Once upon a weekend we went to Qadisha Valley

The origin of its name comes from the Aramaic for “holy.” It has been a sacred spot for Christian monks since just a few centuries after the prophet Jesus walked on Earth.

But, who cares? It’s an incredibly beautiful green paradise buried deep in the Lebanese mountains. That’s what matters and that’s why you should go as well.

We left at 5 a.m. to drive north and catch the sunrise en route

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And then we drove a bit more … quite a bit more … and reached the valley

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We decided to go visit the famous Colombian monk; Dario Escobar

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Dario was friendly, especially with the ladies …

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Anyway, we kept hiking

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The place reminds me of Jurassic Park tbh

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Just without the dinosaurs, unfortunately

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Leh taxi?

“Leh taxi?”

I’m leaving this party at the German Oriental Institute, I don’t know if it’s the right name. I met a Tunisian-German. I met a German-German. I thought about fucking them, both of them. Is she jealous? Of course she isn’t jelous. I’m drinking wine. She’s drinking arak. We are smoking cigarettes. She tells me she told him, “I love you.” I told her she is stupid. I didn’t use those words. I don’t know. Maybe I did. I don’t know. I drink more wine. She leaves. I talk to other people I know. I wish I left with her. I thought about leaving with her. She would have been mad. Why would she have been mad? I could have told her I loved her. I could have told her she is the only thing that makes sense. Why didn’t I tell her? I’ll never tell her.

So, I waste time. I chat. I pretend I’m interested. I don’t want to be here. I talk about my ex. I talk about how I loved her. I talk about how I fucked it up. I talk about how it was fair. I listen. I don’t care, not really.

I get more wine. I decide to leave. Fuck this shit.

“Hey are you leaving soon.”

“Talk to me in five minutes.”

She isn’t leaving soon. I decide to leave. I’m leaving.

“Bye! I’m leaving. Let’s do something soon.”

“Let’s do something tomorrow.”

“If not tomorrow, this weekend.”

“Friday!!”

I’m walking on the street. Where the fuck can I find a God damn service? Fuck. I have to walk to the highway. Whatever.

I walk. Should I smoke a cigarette? No. Fuck it. I will smoke when I get home.

“Mar Mikhael?”

I get in the cab. We are driving. I check my phone. I see her message, nothing important. What am I doing? Why did I leave? God damn, I wish I was more social. Fuck those people. I didn’t like them anyway. They will all leave soon. They’re not worth my time. I’m sick of people leaving. Khalas.

“Btfadal. Ana benzel hone.”

I open the cab door.

The driver asks me something about why I’m not paying “taxi.”

“Leh taxi?”

He says something about how it’s taxi only now. He is full of shit. He thinks I’m a foreigner. I am a foreigner. I’ve been here four years. I will never be Lebanese.

“Ma 3andi aktar habibi.”

It’s a lie. I have more than $200 in my wallet. I don’t care. This is the game. I get out of the cab. He drives away. I cross the street in front of a speeding car. Fuck it. He won’t hit me. They don’t hit pedestrians.

I’m walking down the side street to my crappy apartment. I stop to light a cigarette. Fuck it. I don’t care. I keep walking. I’m almost home. This is my street.

What am I doing here? Fuck. I just signed that one year contract on that amazing flat. I’m trapped. I can’t leave. I did it again.

Lebanon is like a clingy lover, a relationship that you can’t move past.

I stand outside my building. I’m smoking this God damn cigarette. Fucking Cedars are so God damn cheap. I’m not exercising. I’m not doing anything. I’m not moving forward. I’m stuck. I’m trapped. I trapped myself. Maybe if I told her. I start having the conversation again in my head.

“I love you. You’re the only thing that makes sense. I always want to be with you. I don’t know if I can make you happy. I don’t think you want me like that. I don’t know if I will always want you like that. Sometimes you might want someone else. Sometimes I might not want you. But I love you. I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. I’m scared. I don’t know how to tell you. I will probably never tell you. You won’t care. It’s not like the movies.”

What am I doing here? I’m doing research, research for my novel. It’s a novel I will probably never write.

Let’s be honest. This is just my life. It’s a dream. It’s a mirage. It’s a fantasy or a half truth.

