I Love Lebanon
We got to the airport about 2am after spending the evening with Talal and Neena. Talal drove us to the airpot. We went to a club. Was the beginning of the Eid so every one was out partying. Such a fun time. I was exhausted with no sleep the night before and the thought of flying home and leaving this wonderful country and wondering if I would ever get back again. I felt so sad. Lebanon has stolen part of my heart. We met wonderful new people. We touched family and friends from the past. On arriving at the airport we ran into Maroun Khoury from New Bedford, MA. The saga of Walid knowing everyone on the world goes on. Met 2 girls from San Diego at the airport too. They are from Escondido. Small world. The flight from Beirut to London, just great. Beirut took all our luggage and no extra fees. Maroun sat in front of us.
Left London with no problem after spending some time talking with Maroun. He left for Boston and we went on to New Jersey. How I hate Newark, New Jersey . Every time I have ever flown into there, there has been a problem. We missed our flight to San Diego. They are so unorganized and rude. We had a 3 1/2 hour layover and missed the plane. They sent us to the wrong gate 2x. Then were putting us on stand by. Can you imagine on a Sunday night. Plus was the night of the NY run. Totally exhausted and not seeing straight. Walid finally convinced a nice English girl that if his wife was unhappy so was he and that was not a good thing. We immediately got on a flight. I do not know this girl but will be forever grateful. We arrived home at 9pm. Lucy picked us up and we finally got home to our own bed. With the time change we had been up the equivalent of about 32 hours straight.
Our wonderful perfect trip is over. Back to reality that is life at home. I thank all the wonderful people who made this trip my gift to my husband. But I cannot wait to return. To this magical country called Beirut where modern life reels with the ancient foundation of the world.
Lebanon Day 17 – Saturday November 5th 2011
Lebanon Day 17 – Saturday November 5th. 2011
We got up fairly early this morning with banging on the door. It was the local priest. He invited us to see his church in Bkeshtay. He is a relative somehow I guess. His name is Nicholas Karam. We have to be polite even though we did not get in till the wee hours of the morning. This is our last day in Lebanon. The church is across the street from Joseph Saliby’s house. The church is beautiful. The old one was bombed I the last war. They are still restoring the ceilings in the sacristy. Walid talked to him about us getting re-married and renewing our vows during our next trip. He agreed. Joseph Saliby will maybe stand up for Walid. Maya will do the make-up. A new dress purchased from Leyla’s Boutique. I would like Lucy to stand up for me. What a dream. We have always talked about getting married in Lebanon.
After visiting the church we went to the Saliby’s for breakfast. Maya gave me beautiful Lebanese make-up and manicure. I will go home looking like a queen. I feel like a queen. Next trip we will know our way around Lebanon so much better. Everyone has been so wonderful. We will miss everyone.
Cedar of Lebanon
The highlight of the day was a girl herding goats down the street in front of the church and by the Saliby’s house. It was magical. The scene reminded me of the sheep in Wales back in 2005. Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me and got no photos.
In the late afternoon we went back to Sitti Melecki’s house and packed our suitcases for the flight home. We had to get it done before the power went off again. We just made it. Back to Saliby’s for a snack and coffee. Then back to the house for a short nap. We are totally beat and we leave at 4am.
Talal picked us up at 10:30pm with Neena in the car. We went to a club near the Rouchie. The dancer was better than the one yesterday. But the music was not that good and too loud. The dancer’s show was nice. She was a good dancer. Place was full of people celebrating the Eid. What a great way to end our trip. I am feeling tired and sad. The trip of my dreams is over and there is still so much more to do and see in Lebanon.
St Harissa, Lebanon
Lebanon Day 16 – Friday November 4th. 2011
It is still showing us how nasty weather can be with more rain, thunder and lightning. It is 8am No power again. Mt Lebanon is caught in its own little world. We are waiting for our friend and driver Talal. He is supposed to be early. 9am still no Talal. Guess he is flooded out in Beirut. Not a problem, he will be here when he can. We need to set a meeting time with Amani for today. I need to get my gold fixed. Tomorrow is the last day. Cannot believe it is almost over. It has been a wonderful experience all the way around. We are so glad we took a chance and came to Lebanon. We love it here.
