A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

skiing while Phoenician

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 28, 2008

After “graduating” from Faraya’s baby slope (I’m requesting a diploma), H and I slowly made our way through Faraya’s more challenging offerings, arriving after long last at Mzaar, the mountain’s peak.

The way down began with a gentle slope – a deceptively gentle slope, as I realized only when I found myself at the edge of a nearly vertical drop.

Well, it wasn’t really vertical, but by the time I realized that it was merely a very blue blue, I had spooked myself back into chasse-neige (snow-plow) land.

I trundled my slow, deeply inelegant see-saw way down, grateful not to have fallen and irked with myself for being such a … well … flat-land Midwestern weenie. So when H proposed another trip to the peak, I agreed.

But when we arrived at the top the second time, we decided to stop for a little touristing.

In the charmingly Age of Discovery (if sectarianism is your thing) way that Lebanon’s Maronites have of claiming land for Christ, Mzaar is emphatically Christian. Its peak carries not one, not two, but three crosses – each one bigger than the next. (Imagine the Three Bears with a black-robed priest in lieu of Goldilocks, and you will get the idea.) So perhaps it was no surprise that Mzaar also has its own chapel.

[I’m skipping the part where I 1) could not figure out how to get out of my skis 2) had to enlist help 3) fell and 4) nearly toppled over again because I am so clumsy in ski boots.]

The chapel was quite beautiful: small and spare, but well-lit and contemplative.

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The pews were covered in sheepskin to keep the chill from soaking into visitors’ bones.

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On the way out, I noticed this plaque – and it made me curious to know more.

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The inscription states that the chapel was established in 2005 under the patronage of a parliament member, and that it sits on the ruin (? I’m missing something here, and dictionary-less until tomorrow, hint hint Arabic speakers) of the Phoenician shrine. “Mzaar” means tour, but it also means site of a visit, and more specifically, the site of a religious visit – i.e., a shrine.

I understand that there is an old Phoenician temple near Faraya – in Faqra. But I didn’t realize that there was one on Mzaar, although with a name like Mzaar I suppose I should have been less surprised. Does anyone know the full story?
As for me, I was so overwhelmed by both the chapel itself and its Phoenician connection that I ended our little tourist jaunt by collapsing in a stick-over-pole catastrophe. Not while going down the slope, of course, but from the effort of getting my skis back on.

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