sábado, 24 de diciembre de 2011

The Cedars of Lebanon

One of the good things about having family visiting is that I have to do all the sight seeing I usually don't take the time to do. I recently had my sister-in-law over and we decided to take her to what I consider the "heart" of Lebanon: the Cedars.

To me, going to the Cedars is like going on a pilgrimage. There is something very special about the drive up, leaving the craziness of Beirut behind and seeing the change in climate as I drive up and up.

We passed the beautiful town of Bcharre, with incredible rock constructions and tall towers. The view from up there is breathtaking.

We soon got to the Cedars. I had been there in May this year, and I was surprised to find a completely different sight this time. There was snow! And it was pretty cold I must say. But the snow made the sight even more majestic.

We walked around the Cedars in silence for a while. It is very solemn, being in the presence of these giants. They have witnessed so much. And they still grow tall and strong, some as high as 35 metres (115ft)!

This area is very much protected, as there are unfortnately not a lot of Cedars left. However, the Lebanese have made this tree their symbol. And it is a mighty one. These trees can withstand time, war and inclement weather. They grow strong and are incredibly generous with their shade and their beauty. They are resilient, a trait that all Lebanese will tell you about when talking proudly about their people.

I found this biblical quote that I think captures the spirit perfectly: "The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon" (Psalm 92:12)

It is true that the Lebanese are incredibly resourceful, entrepreneurial and resilient. It is true that in the face of all the horrors they have witnessed, many would have gotten lost in despair and given up. And to me it is almost poetic they have decided to make this tree a representation of who they are. When I am among these giants, I cannot help but feeling how transient and fragile my life is. How precious it is and how easily it can be destroyed.  The Cedars of Lebanon are witnesses of it all. They have seen many like me, walk around, thinking about little sorrows and little worries. Problems that seems so real and that in 25 years will be completely forgotten. But they will be there. Immobile, grand and impartial.


Let's hope the Lebanese are wise enough to preserve these treasures for generations to come.

PS: Even U2 wrote a song about them. Check it out!

viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2011

Running in Beirut

This blog post is dedicated to my friend CR, an awesome Marathon runner and to DL, who came all the way to Beirut to run the last 7kms with us.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a marathon. Yes, you heard right. I trained for a freaking 42.195kms race. I didn't go fast, but I finished it!

There are so many things that I would like to write about those 5 hours and 45 minutes. It can seem like a very long time. But the Beirut Marathon Association did a very good job at organizing it and the experience was overall very positive.

I went there with my friends (who are all experts runners by the way!) and my husband bright and early at 6 am to Biel, the area where the Marathon was starting and ran up till 12:45pm, till the finish line in Martyr's Square.

Some very unusual things happened that day:

1) Amazingly enough, the Marathon started at 7:00 am sharp!
2) Hamra street was empty. For those of you who go to Hamra often, you know that this is a miracle

3) All Lebanese came together to run all throughout Beirut

It is this last point that I want to stress. A few weeks before the Marathon, the organizers hung promotional posters all over town, with catchy slogans related to why people run (and tied sometimes to advertisements). What really caught my eye was this poster that said, "I run for diversity".

I think the Marathon was true to this slogan. And one of the rare occasions when you would see people from all groups of society, Achrafieh ladies next to veiled runners, old and young, foreigners and Lebanese, men and women, all running together. It was a beautiful experience.
I had the chance to run in some of the neighborhoods considered "dangerous" by people from my side of town, to realize that nothing was really different from the other side really (besides the house of worship of course)...

Yesterday a friend told me that the Beirut Marathon is one of the hardest in the world because it is very lonely. Indeed, there aren't many people cheering on the sidelines, because no one really stops to see you (besides your very kind friends who generously spend their Sunday passing you water bottles). So it gets boring and you need to self motivate a lot (thankfully my hubbie was by my side all the time!) Also, there were some drivers who, believe it or not, defiantly drive on the closed roads, which makes the experience annoying at times and infuriating at others! 

But it can't get better than running on the Corniche, with the sun on your face, and the breeze from the sea.