November 30, 1961 – Jordan

Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem, Jordan – Clear, cold

     Edith and I were up at 5 am so we could be in the lobby with the rest of our group at 6 am.  I was glad I had gotten my overnight bag ready the night before.

     Today I traveled in a Chrysler for six hours with Edith, Ethyl, another couple and the driver to Petra.  The road was good and it was easy to travel on.  I was next to a window and enjoyed looking at the scenery.  Although it was interesting I even managed to take a little nap because it was so relaxing. 

     Once we arrived at Petra I was fascinated.  The city had been carved out of the red rock using rock cut architecture by a long dead people called the Nabataeans who had lived in splendor for hundreds of years.  The people had obtained their riches by exacting tribute from caravans who passed through the valley on their way to Damascus.  When the Romans had moved in, we were told that Herod spent his summers there so it really must have been a pleasant place to stay at that time of the year.

      Once we parked we went on horses through the main entrance to the ancient city of Petra called the Sig.  The entry way turned out to be a dim, narrow gorge (in some points no more than 9 feet wide) that was a natural geological fault produced by water erosion and upheaval.  Just as the caravans used the Sig to enter the Rose Red City carved out of the cliffs so we entered the valley.  Our trip to get into the gorge took an hour and being on horseback was exhausting.  The valley and city in the cliffs was not only unusual but wonderful to see.  I really felt sorry for Cecil who fell off his horse, clipped his shoulder and got very banged up. 

Entrance to Petra

      The carvings and buildings were all in Red Sandstone and had the appearance of water silk.  The only building materials that had been brought in were granite for steps to the monastery.  Everything else had been made from what was right there.   I was amazed because the city had an old water aqua duct that was still in good repair even though it was over 5000 years old. 

Valley of Petra and Buildings

Tombs in the Valley of Petra

Buildings in Petra

      Once we finally arrived in the valley and had a chance to walk around most of our group decided to hike up the mountain to see a monastery there.  Edith stayed behind due to the continued problems she had been having with her feet.  Our hike was up the 700 ft mountain and was a two mile walk.  I wouldn’t have made it if not for the help of Ali, an old toothless man, who did the walk with us.  Once we made it to the top he kissed me on my forehead and then wiped his own forehead.  He had such a big smile on his face and seemed quite tickled to have gotten me up to the top.  At the top we were able to see Aaron’s tomb and I really enjoyed the view from there.

Path to Monestary

Monastery on Top of Mountain

Another View of Monastery on Top of Mountain

Hurdsman Ali and Grandma

      We stayed in the valley over night at Nassal Camp which turned out to be very comfortable even though it was a little primitive.  It turned out to be a fun change of pace.  I found we had good food for dinner but my favorite part of the evening was having a chance to experience the night sky.  Away from the city lights the sky was so clear and there seemed to be a million stars twinkling. 

     When I finally went to bed I was so tired from the traveling, horseback riding and hiking that I had no trouble falling asleep.


November 29, 1961 – Jordan

Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem, Jordan – Clear, cold

     It was so cold this morning in our room that I didn’t want to get out of bed but I finally did because I was anxious to see more of the holy land today.  After I crawled out of bed I started to warm up and I changed into my clothes.  I opted to take a coat with me to make sure I was warm enough all day.  I was glad I did because I wound up having to put it on while I ate my breakfast because I was so cold.

     Today we only had a half day trip to Jericho in the Jordan River valley.  On the way there we found out a little information about the area.  Our guide said the Jordan River Valley was 985 feet below sea level and that the Jordan River was 180 feet below sea level.  We found that even though Jericho was only 40 miles from Jerusalem our drive seemed to be very long.  Jericho was a beautiful spot with many citrus, fig and banana trees.  The city had a population of 40,000 including a camp with refugees from Israel. 

Road to Jericho


      I enjoyed seeing Mary and Martha’s home as well as the Good Samaritan Inn and the Dead Sea while we were in Jericho.  The area was so arid but inspiring when I thought of all the history that had been made there.  My favorite part today had been washing my hands in the Jordan River and wading in the Dead Sea.  It felt good and gave me a special feeling while I was doing it.  The water seemed to be very clean and when I tasted it found it to be very salty. 

