We just checked into a hostel in Beirut after spending the past couple of days exploring Lebanon’s natural beauty. The drive out of Beirut to the north and up into the mountains is absolutely gorgeous. The blue waters of the Mediterranean are stunning and near impossible to look away from. On our way up the highway we of course had to stop for ice cream, a bit different than ice cream in the states, but I am a fan!
Our next stop was someplace I was very excited to visit, the Khalil Gibran Museum. Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer. Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi. His most famous work, The Prophet, has been translated into 40 languages and at one point in time was selling over 5,000 copies per week worldwide. The book has also been adapted into a film featuring Selma Hayek and Liam Neeson, and is due out in the US later this year.
The museum houses many of Gibran’s paintings, as well as his belongings from his apartment in New York City where he passed away. The paintings showed human emotion unlike anything I had seen before, I was able to look at the paintings and truly feel what the person in the painting was feeling emotionally. The area around the Khalil Gibran museum is gorgeous as well, it sits on the side of a mountain, with fresh spring water running actually through the museum. Unfortunately I was not able to take any photos inside the museum, so you will have to take my word on how stunning the paintings are.
After our time at the museum we made our way to our hotel for the next couple of nights which was directly next to the Cedars of Lebanon. The view from our hotel was amazing, as we could look directly down into a valley, which often times filled with clouds below us. This area is known for skiing in the winter, however with it being the summer it meant we basically had the whole place to ourselves.
We enjoyed yet more Mezze cuisine at the lovely Hotel Alpine, followed by a night of dancing and fun. We listened to Arabic music and did Dabke dancing, a traditional dance which has different variations depending on which country you are visiting. It was so fun dancing with everyone, the dance has everyone joining hands and dancing in a steady rhythm. The dance starts slow, and gets faster and more intricate as the song dictates.
After a great night of sleep, we all got up early and had a big breakfast to begin our day exploring nature. Our hike this day took us to the Qannoubine Valley. Luckily we started at the top and worked our way down into the valley. This is a Christian area of the country and we saw many Crosses, and other religious items along our hike. We even stumbled upon a Hermitage site which was incredibly peaceful, and serene.
Once we made it down the mountain a bit further we found the restaurant where we would be having lunch. The restaurant sat on the side of the mountain and had a fantastic view of the valley and surrounding mountains. The spread here was amazing, we even had Kibbeh Nayyeh (raw beef, and lamb) with Araq, which is an alcoholic drink that is typically had with Kibbeh Nayyeh to help kill any unwanted bacteria in the raw meat. After our meal we danced with other guests at the restaurant as well as the staff. It is incredible how friendly people are in this country, the Lebanese people truly do know how to have a good time, and live their lives to the fullest. It has been said that the Lebanese live every day to the max, because they don’t know what will happen tomorrow. A philosophy that we in the States may not be quite as accustomed.
After lunch and dancing we made our way back to the bus and head to the Forest of the Cedars of God which was very close to our hotel. This is one of the last areas of heavy Lebanese Cedar forests in the country. The Lebanese Cedar is unique to Lebanon and is known across the world for its quality. The trees are stunning, with massive trunks, and cones that actually stretch upward over the leaves of the tree, unlike Cedars in other parts of the world. The branches of these trees can stretch for tens of meters, and it is quite stunning to see the thousand plus year old Cedars.
The walk through the Cedars was very peaceful and once we left we did a little shopping on the street outside. The area is full of souvenir shops, and all sorts of items made from the Cedars. The shop owners are very friendly, and are definitely looking to get any business they can. I grabbed a few items to take home, and I think the shop owner was expected me to bargain. This is common practice in Lebanon but not something I am used to when purchasing something from a store I suppose he was happy I did’t haggle him down on the price.
We went to a nice little restaurant nearby for dinner and then headed back to the hotel for a somewhat quiet night. We played charades back at the hotel and had a blast. It has been so fun meeting this amazing group of Lebanese Americans, it really has been an instant bond and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s time for me to get some sleep, more adventures are on the way here in Lebanon, talk to you again soon!