Sorry I am so behind on this blog. The end of the trip was a whirlwind, followed by travel home, Dad’s birthday, travel back to VA, etc. Here goes though.
Day 7 was fascinating. It started with a meeting at Parliament with MP Simon Abi Ramia, the President of the Youth and Sports Committee. I really appreciated meeting with Abi Ramia. His candor when discussing the issues was refreshing. Due to my mad typing skills, I was able to transcribe nearly our entire meeting, which will be posted as a blog entry at a later date. Afterward, we went for a trip towards the north to visit Jeita and Byblos (Jbeil). On the way, we stopped at Zaatar W Zeit for lunch, a restaurant described by one of the Fellowship as “Middle Eastern Panera, but not awful!” The food was excellent–Melkar ordered a sampling of all of their sandwiches, so we were stuffed by the end of the trip (NOTE: I had written this entire entry and some dumb keystrokes made me lose it GRRR). The best part of the stop had to be the only happy picture of Angela Merkel I’ve ever seen:
Following lunch, we made our way to Jeita Grotto. Unfortunately, I have no pictures from the caves, as I really didn’t want my camera confiscated. Some of my fellow Fellowshippers were far more brave than I. When I get a link to their pics/vid, I’ll share them with y’all.
The caves themselves were absolutely awesome. Growing up, we went to Indian Echo Caverns in PA, which pale in comparison. The caves are accessible from two points, upper and lower. The upper is a hike through on foot, while the lower is done in a boat. The caves are considered a national treasure, and people travel worldwide to visit them.
After the Grotto, we headed to Jbeil (Byblos) to visit the Phoenician (and other civilizations’) ruins there. I loved Jbeil. If I were going to live anywhere in Lebanon, it would be in the mountains near Gibran’s museum or in Jbeil. Jbeil had the old souks (albeit in a touristy way) that I had been expecting the whole trip. The weather was cooler than Beirut, and the Med was cleaner and bluer. We had a crazy tour guide named Yazid thru Jbeil who made the trip an absolute blast. A former history professor, Yazid spent the talk teaching us about history, peppered with off-color jokes and teaching us how to curse in Arabic. We had a blast. We ended our trip through the old souks with a glass of Lebanese wine as a Fellowship.
Dinner that night was my favorite–seafood! We went to Pepe Abed’s a seaside restaurant serving fresh catch seafood from the Med. Pepe Abed was apparently quite the character, and you can see it in his restaurant. The walls were covered Sardi‘s-style with photos of all the famous people who had eaten there. The restaurant itself had its own museum of antiquities Pepe Abed had collected from around Lebanon. The waitstaff was very generous in letting us in to visit the different rooms of the museum, as well as being on-call to answer questions about the food and wine.