Tour of Samaritans Inn

Dead Sea

Jordan River

Washing my Hands in Jordan River

      We got back to our hotel in time for lunch which made me happy because we had the remainder of the day free.  I was glad because after I ate I was sleepy and so was Edith.  We decided to take a nap before doing anything else.  When we finally woke up I cashed in some traveler’s checks so I could give Edith $20 and keep $30.  Edith had used up all her money and I wanted to help her out so she would have enough to spend till we got to Italy. 

      Edith and I both had packages we wanted to send home but since it was going to cost $6.00 to mail out I decided to carry them with me till I got to Italy when I would have more money to pay for postage.  I was discouraged I couldn’t mail out my package and so was Edith.  We decided to go back to our room and use our time to wash out some clothes and catch up on correspondence instead of going out anywhere. 

      Edith did a lot of writing and mumbling under her breath.  I didn’t have long to wait before Edith hinted that she would appreciate knowing more about what I’d seen the day before.  I showed her my notes on what I remembered and she seemed to really appreciate my help.  Later she showed me her letter to the newspaper and asked for feedback on it.  

      Dinner came and went.  The food was good and for the first time in a quite awhile we had beef for our meal.  Our steaks and baked potatoes were wonderful.  After dinner we talked Gertrude and Flo into playing cards with us and it made for a nice evening.  Half way through our evening Curt joined us and we took turns sitting out a hand of cards so he could play too.  We didn’t play too late though because the following morning we had to leave very early for Petra. 

     Once I was back in the room I didn’t have any trouble going to sleep despite having taken an afternoon nap.

November 28, 1961 – Jordan

Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem, Jordan – Clear, cool

     I got up extra early this morning because I wanted to write a letter to Ramona before I ate breakfast and went on my morning tour.  I was surprised at how chilly it was today so I put on a sweater to wear while I wrote my letter:

Nov 28, 1961 – Jerusalem, Jordan

Dear Ramona and everyone;

     This is just one more reminder to send me the $500 to Italy.  We have had more expenses than we thought.  Now today we have to pay an extra $8 for the trip to the Dead Sea and Jericho.  Also Edith and I are both mailing a package which will be expensive as the packages are heavy.  Our guide says this is a safe place to mail from.  We sure collect things without trying. 

     We have been having a wonderful tour here.  We walked The Way of the Cross and the 14 stations and been all over the city (on foot).  Last night we were all tired out.  Today we will mostly ride in cars and I have decided to go to Petra after all.  Edith is staying here at the hotel.  Her feet have been hurting and when she fell in Bali she must have twisted her shoe because she has to almost hobble when she walks. 

     I want to thank you a million for making me get my shoes.  I have had no foot trouble whatever and believe me we have walked miles. 

     This hotel is very nice but the food is funny.  Last night we had a pretty good meal (mutton) but the night before I had to send my plate back – it looked like slop.  They had put some mashed potatoes on a pork chop one and then covered the whole plate and food with soupy apple sauce – it was a mess.  The waiters here got mad.  Edith asked for hot water and he said “You’ll get it at the end of the meal.”  She wanted it to make her decaf which she carries with her. 

     Just think it will be just one more month and I will be home.  I am keeping my travel book and it is a good thing as I wouldn’t be able to remember anything if it weren’t for that.  We have seen so much, it is all just a jumble now.

     I’ve sent 16 rolls of film home so far.  I hope you have received them.  I am keeping the rest with me.  It costs too much to send home.  $2 for 2 rolls. 

     Well dear give my love to everyone.  Loads of love, Mother  

P.S. Get the $500 for sure.

     It felt good to get the letter to Ramona finished so I could mail it with the package I’d put together to send out.  The package contained a tray, little elephants and camels, fur hat, candle sticks, beads, kimono, cards, several crosses and some little toys for Mike and Liz Anne.  Edith and I joined our fellow travelers for breakfast and the meal turned out to be better than some of the other ones we’d had here.  After we ate Edith returned to our room to rest while I left for another day of sightseeing. 

