Lebanon

As strange as it may be to describe a country in such a way, I will say that Lebanon touched me. I have traveled there many times since my twenties, and have always been warmly received, despite the many hardships that have befallen the small country: civil wars, invasions, massacres, and attacks. And yet, the Lebanese have maintained their good humor, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre; their sense of hospitality and relaxed attitude are heroic. I have not been back since the civil war that bloodied the country forty years ago. Of course, the country has changed, Beruit has changed, but the Lebanese themselves have not, to the great benefit of those who love them, and those who travel there.

 

IMG_0933Columns dating to antiquity rise in the midst of chaotic and frenzied traffic in Beirut, a testament to the prodigious past of Lebanon.

 

P1090587Once again, while walking through Beirut, I came across ancient Greco-Roman columns, rising between modern buildings.

 

P1090590The center of Beirut, a place I once knew to be crowded and full of life is now comparatively deserted, partially razed by the destructive civil war. This rather bizarre and incongruous structure was once one of the most famous nightclubs in Lebanon.

 

IMG_0986In the palace of Lady Cochrane, even the guard posts at the garden’s entrance are magnificent works of Ottoman inspiration.

 

P1090617One of the Sursock palaces, owned by Lady Cochrane, seen from the magnificent gardens.

 

IMG_1007The Audi bank in Beruit, thanks to its director and namesake, is an architectural wonder, and houses part of his collection, such as the ancient mosaic hanging on the wall.

 

IMG_1008Henry Pharaon was one of the most astute collectors in Lebanon and an important figure in Beruit. I knew him before his murder. His house has since been transformed into a museum, where the owner once welcomed me. Shown is an ornate salon decorated with the spoils of ancient muslim palaces.

 

IMG_1015In the staircase of the home of Henry Pharaon, an entire wall was constructed for his collection of funeral headstones from the ancient city of Palmyra.

 

P1090599The collection of Henry Pharoan is so extensive that headstones, along with ancient columns and capitals, flow out of the house and into the gardens.

 

P1090603Among the many funerary headstones that Henry Pharaon brought back from Palmyra is this one, most rare, which represents an entire family: father, mother, and children.

 

P1090611Another view of Henry Pharaon’s home, the gardens teeming with ancient artifacts.

 

P1090614A strange face carved from black basalt, Egyptian in influence, stands in front of the entrance of Henry Pharaon’s home.

 

IMG_0996Sidon, Saïda in Arabic, founded thousands of years ago, is one of the oldest Mediteranean ports. The ruins of an imposing caravanserai that once welcomed traders and merchants from all around rise from the coast.

 

P1090557A street in the medieval city of Sidon. Sidon played an important role during the time of the Crusades and was the objective of numerous battles.

 

 


by  Prince Michael of Greece