A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

Archive for the ‘mountains’ Category

branded snow

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 5, 2009

How did we miss this event last year? I asked H in an email, attaching this advertisement:


Last year’s March calendar was pretty empty around this time – not even a facial or a lunch date penciled in.

I like the “Cedars’ snow” stipulation for snowman-building materials, H replied. I do too – partly for eco-friendly reasons (no fair carting in “foreign” snow just to build a bigger snowman) and partly because as a former marketer, I love branding.

You know, H continued, a cynical view would suggest that this is meant as a diversion to any Mouarada activities taking place on the 8th.

I hadn’t thought of that. Politicizing snowmen? In Lebanon, anything is possible :).


Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, cedar, holidays, Lebanon, mountains | Leave a Comment »

Monday morning grumpies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 12, 2008

Duhnuh, duhnuh, duhnuh duhnuh duhnuh: imagine the Jaws theme. As I type, the USS Cole (“mudammara” in Arabic, which really drives home the meaning of the word “destroyer”) is sailing up from the Suez Canal to an undisclosed location “in the Mediterranean”, according to the AFP and all the morning newscasts. I wonder where it could be going, I say to myseld, tongue in cheek. And I wonder what State Department idiot thought that sending the Cole back here was a good idea.

American battleships and Lebanon go way back – and their relationship is not a happy one. The Chouf was already bombed yesterday – no need to bring back Civil War memories of the USS New Jersey doing the same twenty years ago.

On the other hand, perhaps this is the “private watercraft” that the last warden message mentioned …

I’ll let you know when the Cole arrives. Meanwhile, its another beautiful morning here in the non-shot-out hills, although a bit hazy. Here’s a slightly shifted view of the city, focusing on the deep downtown and the coast:

As the days wear on, I’m handling the situation less and less gracefully. I’m grumpy – I miss my routine, my apartment, my wardrobe, my neighborhood. But I am gaining new respect for one of my least favorite za3ims: Walid Jumblatt. What happened yesterday in the Chouf was awful – and Jumblatt stepped up and showed real leadership.

There are too many egos in Lebanese politics – too many men who use their constituencies to feather their own nests and to defend imagined slights to their big-man image. Jumblatt did the opposite yesterday: he put his own ego aside in order to keep the people of the Jebel from sparking a full out conflagration with one another and Hizbullah.

(For those of you who don’t speak Arabic, he gave an interview on Al Jazeera English’s Inside Story that aired this morning around 7:15. I can’t find it on the channel’s website yet, but it should be up soon. He’s unshaven and dressed in his usual one-step-above-homeless style, but he speaks well. And this morning he has been on the phone with every news channel I have flipped to, from New TV to Arabiya, explaining his decision and the importance of civil peace.)

Thanks to the shoot-out in the Jebel and the crisis generally, I have a new mini-za3im to snicker at: Jumblatt’s cousin, Talal Arslan. What a goober. He has never had such media attention before, and with each press conference he looks more and more self-important, talking about how the Jebel is and will remain “lil-muqawama wa al-muqawamin”. Right. And the muqawama is lil-Arslan and will remain so as long as he is a useful alat.

Oh well – he’s getting his 15 minutes of fame, and clearly reveling in it. Here is is giving press conference number four or five yesterday evening, with an entourage of men:

Wherever there is a cameraman in the Middle East, there are men. Sometimes young, sometimes old – but always there. They are the same men who halt their conversations when I walk by – men with nothing better to do than 1) watch girls and 2) stand patiently behind the person being interviewed for the fleeting pleasure of appearing on satellite television. Not to be sexist, but women seem to have better things to do with their time.

Of course, some of these men were probably encouraged to stand behind Arslan – big men need big entourages. But they enjoyed it – whenever Arslan shifted position, the men nearest him shifted as well, to make certain that they were still on camera. My favorite was the cool guy in sunglasses on Arslan’s left. Sunglasses at night and a black Hizbullah-style baseball cap – star qualities indeed.

But the most important man in this group – aside from Arslan – was the ceremonial Microphone Holder. No metal microphone rack for Arslan, but rather a 21st century version of the king’s chamberlain:

And unlike the entouragers, the microphone-ji was taking his responsibilities quite seriously. He didn’t make eye contact with the camera once – he was focused on his job. (And for the curious: the microphones belonged to Manar, OTV, and LBC. I don’t know why New TV wasn’t included, or NBN, or the satellite news channels – maybe he could only hold three microphones.)