Jerusalem, Jordan

      Today we were taken to Bethany where Lazarus was raised from the dead.   We stopped at the Mount of Olives and visited the Chapel of the Ascension where Jesus ascended into Heaven.  The guide told us that on the ascension rock inside the chapel you could still see the imprint of Jesus’ right foot.  Then we went to see the Pater Noster Church, a reconstructed Roman Catholic Church, which was also located on the Mount of Olives.  The Pater Noster Church sat on the traditional site of where Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer.  From outside of the church we had a panoramic view of the entire city. 

Lazarus Tomb in Bethlehem

Church of the Ascension

Place of Ascension

Interior of Pater Noster Church Used for Prayers

View of Jerusalem from Garden of Agony for Church of All Nations

      We also saw the Temple Dome of the Rock which was supposed to be situated on top of where Solomon’s Temple once stood.  We also saw there the Wailing Wall near the Temple Mount. 

Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock

Wailing Wall

Dung Gate

St Stephen's Gate or Lion's Gate

      We visited the Garden of Gethsemane where we saw an olive tree 3,000 years old.  Then our tour took us to see Rachel’s tomb, the Shepherd’s Field where the flocks of sheep were being tended when they saw the star and the Fields of Ruth and Boaz.  Our group also toured the Nativity church, the Grotto of the Nativity, St. Catherine’s church, Grotto of St. Jerome, Milk Grotto, Tomb of the Virgin Mary and we had some wonderful views of Kedron and Josephat’s Valleys. 

View of Gethsamane

Oldest Olive Tree in World

Fields of Kedron and Josophat Valley

Church of St Catherine, Bethlehem

Amman Old Biblical City

      By the end of the day we had walked miles and miles so I was glad Edith hadn’t come because with her foot problems I wasn’t sure if she would have been able to keep up.  I was glad when we settled into our cars to return to our hotel and I wondered if Edith would approach me for information about what we’d seen for the newspaper articles back home or not. 

      When I got back to our room I sat down on the bed and laid back to rest for just a few minutes but fell asleep until Edith woke me up to let me know it was time to go to dinner.  I reluctantly went to dinner since all I really wanted to do was sleep but once our meal arrived I was glad I had decided to eat.  Dinner was a wonderful roasted chicken and we had ice cream for dessert which was nice for a change.

      After dinner all I wanted to do was go back to our room to sleep but Edith, who had rested all day, was full of energy so she tried to get several of us to play cards.  Most of our group was too tired but she finally found a couple besides her and Gertrude who were willing to sit and play cards for a few hours. 

     I returned to our room alone and gratefully enjoyed the quiet while I took a nice hot bath and washed out some things.  Once that was done I turned in for the night.  Edith woke me up when she came in but I didn’t have any trouble going back to sleep.

November 27, 1961 – Lebanon

Riviera Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon – Clear, Warm

     This morning I got up a little earlier than Edith because I thought I might go back to that store to purchase the gold bracelet I liked instead of eating breakfast.  However, as I gathered my things and Edith got up I decided against it because I didn’t want to take a chance on holding up the others going to the airport. 

     After breakfast our group took the bus to the airport to catch our flight to Jerusalem, Jordan.  Our hour long trip was a pleasant one.  From the plane I had a wonderful view of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea which was exciting to see.  Curt told Edith and I that Jerusalem was 2,500 feet above sea level and had a population of 60,000.  He also mentioned that the dominate religions were Roman Catholic and Muslim which surprised me since I had assumed it would be Muslim and Judaism.  Our guide book noted that the annual average rainfall was 25 inches which was more than I thought it would be after seeing the desert with practically no trees or shrubs.   I decided I had several misconceptions about this area and it made me feel bad.

View of Jordan River and Dead Sea from Plane

     Our drive into Jerusalem revealed that a majority of the buildings were unpainted limestone and brick.  The rocky hills were barren except for very short grass which was the same color as the earth.  Edith mentioned to me that she didn’t have as strong a sense of reverence as she thought she would have before she got here.  We found the city was surrounded by a rock wall, only had a few gates and really didn’t cover a very large area.  I understood what she was talking about but wondered how I would feel once we visited some of the holy sites later in the day.

