Tomorrow I will be visiting family in Lebanon. I thought I’d look forward to this trip by revisiting the last trip with an excerpt of a piece I’m working on …
I love the coastal road from Tripoli to Beirut. We take it as often as we can during our second trip to Lebanon. Every ten kilometres or so, welcome signs and road humps introduce new villages. Near one or another of the signs, we stop to pump gas, amble, and photograph. On the “new” road to Beirut, the one we had taken from the airport on our first trip, we only stop at military checkpoints. We nod at the young soldiers who wave us by. At least, I’m told, they’re not the Syrian army. The red-and-white guard booths, painted curbs, piles of sand bags, and zigzag circuit remind me of The Zealous Caddy, a mini-putt that doesn’t exist.
In Al Qalamoun, an elderly woman and man sell olive oil and rose water in a dusty shop. Their bodies carry decades of work. They offer us lemonade. After a few sips, Sam points to the lemonade with his nose and shakes his head. Tap water is off limits. I leave the shop with the half-full plastic cup.
In Enfeh, we visit a millennial church. A wooden structure supports the roof, and Greek Orthodox icons hang on the walls. From the nose-shaped peninsula for which the town is named, we photograph abandoned salt marshes.
Somewhere between villages, we turn out heads to watch a bit longer the women in lawn chairs faintly paying attention to the children circling them. We drive through Chekka and imagine workers toiling in the cement factories. We find Batroun’s churches unlocked and sit in awe at their simplicity and quietude. Each of them is more beautiful than the last.
In Jbeil, we read aloud the names of the private beaches and pastel-coloured resorts we’ll never visit. We run through the grasses and flowers growing through the Phoenician, Roman, and Crusader ruins by the sea.