I’m going to go and sweat off some of this grumpiness at the gym in a bit. Until then, I’ll be the one hissing at the screen while sending some Monday morning emails. After all, in the rest of the region (excluding poor Sudan) its a normal work day.

Posted in Druze, explosion, Lebanon, media, mountains, politics, words | 2 Comments »

factory in the Chouf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 24, 2008

After narrowly avoiding burning to death in a raging forest fire (well, not really – but doesn’t that sound so much more impressive than “driving past slowly with cameras out both front windows”), H and I continued on our way up into the Chouf.

As we cleared the initial incline, H pointed out an old factory nestled into the mountainside across the way:

Naturally, we slowed down once more so I could get a better photo:

With its smokestack and open floorplan – large rectangular room, rows of windows – it reminded me of many of the old factories in New England. And like them, it appeared to have outlived its original purpose.

When we rounded the bend and pulled up closer, we noticed that the upper floor windows had modern single-pane glass (more visible on the side windows than from this view):

I’m guessing that the factory was originally used for spinning silk, since the mountain areas became filled with mulberry tree/silkworm farms in the late 1800s. But we didn’t know what the factory could be used for today, until we asked the museum guide at Beiteddine.

Its used for wine-making, he told us. We think he meant wine storage, but still – go figure!

Posted in Beirut, economics, Lebanon, mountains, photography, travel | Leave a Comment »

off to the slopes

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 21, 2008

For me today is un jour férié, as the French say – a holiday. So I’m off to the slopes.


Wish me luck, please – the last time I went skiing parabolics were new, chemical hand warmers were in, and I was ski de fond’ing my way through the Von Trapp (yes, as in The Sound of Music) trails up in Vermont.

Posted in Americans, Lebanon, mountains | Leave a Comment »

blinker nerds: hazard light driving

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 2, 2007

The rainy Iowa weather last week made me think of one of the many Lebanese driving practices: driving with one’s hazard lights on.

In the United States, hazard lights are used to signal to other drivers that one’s car is stopped – either because the car has broken down or because the car is stopped in a non-standard place – in the right-hand lane of an urban street, for example.

The charmingly named “Wise Geek” has this to say about hazard lights:

Most commonly, hazard lights are used on a disabled car which has been pulled to the side of the road. Especially at night, they increase the visibility of the car so that it will not be hit. It also alerts drivers to the fact that there is a problem of some kind, and some drivers use hazard lights to ask for help, usually in combination with leaving the hood up. Responders to an accident scene may also use their hazard lights to warn drivers about unusual conditions up ahead, and to help clear a lane for the accident. Read more …

In Lebanon, drivers use hazard lights as a driving aid whenever the weather is bad. Used in conjunction with headlights, they make cars more visible in the fog that often covers the mountain roads, or the heavy rains of early spring.

I understand the reasons why US driving practices treat hazard lights as exceptional – when someone has his or her hazard lights on, it sends a clear signal of distress (or at least “watch out – I’m stopped!”) to other drivers. But last week I missed the extra visibility those lights would have provided. I’m not exactly a good driver even in the best weather. When the weather turns bad, I need all the help I can get!

Posted in Iowa, Lebanon, mountains, travel, weather | 1 Comment »

like water for mezzeh: lunch in the chouf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 29, 2007

Last Sunday’s drive through the Chouf took us through lovely Deir al-Qamar, M’s village (which my friend R terms rather less romantically “my ancestral thing-y”). I ought to have taken photographs, but all my artistic efforts on the way up had made me carsick. By the time we reached the checkpoint on the way to Mukhtara, I was delighted to have the chance to stop for a bit.

The soldiers solemnly took M’s and T’s ID cards, as well as the car’s registration. When T told me to get out my passport, one said: bas al-shabab. Only the guys [literally, the youths]. Someday a woman will commit a terrible act of terrorism in this region, and the shockwaves will be monumental. Until then, though, I am happy to keep my passport in my (uninspected) handbag.

Once the soldiers saw T’s ID, their manner changed. From Xxxxx? they asked, smiling. Yes, T replied, grinning back at them. Ana walad al-balad – literally, I am a child of the country, but in this case meaning more Yes, I am from around here. With a local in the car, they judged us no threat to Jumblatt, Mukhtara’s most famous (and most likely to be targeted for assassination) resident, and waved us on.

Of course, we weren’t headed to Jumblatt’s palace, but rather to a well known restaurant nearby. The restaurant is a complex of buildings and terraces, built into the rocky mountainside, with a waterfall cascading down in the back.