     We checked into the Ambassador Hotel and then made ourselves comfortable in our rooms.  The hotel once again turned out to be very nice one and I was pleased when I found our room had a delightful balcony overlooking the city.  After we freshened up and put a few things away, Edith and I joined the remainder of our tour group in the dining room for lunch.  The food turned out to be simple and similar to what we’d been served the last few days.  I was excited once we were done eating so we could go on a tour.

     Our afternoon took us on a walking tour of the fourteen Stations of the Cross starting at the Court of Pilate, walking on the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) till we reached the Hill of Golgotha and ended at Mt. Calvary.   We saw the Chapel of Condemnation and visited the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was anointed along with His tomb. 

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa Shops

     As I meandered around the Holy City I knew I was treading on the same ground that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, St. Paul and many other Biblical figures including Jesus had walked on when they lived.  There were so many things that looked the same as it likely did in the Old and New Testament times and those ancient days unfolded before my eyes in a way I decided you had to see to experience.  I was so glad I had come on this trip so I could see this area.

Street in Old Jerusalem

Another Street in Old Jerusalem

     We continued on our touring by visiting the Chapel of Flagellation, the Ecce Homo Arch, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Tower of David, Pool of Bethesda, and Pilate’s Judgment Hall which was now a Roman Catholic convent.  Next we went to the Mosque of Omar that had a huge sacrificial rock inside its front door.  The mosque, owned by the Muslims, was now where King Solomon’s Temple once stood.  The sacred spot covered one sixth of the area which made up Jerusalem.  Our last stop of the day was the beautiful Church of All Nations built in 1919 which had a spectacular mosaic ceiling.

Via Dolorosa Ecce Homo

Via Dolorosa Ecce Homo

Church of All Nations

     In one short afternoon we had covered quite a bit of area and seen so much I was emotionally and physically drained.  However, many of us, Edith and I included, decided to investigate a few of the shops that we saw lining both sides of the streets.  There were vendors with push carts that we had to watch out for so as to avoid a collision.  I saw some interesting trinkets that I thought about getting but finally only decided to buy a gavel for 40 cents. 

     Once we returned to the hotel Edith and I forced ourselves to eat the mutton served for dinner but we finished as quickly as we could so we could return to our room and collapse.  Edith and I flipped a coin to see who got to take their bath first and I lost.  However, I wasn’t upset because that meant I would be able to stay in the tub as long as I wanted since Edith would have had her bath.  By the time I crawled out of the tub the water was cold and I was ready to go to bed.  I was glad the mattress was a good one and it didn’t take me long to drift off to sleep.

November 26, 1961 – Syria

Semiramis Hotel, Damascus, Syria – Clear

     It felt good to wake up this morning and not be rushed.  Our tour wasn’t scheduled to start until later than normal so Edith and I both took advantage of the chance to sleep in a little.  I ordered a simple breakfast and then returned to my room to pack up my overnight bag and to get ready to leave.  When I climbed on the bus I wasn’t looking forward to touring this morning and then driving all afternoon to get back to Beirut.  

     Our tour took us to the Umayyad Mosque that was one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world.  Josef told us that legend had it Gabriel was to sound the final trumpets from the minarets there.  The mosque was erected in 706 and stood on the site of the church named for John the Baptist.  A casket located in the chapel contained his head.  The walls of the mosque were covered with mosaics.  We were told that nine hundred Persian rugs covered the marble floor of the mosque and there was enough room for 15,000 men to pray at any given time.  Women were not permitted in the mosque so they had to pray at home instead.  In fact, I found out that the women had few if any privileges in many of the countries we’d traveled so far. 

Ummayad Mosque in Demascus

      Behind the town on Oassioun Hill Josef said was where Cain was supposed to have slain his brother Abel.

      Near the mosque we saw the Tomb of Saladin with a garden attached to it.  I noticed how reverent the people were who cared for the mosque and tomb.  We had a chance to go through a bazaar where I bought some candle holders and I also looked for gold bracelets again.  Eventually we found our way to the Street Called Straight and saw the Ananias’ house which had been turned into a chapel.  Once we were inside the chapel we had to walk down a flight of steps to where St. Paul was baptized.  I took pictures of St. John’s prison and saw the window where he escaped from Roman and Jewish pursuit.  Where they kept St. John was now St. Johns Church.  We even saw the Crusader’s castle and an ancient wall.

