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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”
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.
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.
We are living in Bkheshtey in the Aley district (means high place) and was previously known as the bride of the summer in the area of Mount Lebanon. It is truly beautiful. Visited the lady next door named Yvonne yesterday. What an incredible lady. She is 91 years old, so smart and so cute. Other neighbors came in to see who was visiting. Her house keeper/health care aid is Sophia. She is from Sri Lanka. Great girl. Tonight she visited us again. I like her. She offered to clean out the house for us. My biggest concern is staying warm. Last night my face felt so cold I could not sleep. At least we have power tonight. I came on at 6pm . Should have it till at least midnight then off till 6am. Then on from noon to 6pm. No power then tomorrow night. Guess I will get used to it. We have been invited to a wedding as guests of Talal’s tomorrow night. He is doing a wedding zeffet and he letting us video and check it out. I am so hyped.
Today we visited Aley with Talal as escort. This is where Walid grew up. Had a wonderful lunch at Tarbouch. We visited some old haunts of Walid’s in the center of town. We ran into several peole he used to know including an old school teacher and the owner of the fruit store remembered him. We were given the best fruit ever. We visited Samir Khoury at his lovely home. This is Riad’s brother. I know him from Fall River. We then went to where Walid’s house was.
So sad. Area completely devistated. Nice places partially rebuilt next to those empty demolished buildings. All of Lebanon is like this but here in Aley seemed to be worse. They really got hit hard during the latter part of the war. We ran into people he grew up with. Still there! No where to go. It is home. So sad! They look like homeless people with vacant expressions. Walid was so shocked. These people grew up as neighbor hood kids. You could see the quality that is now a forgotten dream. They thought I was Amal. Really hit Walid hard. He looked like he had been punched in the stomach and the air was pushed out of him. He wishes he had not seen it. I wish he had not also. Now I know why my cousins did not want me to go to my grandmothers old house in Westcliff. Just remember it as it was.