old Marionite church

 Lovely old Lebanese style buildings

The port is also really charming. It used to be a pretty active fishing village but the Mediterranean is rather fished out these days. A lot of the boats now take on passengers for tours and such. There is a nearby beach and a resort as well for sun bathing and swimming. I had a great time wandering around with my colleagues; and have to admit that I fell into the tourist trap myself! I bought a fantastic turquoise caftan embroidered with gold thread and beads. I will wear it around the house every day now.

After we left Byblos they drove me up the mountain to Harissa which is a pilgrimage sight for Maronites. Unfortunately it was under reconstruction so I couldn't take any pictures of the actual church, but I did get a shot of the view from above and a picture of Our Lady.

After Our Lady of Lebanon we went to another, nearby church, St. Paul's Melkite Greek Catholic church. Melkite Greek Catholics?! I am a cradle Catholic and I think Lebanon has more Catholic sects (all in harmony with Rome, thank you) than I've ever heard of. In any case, St. Paul's was gorgeous-I just wish my pictures had turned out a little better.

 His Holiness, Pope John Paul II visited Beirut and St. Paul's in 1997. It was the first visit by a Roman pontiff to a Middle Eastern church since 1964. In honor of that visit, the artists of St. Paul included a portrait of His Holiness in the church.

I also got a chance one evening to visit 'downtown' Beirut.

I think one of the most amazing things to me about Lebanon was that the city does not have the infrastructure to manage 24/7 electricity (in the center of Beirut it goes out on average 3 hours a day-elsewhere it's worse) but despite that in the souks downtown in Beirut you can find every designer shop you can think of...and some you've never even heard of.

My brief taste of Lebanon was more than enough to entice me back. I had a fantastic time and would love to see more of this beautiful little country. And maybe eat some more really awesome food along the way!

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