Street in Demascus

Street Called Straight in Demascus

Gate that Leads to Ananias House

St Paul's Prison and Window

Demascus Bazaar

Shops in Demascus Bazaar

     After finishing the tour of Damascus our bus drove back to Beirut over the mountains with its dangerous curves and many downhill stretches.  We were lucky because the area we were traveling in had experienced a heavy snow storm the week before we arrived and most of the snow had melted but along the way we encountered many Sunday drivers which created problems.  In the distance on our return trip we could see Mt. Hermon where Jesus named Peter as the head of the church.  Six days after he returned from the valley the transfiguration took place. 

      When we finally pulled into Beirut at the Riviera Hotel we were really glad to be there.  All we had to do at the front desk was to pick up the keys to the same rooms we’d had before so there wasn’t a big delay.  At dinner I was very disappointed because I had to send my food back.  They had given me a pork chop with mashed potatoes on top of it and then a soupy apple sauce on top of that which didn’t look appetizing at all.  When I asked the waiter to just bring me back a pork chop with mashed potatoes it was obvious he was mad.  Then Edith asked for some hot water to make her decaf coffee and the waiter got extremely angry and told her she would have to wait till the end of the meal.

      After dinner, tired and disgusted from our service, Edith and I retired to our room.  We had a lot to do since we were leaving early in the morning to go to Jordan.  I wanted to wash out a few things and take a bath before going to bed.  Edith wanted to take a bath and make a few notes for her letter back to the paper.  By the time Edith turned off the lights it was after 11 pm and I was already asleep.

November 25, 1961 – Lebanon

Riviera Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon – Clear

     I stayed in bed longer than Edith did after I woke up this morning and I watched as she packed her overnight bag since she hadn’t done it last night.  After Edith finished we went down to the dining room to get breakfast.  Edith and I were the first ones there so we had a head start on getting coffee and putting in our meal order.  I’d found that a light breakfast was better on days I was going to be doing a lot of traveling.  If I ate too much I tended to get a sour stomach during the trip.

      When our bus left Beirut to travel to Baalbek Josef took us to see the Pigeon Grotto which was really out of the ordinary. It stood on the edge of the cliff and I loved watching the bluest of blue waters as it swirled around the little islands.  I could see that one of the islets even had an arch.  The view reminded me of movies where there was a love scene with a mermaid and a sailor or something like that.  While we were there I took some pictures of the grotto, Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea.  I couldn’t resist taking more and more pictures of the sea because of how spectacular the color of water was.

Mediteranean Sea from the Hill

Pigeon Grotto

Another View of the Pigeon Grotto

      The early morning ride over the snow covered Lebanon Mountains brought us into the Valley of Bekaa so we could see the famous ruins of Baalbek.  On the far side of the valley were the Anti-Lebanon Mountains which had a similar topography to Southern California.  The drive was nice and I loved seeing the countryside.

      Josef told us that Baalbek was one of the earliest cities in the world and the first one known for being an important pagan center.  I found Baalbek fascinating.  During Roman times Josef said the area was called Heliopolis and it had been one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire.  Josef also mentioned that the ruins were still considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.  We saw steps carved out of huge granite blocks that had been carried there from miles away by slaves.  We also visited numerous temples including the one for Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus which still had a splendor that miraculously resisted time.  The ruins were the best preserved ones we’d seen so far.  Josef told us that the temples had been destroyed by the crusaders because they were considered Pagan although many of them had been converted for use by the Christian religion.  He also mentioned Baalbek had an annual festival of music, dramatic art and dancing every summer in the temples.  I couldn’t help wish I could have attended one of the dramas put on there. 