It is now 9:30am. Talal is here Joseph Salibyinvited us to his house.
His daughter Maya let me use her computer. Tomorrow she will do makeup on me and do my nails. She will give me Lebanese make-up. She is an esthician. Very nice girl. Tala took us to Margo’s after I interviewed him. Neena met us at her house. She met with both Margo and Talal. She wants to stay and work in Lebanon. She still is up in the air though about staying. I feel she will be in good hands when we leave. She has both Margo and Talal pulling for her.
We drove Margo to Hamra area so she could teach. We then drove to Jounieh to meet with Amani and Ali. We had a wonderful visit. I also interviewed her. I have never seen traffic so bad anywhere in the world. It took us over an hour and a half to get from Beirut to Jounieh.
Amani has a beautiful home. It is so befitting her. Interview went well while Ali, Talal and Walid entertained each other in the salon. We talked in the office.
From there we went back to Achrafieh area to get Margo. She took us to a club in the Raouchy area where she used to work. Neena went with us too. It was very pleasant company to be with. The dancer was a disappointment. It was interesting to see such a poor dancer after spending a week with Amaniand such a fine degree of professionalism.
Really need a glamour shot.
Margo danced in her street clothes. She was wonderful. What a treat! She must have been something special in her younger days. She is such a talent. The singer and the music were quite good. We got back to Bkstay about 3:30am. Now we have power. Go figure!
LEBANON Day 15
Thursday November 3rd 2011
Today it is raining. Since we are in the mountains we are actually in the midst of the clouds. There is no power today. Thank goodness for the gas (bottled) heater. We went to the Karam’s for breakfast. I remember them from Fall River. They also lived in Montreal at one point. Now back in Lebanon. No pictures to take as the rain is torrential and the visibility is nil. Beirut is flooded. Last night Selim Assaf called. I like him. Today we will go nowhere We will walk down to the store and buy food to cook. The stove is gas too. That is good we do not have to depend on the electricity.
The first relaxed day after all the running around. Bkeshtay reminds me of England living. It is quaint yet up to date as far as furniture etc. is concerned. I have not walked this much since my NYC days. Here everyone walks. Living here requires a generator for when the power goes off. We do not have one, of course. The stoves for heat are like the ones I remember in England. It sits in the middle of the room and the exhaust goes up a pipe through the roof. I think it is run by kerosene. Every one sits near or around it to keep warm.
Walked down to the store . Coming back to the house was like being in Clovelly in Devon. My lungs hate it. They hurt from the exertion. Walid had to help me. Hate to think what my lungs would be like without dance. This was the second time we have been to the store. Old customers now! Everyone is so friendly. You can tell the country is coming out of war by the groceries they offer for sale. Everything is canned, dried or fresh. In America it is frozen but that takes constant electricity. Plus we are such a health conscious country even though we eat so much junk food. What they sell here we usually considered bad for you. Most of the people here look really healthy. The fresh fruit, bananas and grapes etc are so tasty and wonderful. The tomatoes are awesome.
Two days left here. It is getting to be time to plan what comes next. Just Friday and Saturday. We texted Christine (Walid’s Godchild). Let everyone know we are fine. Have not done half of what we intended to do. That means we have to come back again.
We are now off to Baalbek. Will have pictures for sure. “Lebanon the Land of Contradiction”
Wednesday November 2nd, 2011
Yesterday was the fantastic wedding day. Talal was so generous and wonderful. Lebanon is so diverse and so full of wonderful surprises. I wonder what today will bring us. It is warm and sunny during the day but quite chilly at night. After all we are in the mountains here. This is Mount Lebanon. I am absorbing everything as I am wondering if I will ever get the pleasure of ever coming back to this place where my heart is so comfortable.