The cigarette is half finished. A couple walks past me, entering our building, this shitty place with the fucking Virgin in the entryway. Maybe I won’t finish this cigarette? Maybe I will never leave Lebanon? Maybe nothing will ever change? Maybe I will never tell her? Maybe it doesn’t matter.

No. I will smoke the God damn cigarette until the end. Then I will smoke another inside. Fuck it.

I finish the cigarette. I put it out in the dirt under the shrub by the entrance. I enter. I don’t look at the God damn Virgin. Fuck her. She is dead. What the fuck.

I’m so happy. I love this shit hole. I love this shitty place. I trapped myself. I can’t leave here. I can’t leave her. I don’t know what to do. I’m going to stay here. There is no future plan. There is nothing without her and this place.

“Leh taxi?”

Why not taxi?

I arrived in Lebanon 4 years ago yesterday

What happens in four years? Everything happens.

You fall in love. You break up. You hate. You cry. You scream. You fight. You think you’ll die. You think you’ll wake up. You wake up. You drink a lot. You smoke a lot. You make friends. You lose friends. You make something beyond friends that is still just friends. You lose those people too. People leave. Everyone leaves. You stay. You travel. You travel a lot. You get on airplanes like some people try on new clothes. You swim in beaches with white sand and crystal blue water. You hike mountains covered in the greenest green. You ride trains across borders. You take boats through the waters. You ride elephants and feel guilty. You refuse to ride camels. You meet people. You fuck people. You have lots of sex. You do some drugs. You grow up. You act immature. You get an apartment. You buy random shit like pots and pans. You buy sheets. You buy a drying rack. You buy art to hang on your walls. You let strangers sleep on your couch. You’re so God damn high all the time and time begins passing like a blur. You love everyone. You love your friends. You love these travelers in your apartment. You love France. The air feels so different. You dance. You party all night. You go home with strangers. You go home with friends. You want everyone to sleep in your bed. You want everyone to always be there. You want everyone to always stay. You talk about buying that old house and letting all your friends live there. You plan to take care of everyone. You plan to pay for everything. You plan to be rich enough. You talk about your novel. You talk about your dreams. You’re going to live in Dubai. You’ll own a yacht. You miss South America. You have a real experience in Sri Lanka. You watch planes fly away with people you love. You cry alone at night when people die. You talk about moving back to a place where things are simpler. You talk about going further east. You don’t go anywhere. You start to see Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport as your personal Purgatory. You interview celebrities. You sleep with celebrities. You interview influencers. You get invited to parties where the people you interviewed are also invited. You eat 5-star meals for free. You drink expensive cocktails for free. You realize your life is perfect. You tell everyone that nobody possibly has a better life than you do, maybe as good, but not better. You’re the happiest person in the world. You’re the most confused person you know. You’re naive. You’re intelligent. You’re foolish. You’re indecisive. You’re independent. You’re so damn needy. You can’t stop. You can’t finish anything. You can’t move on. You can’t make decisions. You can’t survive in the real world. You’re so God damn broken. You have so many friends. Everyone loves you. You’re so happy. You find out that nobody is perfect. You discover that everyone will hurt you. You realize that even places can reject you. You realize you’ve been chasing happiness all these years. You realize you’ve been chasing a ghost. You haven’t changed. You haven’t gone anywhere. You’ve always been happy. You just didn’t understand what it meant. You’re so God damn privileged. You’re so God damn white. You hate Trump. You hate Clinton. You hate the media. You hate politics. You decide to build a cabin in the woods. You decide to always be alone. You realize you don’t need anyone. You just need yourself.

But you’re friends are calling. You ask them if they want to drink absinthe.

What happens in four years? Life happens.

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Beirut’s coolest rooftop venue just opened in Mar Mikhael

I have to admit, I’ve never really been a big fan of Beirut’s famous rooftop venues. When you Google nightlife in this city, it’s one of the first things you’ll find but tbh, I’m #NotImpressed.

Sorry, but I’m the type that will take a cold beer on the street any day over drinking expensive, watered-down cocktails with a crowd that just came to snap selfies and check-in on Facebook.

