I wanted to travel to Lebanon to visit my colleagues there for the first time. Of course, the nation is bordered on two sides by Syria, the US State Department warns against travel there and ISIS held national headlines at the time, so I contacted the friends I knew who had experience with the area to get a sense of the real danger versus the sensationalized.

No one would guarantee that traveling to Tripoli was completely safe or promise that I had nothing to worry about and one friend who had the most experience with the Middle East (although for the most part only with the most dangerous areas of it) told me stories about hostages being traded and sold that was pretty scary. The videos of beheadings were haunting, too, especially for an overall violence-averse person who can’t even stomach an episode of Game of Thrones.

This is how fear works. 

We fear not what is most probable (e.g. climate change), but what captures our imaginations most viscerally, even if it’s extremely improbable (e.g. being kidnapped by terrorists). The easier and more terrifying it is to imagine, the more we fear it, and the more likely we are to act to avoid it. Fear is illogical. 

I know this, but I am not fearless.

A friend of mine wrote, "Lindsey, you are being poised for exponential growth and all these fears and inquiries are your body’s natural response to not wanting to change. Our body often resists change; it is the heart’s job to guide us forward into the beauty of the unknown." My heart booked the flight. My heart books all of my flights, now that I think about it.

Here’s what I have to report: I felt safe. I felt welcomed. I felt extremely well taken care of. Extremely.

In Lebanon I met some of the smartest, friendliest and most generous people I’ve ever met. This is coming from someone who lives in San Francisco and was raised in The Heart of It All - I know all about these three types, and I mean this genuinely.

Many thanks to Hani and his wife, Lisa, for teaching me how to eat for a full six hours, for presenting me with the freshest and most delicious food I could possibly consume over that length of time (and which is not accessible in the US no matter how hard I try), for helping me navigate Arabic as a (very) beginner to the language, and for introducing me to two new friends, their most adorable children, Tulin and Ali. 

Also thanks to Hani’s parents and sisters, Mirna and Amal, for the traditional meal in Syr, of which I ate a full three servings and can still taste when I think of it, and Lisa’s parents for the sweet bungalow by the sea where I worked on the balcony on late nights and floated in the sea on early mornings and loved every minute of it. 

And to Sonia and Tharaa for teaching me about the hijab and laughing at me; to Wassim for teaching me oriental dancing; to Samer and Jana for letting me come to their beautiful wedding; and to Abed for shaking my hand even though he wasn’t supposed to for religious reasons, but as a compromise for the fact that I wanted to hug him.

Hover for captions. Tap for lightbox. 

Tripoli was originally comprised of three cities (hence tri-), which are now districts in one overarching metropolis. Welcome to the seaside district.

A welcome cake with a firecracker! This was awesome.

Hani and I in Beirut.

Not your mother's shawarma. The ultra sour Lebanese pickles take it to the next level. 

Floating in the Mediterranean. #noproblem

Beirut

With Mirna, Tharaa and Sonia and my half-assed attempt at a hijab. 

My serious attempt at a hijab.
Me: "Ah, I don't know about this."
Tharaa: "Of course it will take away some beauty."

With Hani and Lisa's son, Ali. The sweetest little sugar muffin.

Tripolitan deserts!

My shisha initiation

Thank goodness!

Tharaa and Sonia after an afternoon of shopping for office decor

Mirna and Tharaa modeling #Truthbombs tattoos, a gift from Danielle

Some of the best developers you've ever met anywhere.

Lisa (Hani's wife) and I at a Starbucks in Beirut. Hani likes Starbucks' espresso even more than Arabic coffee. I don't know enough about coffee to weigh in on that one. 

Enjoying Arabic coffee.

#Teamwork

Tharaa training an intern.

Hani and Lisa's daughter Tulin getting her hair done next to me at the salon. We both felt about the same way about it.

Visiting a monastery on the cliffs south of Tripoli

Driving to Syr with Tulin

Tulin and I only spoke a handful of words in overlapping languages but we still become good friends, in part by turning the few words we shared into songs. Our first single went like this: "Mafi Mokshel! Mafi Mokshel!" ("No problem! No problem!") in various rhythms. Our next platinum hit featured "un cabut" (a spider).

Hide and seek

Tulin and LIndsey - INVISIBLE

Sunset #lovers

The Mediterranean is the color of blue shave gel even when you're in it. And when you float, it holds you and rocks you like a babe... Perfect temperature, perfect color, perfectly clear. Perfect.

My neighbors enjoyed cut fruit and coffee by the sea every morning. Meanwhile, I creepily took photos from my balcony.

Winner of Best Soap Dish.

Pyrotechnics, smoke machine and LED lights? NO PROBLEM.

I thought this sign looked really cool, so I took a photo. Afterward, Hani told me it's asking guests not to play their radios. Still.

Olive branches

Wedding photos on The Med

Ali at lunch

Multiple varieties of hummus and warm pita for breakfast. I wish I could recreate this at home, but it's IMPOSSIBLE.

Mirna while taking photos for the About page. How beautiful!

Lisa and I taking a perfectly photobombed selfie at Hani's brothers' wedding.

Argileh (shisha) with Lisa #ducklips 

Hani's parents with Ali in Syr

Lisa with Ali after lunch in Tripoli.

Mrs. Hamadeh

Lisa's my sister from another mister

Enjoying shisha and another beautiful sunset at Hani's parents' place in Syr, Lebanon.

I was sad to leave. Hani and Lisa waited for me at the airport until I went out of site, even while I went through some incredibly long lines. #truefriends

Twelve hour layovers in Abu Dhabi were pretty rad. ;) I read a biography of Gertrude Bell. The book was mediocre but she was amazing.

Jetlag. Letting all the beauty sink in.

2 Comments