Today we were invited to Michel’s for a breakfast of kishk. He showed us his scars from surgery. His chest and stomach look like a road map. It is a wonder this man is alive. He is such a sweet man. Still my favorite person here is Yvonne. She is 92 years young and sharp as a tack. What a sweet lady. I want to be like her at her age. Michel must be all of 90 also. So much history here. Today I will call Amani and Georgette and set up appointments with them for interviews. Time is getting short. I also would like to meet with Mario Harb the photographer again. Walid is outside talking to someone from Lawrence, MA who owned a restaurant there. I remember! Breakfast was superb. Kishk is my favorite.
Neena Nour is on her way. Today we go to Baalbek. I am so excited. I heard today that New England, NYC etc. had a terrific snow storm. Here the weather is still warm. Neena is here with Dina. We are off to the ruins of Baalbek.
Tuesday November 1st, 2012 / DAY 13
What an interesting day. Started slow with Walid and I taking a walk so Icould take pictures. Did not get far as a lady approached us and wanted to know who we were and why we were taking pictures. Turned out of course that Walid knew her and we ended up visiting and having lunch with her and several other old friends and families. We paid a short visit back to Yvonne to return a tray and cups that had been sent earlier to us by Sophia. These people are all heart. That was for us to have coffee out back of our house with Michel. Talal Itani caught up with us at Marie’s house (the lady that wanted to know
After we changed we went to Talal’s house to meet his lovely wife, Hoda. She is such a sweetie. They have a lovely home. At 5:30 we piled into his car and drove to a building in the Hamra area. At first I thought it was a mistake. Looked like an empty building. No, at 6pm all the lights came on and yes it was an apartment building. There was a short Zeffet at the home of the bride. This consisted of tar, katam, derbecki, tubl beledi, and mizmar. All entertainers were in red. That took about 10 min. The groom arrived and they were escorted to their car.
We then met at the Opera Suites. A huge place that caters to wdddings in Beirut. It must have 10 ballrooms on 4 different floors. We were in the lower level. There was another wedding going on in another ballroom so we had the pleasure of seeing the beginning of their zeffet also. They brought the bride and goom down this fantastic staircase. All the entertainers were in white. Quite a large group of performers maybe 12 people.
Then, it was Talal’s group turn. According to Rula one of Talal’s girls. She has been with him 17 years. Talal was the first person to have a zeffet group in Lebanon, Beirut. Now Margo Kelfayan who worked with Talal as her drummer for 25 years also has her own zeffet company. Believe she started it with Francois Ramy. It was such a wonderful experience to see these performers.
Six guys had long trumpets. For this first part they were all in blue.They formed an arch towards the beginning of the hall. Very Romanisque in style. Now, the big zeffet started. A tall man entered with bakour (incense). He was fantastic. He purified and blessed the air and the room until he reached the center of the stage. Then performed a whirling dervish. Talal told me later because I asked why he did not have a traditional dervish skirt on that for the skirt alone is another $250-. After this 4 boys and a girl entered. The boys had a huge white square silk veil
that Rula danced under. I got all of this on video as we were given a front spot to see. It was so exciting. Then the big moment arrived. More people with derbckis and tabl beledis entered with another girl. The did a debke and then escorted thebride and groom into the room. This all took about 20 minutes. Ran out of space on my camera and finished up with my phone. It was all so exciting. They did the chair thing which I love and am used to. This ended up with everyone dancing debke around the bride and groom while lifted in the air on the chairs.
After all was over we went back to Talal’s house for dinner and conversation. Love the family atmosphere. Got back to our house in Bkeshtay around 1:30am or so. What a marvelous treat we had. I will never be able to thank Talal enough. It was something that will stay with me forever. I decided I have to interview Talal about his career and all it involves. I would also like to interview Rula. Maybe next time we are here. This zeffet I needed to see. I received such inspiration and ideas. This alone was worth the trip. Wonderful! We need to plan new zeffet and promote it the right way. This needs to be written about. Dancers in San Diego have no idea how to present a zeffet.. They think if they dance at a wedding that is a zeffet. It is all about the music first and the dance second. In Lebanon it is about rhythm, drumming and debke with a touch of fantasy. It was a perfect day. I will remember this day all my life. So many wonderful memories.