13625390_352824308439460_2259790960415803324_nHowever, with the opening of Fabrk Urban Lounge in Mar Mikhael, I have to say there is now at least one really cool rooftop spot to enjoy in Beirut. Unlike Iris and the like, Fabrk isn’t pretentious at all. It’s the kind of place where you could actually see yourself going for happy hour just to enjoy and hang out with your friends.

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Even if you didn’t want to drink, the setting is chill and you can enjoy pool or foosball while snacking on some appetizers.

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While I wouldn’t say the food is top-notch, it’s definitely passable and the setting makes up for it. As far as the prices? Well, we all know that everything in Beirut is a bit on the pricey side and Fabrk follows the trend, but its not more than any of the other trendy pubs you are used to enjoying with your friends. Compared to other popular rooftops, I’d say it comes out to be much more affordable actually.

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Anyway, it’s definitely a placed I’ll be heading back to and I’d recommend you check it out for yourself. Try to catch the happy hour specials… but you might just find yourself staying later than you think. Really, the vibe is fun and chill.

Happy hour is from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call 71 448 800 for reservations and check the Facebook page for directions. It’s easy to find, right in the center of Mar Mikhael on Armenia Street.

Cheers!

I found true love one night in Beirut

JASDON IS OK

He stands at the bar, scanning the dance floor. The lights are flashing. The music is pulsing outward from the speakers. People sip their drinks and stare at the neon colors dancing on the ground, but few are dancing.

They are there, across the deck. She stands with a group of friends, appearing disinterested in their conversation, checking her phone to distract herself. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes and her body sways to the music, subtly. He stands there, not far from her, but not with her group. Hie eyes shift towards her occasionally, scanning her body, taking in her demeanor.

And he is still on the other side of the deck, eyeing both of them, hoping their eyes will meet his. He imagines a moment, a moment of random chance. They look up. Perhaps he notices him and then she notices them. Or perhaps she notices him and…

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Camping in Shouf is the best thing ever

So, last weekend my favorite person in the entire world, Michella, celebrated her 26th birthday by inviting all of us to go camping in Lebanon’s Shouf region.

Shouf is a mountainous area featuring some of the best views Lebanon affords as well as the expansive Shouf Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is actually Lebanon’s largest but though it’s a cedar forest, it’s not to be confused with The Cedars of God reserve located in the north of Lebanon. While the Shouf reserve is an amazing place to hike and features beautiful cedars, the “Cedars of God” are much older and are the cedars everyone associates with the country.

However, all that aside, this weekend escape was possibly one of the best weekends of the year for me. It was just so relaxing to escape the city and immerse ourselves in nature for a bit. Although I used to camp often in the United States and although we go on road trips to different nature destinations throughout Lebanon on a very regular basis, I haven’t actually camped overnight since moving here nearly four years ago.

And we stayed at an amazing campsite, right outside of the Shouf reserve. The Cedars Ground Campsite describes itself as “a majestic eco-friendly campsite, adjacent to the Shouf reserve, offering a meditative and relaxing outdoor experience for happy campers.” I can assure you that it definitely lives up to that description. From the incredible location to the absolutely delicious breakfast the staff prepared for us in the morning, we were definitely impressed and will plan on going again soon.

We arrived just before sunset on Saturday evening and enjoyed lounging around the fire eating and drinking until the early morning.

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After a few hours of sleep, we woke up and ate a delicious breakfast at the campsite.

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We even made a few animal friends.

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Following the filling breakfast, we hiked up the mountain through the cedar and pine forests.

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It was a hot day, but some of us even made it to the top.

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And we were rewarded with this incredible view of the Bekaa Valley.

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Thanks for having a birthday Michella and thanks for giving us all this incredible experience!

Joanna and Ehab had a baby and it’s a girl!

Some of the very first friends I made in Lebanon were Joanna and Ehab. I remember my very first weekend in the country, back in September of 2012, they invited me to the beach. A few months later, we traveled to India together.

I took photos at their wedding and it was honestly one of the most beautiful ceremonies I ever attended. I admit it, there were tears in my eyes throughout the service.

Now, Ehab and Joanna just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! A few weeks ago, Joanna asked me if I could shoot some photos of them before the birth. I neglected to edit or upload the images before, but since they just gave birth this week, I thought I would do so today, welcoming little Jenna Mae to the world.

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And now… here is the beautiful little Jenna Mae! Welcome to the world habibti.

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