Real faith is spending your days building what you know you will never see completed in your lifetime.
The Bayon, an exquisite temple of great significance. Constructed in the 12th century to face exactly east and roads lead to it directly from the gates at each of the city’s cardinal points, this Buddhist shrine still vibrates with accumulated potency. I visited it a little before sunrise and found myself alone safe for the monks that never stop praying on the grounds of the beautiful temple. Carved with great detail and attention, adorned with many stone faces, built on many intricate levels, this place is haunting and shrouded with mystery.
Two arched openings in a stone wall with a colonette in the middle and a decorative motif on top, this is a Mandaloon. You see them in most traditional homes in Lebanon and the reason I am telling you about them is the story behind the name ‘Mandaloon’.
Picture a young woman, 100 or so years ago, shy and reserved, on a cool summer night, sitting behind this window, her hand caressing a plant that grows in a pot outside her window. She is gazing at the stars while the breeze gently cools down her blushing cheeks. Below is her suitor serenading her with the sounds of his mandolin and hoping that she might gift him with a quick look before she retires to her sleep.
And that is only one small detail of the beautiful arched stone houses of Lebanon where light and air travel freely.
Have you ever experienced going back to a place you lived after years have passed? Have you gone through the stirring deep emotion that goes with such an experience?
This little street in a little village in North Lebanon holds so many life changing memories for me. It was along this street that I walked day after day alone but for my thoughts and a little stone I used to kick along the whole way from home to the little shop that sold anything, everything and my favorite 5 pennies ice cream cone; a 15 minute walk that took me more than an hour to complete. I remember walking along that road and letting my mind drift and dream in Arabic save for a single word that kept resonating in my mind strangely in English: ‘determined’!
It remains one of those mysteries of life, unexplained, strange and precious…
Welcome to the start of a new journey, a journey through images, words, ponders, musings, stories, and moments.
I begin the first month in Lebanon, a tiny country whose heart pulses on the shores of the beautiful Mediterranea Sea, and whose veins throb with history and with tales of passion and of wars, a place that is so painfully beautiful it can make a strong man cry.
Yes, I must start there, in the place that witnessed my first breath, my first tears, my first laugh, my first dream, my first inspiration and my first love. And it is the place that holds the richest of my childhood memories as well as the most terrible of nightmarish secrets. Those secrets I will keep in the walls of its old cities, and only tell you of the beauty and of the wonder that is Lebanon.
And this world, in its most kind and generous way, gives me an extra day this year, a 29th day of February to tell an extra story.
Let the journey begin…
photos: an abandoned home in Douma, a small mountain village and summer butterflies in the field of the cedars mountains in North Lebanon.