Sunday October 30th 2011
Margo got the small theater that belongs to the El Medina Theater to book the entertainment. Good for her. Great news. She is such a hard worker. This was last night.
Khaled called us down for breakfast. We sat and chatted with him and the Maitre-De. Very nice, helpful people. Selim Assaf, Walid’s cousin picked us up at noon in his Hummer with his son Carl. So nice! Took a beautiful ride in the Hummer to his Mom’s house. This house in Wadi Sharur was Walid’s grandmothers and he spent a lot of his childhood there. Had a wonderful lunch with the entire family. Walid’s Aunt, Selim’s Mom, his wife and children. Plus his brother Raghib, wife and children and his sister and family. This house belonged to Assaf side of the family. The houses is upgraded beautifully. The Aunt lives on the first floor and Raghib and family live on the 2nd and 3rd floor. He runs the AC company with his brother. Great family all the way around. Made us feel very welcome. Pretty neighborhood. Houses all stone. Only regret is my camera was packed. Want to go back. Lovely people. Can see why Walid loved it so much. Rained lightly here and a little bit cooler than the city.
We then drove to to his grandmother’s house on his mother’s side of the family. This Melecki’s house. Located on Mount Lebanon. Another house Walid spent so much time in. This house has had no guests in four years. No one lives here now. Very quaint. All stone. Nice large rooms. We arrived at exactly 6pm. Only know this as the entire area went black as we pulled in the driveway. It was much colder here than in Beirut. Thank God I brought sweaters and socks for both of us. This place is so village and so old Lebanon. It’s name is Bkshtay. Guess it means dragon. The house is now just a summer house for family. I realize I could live here just fine. Four rooms is enough for us. There are only the two of us. Who needs eight rooms in CA with patios enclosed and gazebos etc. Just more to clean. Needs some work. Think the roof needs repair and there is war damage on a couple of outside walls. Talal is coming up tomorrow. He is taking us out to see the sights near Aley. We left a bag in Selim’s car. Talal will get it for us. It was all the costumes etc that I purchased plus passports. We need them for sure. My error I should have done a last check. I was concerned about us finding our way around the house. Should have known better than to trust the men. Sent Selim and Walid to buy candles at the corner store. Reminds me of West Wareham. The only corner store! We lit candles and found the gas for the stove. We needed heat. The store owner’s son came up at 7pm to make sure we had all we needed. Now, how wonderful is that. He does not even know us though his father remembered Walid. We have heat, a stove, electricity (sometimes) and water. So much for the comforts of home. The power came on sometime during the night and scared us half to death. The TV, the radio and lights came on. We had gone to bed and it was really cold. By daylight we will sort it all out.
Tags: Aley, beautiful ride, Beirut, grandmothers, Lebanon, Mount Lebanon, neighborhood houses, old lebanon, summer house, travel, vacation, walid
Saturday October 29th 2011.
The side picture is of Lebanese kemenjas or violins. Taken at Moussa Castle on Thursday. A definite buy next trip.
We got a late start to the theater today. Guess we are just a little worn out. Arrived at the theater and felt like I was back at Faisel’s in NYC. Music was coming from every direction as classes were in progress. Watched Bob teach. He is fabulous. Missed getting his business card but he is a friend of both mine and Walid’s on FB. Want to interview him. Lucia is growing in leaps and bounds. Just hope she is aware of how to use new material when she returns home. That is when you know if someone really benefited by the trip. Really like Simon from Texas. So many wonderful people here including Theresa from Kansas City, Amani Jabril from Georgia, Claire from Germany, Mario Harb from Lebanon. Plus of course Amani and Ali from Lebanon with Karin and Nour. I will never forget Margo and Francois. This is just a few. We waited so long to come here. And here we are with the stars of stars in Lebanon.
