I don't think I can even accurately describe to anyone how amazing Lebanon was. Beirut is beautiful, you can walk along the cornish at sunset sipping nescafe from a street vender (probably the best coffee I have ever had) and watch the sun set over the Med, you can sit in a cafe in the recent remodeled downtown, enjoy a fabulous meal and smoke argila under the watchful eyes of the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen, you can hit up a mall and shop (or in my case take absurd amount of pictures of Christmas decorations), and you can see buildings with bullet holes in them and holes bigger than me blown into the sides from bombings. My trip was eye opening and so enlightening. I was able to talk to people who have seen war, who have been refugees, who have had bullets fly into their houses. I wasn't getting my information from a book, a newspaper, an article, I got to hear first hand peoples experiences and it was so moving.
But most importantly I got to live with some of the nicest people I have ever met. Raina Zantout's family was so very kind and I couldn't have asked for better people to spend my break with. They stuffed me full of amazing food at every meal (I loved it so much I wend and bought a Lebanese cookbook) and after every meal and before bed every night and for snacks during the day we would drink Turkish Coffee (which I learned how to make!!!) and Tea. Tante Fatme (Raina's Aunt) was SO kind and saw to our every need, she reminded me so much of my Grandmother and I loved sitting with her before bed while she had her evening cigarette and listening to her stories. Tante Nooha (Another Aunt) cooked a majority of the food and I WISH I could learn all of the recipes she has in her head! Tante Farida (Aunt number 3) was always willing to share stories and making sure Raina and I were safe and sound. Amu Najib (Uncle) provided a nice balance to the estrogen filled house :-P and Raina's Aunt Tante Nour from down the street would often come and visit and we went there once too to visit (her house was SWANKY!).
We were in Lebanon during 'Eid al-Adha which celebrates Abraham's extreme devotion to God that he would even sacrifice his own son Ishmael to God because that is what God had commanded. However, after the sacrifice had been performed God comes to Abraham and tells him that a sheep was sacrificed instead and God had saved his son because Abraham was able to transcend his love for this world to show his extreme love of God. This is also why during 'Eid al-Adha sheep are sacrificed and their meat is donated to the poor. 'Eid al-Adha follows the month of Hajj and the festivities last for three days. So during these three days many visitors came to Beit Zantout and I got to meet many family friends and relatives. Raina's Aunt who lives in Texas was in town, several of Raina's cousins who live outside of Lebanon were around and of course everyone who lived close by came to visit. Everything reminded me so much of holidays back home. I come from a large family and LOVE family gatherings because of the complete chaos with tons of people crowded together.
I am so happy I went and I can't wait to share more of my stories with you!!!