Mary Ashkar was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and graduated from Dhahran Junior High. She attended high school and university in the US and immigrated to Montreal following graduation. She is the editor and founder of www.sweetlifestyle.ca, a lifestyle blog based in Toronto.
View of Sannine Mountain from Beit Meri in Mount Lebanon
Two weeks ago I was in Lebanon celebrating my dad’s birthday and spending time with my family. It had been almost 4 years since my last visit. A lot has changed but the most interesting difference for me was the ability to document my trip on Instagram!
First, a few personal comments on #MyLebanon:
Lebanon has never been my home for longer than a few weeks on vacation, but it is where my parents and family are from. It is my home and native country. A country of about 4 million people in an area of 10,452 sq kms, Lebanon’s history has included Romans, Phoenicians, Ottomans, and a Civil War. The most important features of Lebanon for me are the 3 languages most Lebanese speak (almost every spoken sentence includes Arabic, French, and English words), Beirut's once-nickname as the Paris of the Middle East, the many religious sects, and the undeniable joie de vivre of the Lebanese people.
Lebanese people like to live, period.
For me, Lebanon is a beautiful country where mountains jut up from the Mediterranean Sea much like some of the California coast. The sea and mountain views are stunning. Most mornings, people can be seen sitting in their pajamas on their balconies, sipping coffee and enjoying the views. It’s what they live for.
My Lebanon is a Christian village called Broummana in Mount Lebanon, about 20 minutes east of Beirut. Village living is peaceful, traditional, family-oriented. Aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors drop by. Falling asleep to frogs croaking and foxes howling and waking up to roosters crowing is inevitable. Cicadas sing all summer long and can be annoyingly loud. Churches, tolling bells, and religious ‘nooks’ (blog post soon on this) set up with Virgin Mary statues as well as other local saints can be found outside many homes.
Memories of summers spent in Lebanon swirl in my head almost all year long. I absolutely love visiting my home country. I leave with my batteries recharged from all the family love. And, my suitcases are full of roasted nuts, baklava, pistachio nougat, and many other Lebanese sweets. Oh, and did I mention shoes? Lebanese-made shoes are still my favorite, made with love, style, and genuine leather.
I hope you enjoy this blog post which highlights my Instagram photos. I’d love to hear your views on what you thought of Lebanon before and after these posts!
Ghabe, Mount Lebanon
This house is a modern home that is built to look like it’s an old house. Note the arches and the yellow stones used as well as the wooden shutters. It has a red tiled roof that you’ll have to take my word on:
Roumieh, Mount Lebanon
One day my aunt and uncle took us to the Shouf mountains and the home of two palaces dating to the early 19th Century. The first is Beiteddine, the home of Emir Bechir and the second is the Mir Amin Palace, now a hotel. I love the tiled carpet at the bottom of the pool. The Shouf region is the prettiest, most peaceful place I have visited outside of Broummana:
Mir Amin Palace Hotel
Traditional Lebanese desserts at the Mir Amin Palace Hotel
Zaytouna Bay is a ‘waterfront promenade’ in Beirut near the Beirut Souks shopping area. The Beirut Marina is there as are restaurants such as Paul and Pinkberry. We went for a ride out on the Mediterranean from Zaytouna to Jounieh Bay. The weather was unseasonably warm for this time of year. No complaints here!
Beirut Marina at Zaytouny Bay
Jounieh Bay boat ride
One day we went on a short trip to Our Lady of Lebanon, a visitation site and cathedral dedicated to Lebanon’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary. The views of Jounieh Bay are breathtaking from here where the Virgin Mary majestically overlooks the sea:
Our Lady of Lebanon
On the day I went to Beirut Souks, there was a demonstration going on so I couldn’t see what I wanted to see. The pink flowering trees against the yellow stoned buildings were so beautiful. As I had never seen spring in Lebanon, I was quite happy with this compromise!
Pink flowered trees in Beirut Souks
There are Roman and Byzantine ruins in several parts of Lebanon. One site is in Beit Meri, the village next to Broummana. We went at dusk. Here I am with my brother on a mosaic tiled carpet.
At the Roman ruins in Beit Meri, Mount Lebanon
Mount Lebanon has blankets of pine tree forests. Cicadas hide here as do goat herds, frogs, and foxes. When you look closely, you can see that these pine trees look a bit like broccoli!
Pine forests of Lebanon
The pine trees of Lebanon
Driving around Broummana, you can see both mountain and sea views. I must say that I’m partial to the sea views because I like the peaceful mountain living while being able to see the excitement of city living a few kilometers away in Beirut:
View of Beirut from Broummana, Mount Lebanon
My last photo was taken on the flight out of Beirut. You can see how big Beirut is and get a feel for what the summers are like in the beach clubs like the Movenpick Hotel Beirut in this photo:
View of Beirut with Movenpick Hotel Beirut in the bottom left
Originally published on Sweet Life Style on March 25, 2016.