We had lunch with Simon Claire and Mario. Great company. Nice restaurant. Sure hope to meet all again. Wonder if Mario will be agree to do some filming for us when we return? He was sad today as it is the last day of the festival.
Finally got the list of who will be in the show this evening. Lucy is in. I am on the jury. Under pressure but very honored to have this seat. Neena has decided to use Toros as her agent. Margo is willing to help her even with a safe inexpensive place to live while in Lebanon. Lucky girl. Wish I was 25 again.
Show time was followed after a reception which was like a who’s who of Lebanon’s tv and arts people. Walid got interviewed. He was so emotional that I will be surprised if he is on the clip. He is so happy to be back in Lebanon. Showtime! I sat front and center with Toros the agent on one side and Margo on the other. Show was great! Lucy started the show and also came in 2nd. A great audience! She danced beautifully and really deserved the position. She was powerful and danced well. Walid could not join her on stage as planned. I understand, it would have made an unfair advantage. She won on her own power. San Diego finally on the dance world map.
After the show we went to a restaurant to celebrate. There was Talal Itani, Margo, Lucia, Lorna, Walid and I. Got to bed about 2:30am. Glad the time changes today in Lebanon so I can make up an hour of sleep. Tomorrow at 4am the girls leave. We will leave the hotel that has been our home for 10 days. The staff and people there have been wonderful. On our return we will visit them. They all really impacted our lives and our visit. We go to Walid’s grandmother’s house in Bkheshtey. This will be our home for the next week. His cousin Selim Assaf will take us to his mother’s house which was Walid’s other grandmother’s house in Wadi Sharur. More relatives. I do love Lebanon.
Friday October 28th, 2011
Another fabulous day. This morning I taught my class. Power went out as I started but came back on as soon as generator kicked in. I taught from 9:45 till noon. great class. I come alive when I am teaching. Especially when I have good dancers in class. I covered both Sattouta and Amouna. They loved Sattouta. just fell into place after being at Beit el Din yesterday.
Had my Dunkin Donuts. Talked with Mario Harb awhile. He seems to like us as he has befriended Walid. Also had a long chat with Maya Goarry of Italy. So sweet! Then Amani Jabril of Georgia and I came up with an idea to work together for another tour to Lebanon but not a festival. need to pick select people to attend. Walid and I are also talking about doing more things in Lebanon. I want to research the dance here. I got a new watch. it is cute and different from what I usually wear. Came back to hotel to change clothes. Then it is back to the theater. Amani Jabril asked me to critique her class. i really like her so am happy to oblige. Walid renewed his phone. Sophie the French girl asked me if I would like to go to France and teach. I can do that. I would love to.
Amani, Ali and Nour are back to normal. The whole thing is winding down. They have so much responsibility. Must be a relief.Tonight is student performance night.We will be there to support. Neena should dance. Get out there. Margo will help her but she will have to work her butt off. Margo can get her a place to live that is inexpensive and safe. she also has an agent. he wants her to study Kaleegy for Ramadan Shows. It is a start. She will really need to work hard but she is young and can do it if she really want s to. Again thank goodness for Walid.
Francois Ramieh was Margo’s fiance for 10 years.He is a fabulous dancer and choreographer. Cannot wait to see how the girls made out. Georgia took the Orientale with Francois and Lucy took the veil class with Margo.
Show was did not really exist . Only one girl was prepared to dance. Theresa from Memphis. Too bad but she was game. Do not understand why some of the others thought they were good enough for the competition. They should have been more realistic and been in this show. Theresa did an fine job. have to give her credit. She is a nice girl. Knows Cindy/Shahira from Knoxville. Afterwards we went to Stambouli’s with the girls. Food was excellent. Nice surroundings. Got home about 11:30pm great evening and meal.