This photo looks back towards the entrance from the main front courtyard:


This photograph was the view we had during lunch, from our table at one of the lower (and quieter) terraces:


These two show the waterfall:




The food was incredibly delicious, and our table was enlivened by the presence of the two cousins who now tend the restaurant, which their grandfather began decades ago. T’s good friends from university days, they kept the dishes (and the arak, for anise lovers) coming to our table.

It was a lovely day, marred for me only by one small cross-cultural difficulty – one that crops up now and again, particularly in nice but more traditional restaurants like this one and the ones I know in Damascus.

In the United States, restaurant bathrooms are quite strictly divided by sex. Men and boys use the men’s restrooml; women and girls use the women’s. Bathroom attendants, when they exist, work in the gender-appropriate restroom.

Here, however, it is quite common to find an adolescent boy as the bathroom attendant covering both bathrooms. While I understand in my head that there is nothing inherently creepy about having a fourteen year old boy come in to the women’s restroom to hand me a towel, I can’t shake my American sense of “my space is being violated”.

I can’t shake it, but I do try to compensate with an extra generous tip!

Posted in Americans, Arab world, beer, Beirut, citizenship, Druze, economics, friends, holidays, Lebanon, mountains, time, tourism, travel, vanity, weather, women | 1 Comment »

more chouf’ing in the chouf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 26, 2007

Having so impressed myself with my photographic artistry with the me-in-the-rearview-mirror photos, I decided to try photographing the Chouf looking over the back of M’s car.

This one isn’t so bad:


With this one I think I went a bit too far – it looks like I’m about to fall out of the car:


Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, Druze, family, friends, holidays, Iowa, Lebanon, mountains, photography, time, tourism, travel, weather, women | Leave a Comment »

chouf’ing myself in the chouf

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 23, 2007

Yesterday I went to the Chouf with three friends – my first trip there ever (I am a terrible tourist.)

I had to look it up on a country map before we left to know where we were going. I had thought north; instead, we went south and then east. So much for my attempts to defy the stereotype of Americans as hopeless with geography.

As we drove up the mountain I decided to experiment with more artistic photographs than my usual ‘touristic’ shots.

My mother, who is a terrific photographer, took beautiful photographs of a trip to the badlands that she and my father made this fall. She has stunning shots of the terrain – all taken from their convertible, with her smiling face and camera visible through the passenger side rear view mirror.

So, inspired as always by my mama, here are two photos from yesterday’s drive:





Posted in Americans, Beirut, citizenship, Druze, family, friends, holidays, Lebanon, mountains, music, photography, tourism, travel, weather | 1 Comment »


Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 19, 2007

I have been told that the security officers overseeing the campsites downtown stopped allowing photography and video-recording after several early clips showing Hizbullah supporters behaving in unbecoming, or at least poor-for-PR ways were broadcast on YouTube and other sites.

As a result, my natural flee-from-anything-bearing -the-slightest-whiff-of-controversy led me to turn my camera elsewhere when I was downtown the other afternoon.


This was taken looking towards the port with the Virgin Megastore in the near background. The port and lower downtown are perhaps Beirut’s greatest loci of economic activity at the moment. I get a kick out of the Virgin Megastore because its building is often described as Beirut’s former opera house. It is not. The building originally housed a cinema called the Opera.



A closer view of the orthodox church at the heart of Place de l’Etoile, with the Roman ruins stretching out below and more construction in the background.

Posted in Beirut, church, economics, Lebanon, mountains, photography, politics, sea, women | Leave a Comment »

The south the south the beautiful south (iii)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 21, 2007

As we passed under one of the destroyed bridges south of Saida, we saw two signs.

One pointed left and said: Beirut (in English) and bayrut (in Arabic).

One pointed right and said: Janoub (in English) and al-janoub (in Arabic).

Its so silly, S. commented. People who read the sign in Arabic know that “janoub” means “south”. Why doesn’t the English read “south”, to help those who can’t read the Arabic?

I looked at the sign more closely. Something about it did look funny.

In Arabic, “the south” is spelled like this:


This sign, however, spelled out a different word:


That missing dot makes all the difference – “al-Hanoub” means nothing in Arabic. No wonder the sign-makers wrote Janoub in English, rather than “the South”.

Posted in Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, friends, Lebanon, maps, mountains, photography, research, tourism, traffic, travel, words | Leave a Comment »