The Old Coastal Road to Beirut

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.

An image of a parcel of the old road, the sea, a taxi, and Stephanie Watt.

Along the old coastal road from Tripoli to Beirut. Photo by: Stephanie Watt.

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.

A photo of the wall of a Byzantine church; in the stone wall are missing stones whose absence forms a cross. Lights pours into the cross into the dark cave of a church. Photo taken by Stephanie Watt in Anfeh, Lebanon.

A 12th-century Byzantine church. Photo by: Stephanie Watt.

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.

A view of the sea and Chekka's cement factories in Lebanon. The water glimmers from the sun's reflection.

Chekka’s cement factories in the background. Photo by: Sam.

A photograph of the interior of an Orthodox church in Anfeh, Lebanon. The light is orange-yellow, a red carpet lines the centre of the church, and a simple red and white stone frames the altar.

A calm ambiance in Batroun

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.

A photo of monuments at the ancient city of Jbeil, in Lebanon.

Jbeil’s archealogical city is some 7,000 years old. Photo by: Stephanie Watt.

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