Another View of Baalbeck Ruins

Baalbeck Carving

Roman Temple Ruins at Baalbeck

Another View of Roman Temple Ruins at Baalbeck

Third View of Roman Temples at Baalbeck

Temple of Bacchus at Baalbeck

Temple of Bacchus Corner Stone at Baalbeck

Temple of Jupitor at Baalbeck

      The ruins covered acres and acres.  As I stood there looking at the panorama of the area it reminded me of a beautiful painting by one of the masters with the ruins in front, the mountains behind them and the mountainside with varicolored vegetation giving way to snow half way up to the top.  I regretted that we had to leave Baalbek to go to Damascus after spending only a couple of hours there.

      As we continued on our way we passed a camel train and then a Bedouin village.  Josef explained that the Bedouins were nomads who moved from place to place with their sheep.  Several of us wanted to stop at the village but had to be satisfied with just seeing it as we passed by on the bus.  I noticed many of the Bedouin women were tattooed but not all of them.  Josef explained that women were tattooed soon after they were married.  It was used to denote their change in status much like women who wore a wedding ring in some countries.  I had to admit that they were quite striking in appearance with their tattoos.

Camel Train Seen on Trip to Demascus

Another View of Camel Train on Trip to Demascus

Bedowin Camp

      Once we reached Damascus we were taken to the Semiramis Hotel where we were going to spend only one night before we returned to Beirut.  It turned out that Damascus was a desert metropolis with caravans and oriental bazaars.  Josef told us that the city had a population of a half million and its main industries were damask weaving, mosaic and brass work.  Damascus turned out to be like I imagined it would be with old, narrow streets and ancient buildings.  As we were pulled into the hotel driveway, Curt leaned over and told Edith and I that Damascus was the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world which I thought was fascinating. 

      Our hotel turned out to be very nice as was our room so I hoped our dinner would be good too.  Once we checked in Gertrude, Flo and I decided to explore the area and see if we could find some shops to poke through.  I found a little toy camel train to bring back for Mike and several caps all for only $1.50 American.  I thought the grand kids would really like the caps.  I was sure Janice would like the blue one since that was her favorite color. 

      We made it back in time to join the others for dinner in the hotel’s dining room.  I found the food mediocre although the service was what we’d come to expect since coming to the Middle East.  Several others agreed with me that the quality of our meal wasn’t what we thought we would get here but Flo reminded us that at least we didn’t have to resort to eating just bananas. 

      After dinner I declined to play cards again with some others and so did Edith.  Both of us went back to our room to catch up on our correspondence.  I wanted to write my brother Ed and do another one to Ramona so I could mail them in the morning before we left Damascus.  While Edith took a bath I finished Ed’s and then started one to Ramona:

Nov 25, 1961 – Damascus

Dear Ramona and Everyone;

     We arrived in Beirut yesterday and stayed right on the Mediterranean.  Our hotel was lovely and we had a very nice room with balcony right on the sea front.  I took pictures.  Food is delicious here. 

     Then this morning we came here by bus.  Stopped at Baalbek to take pictures – that was worth the trip because the ruins were stupendous and unbelievable unless you see it. 

     Flo, Gertrude and I went to see the shops here and we walked around until it got dark and it  is very cold here – lots of snow on the mountains. 

     We will go back to Beirut tomorrow.  I would like to stay there for awhile then go on to Jerusalem.  I am planning to skip Petra and the Rose City ruins.  The bus rides are getting me down.  I’ll rest in the hotel in Jerusalem for the extra two days – have my hair done, etc. 

     Have you received my letters where I ask you to send $500 to Rome instead of $300 well that is what we will need – $500.

     I received two letters from you #14 and #15.  Of course when we reach a mail drop we all run like crazy for the desk – then everyone counts and I have to brag when I get nine like I did yesterday.  Oh yes got the ribbon and fixed my dress and wore it last night.  Thanks. 

     Saw a beautiful gold 18 carat bracelet yesterday for $40 but didn’t buy it.  Maybe I’ll be sorry but I’ve gone over my $100 now.  Darn that Kennedy.  Oh well.  When I get to Italy I want to get some things.  What would Anna like?  A  purse? 

Love to everyone, Mother

     Once Edith finished her bath and sat down to write something for the newspaper.  She asked me what I remembered about the ruins at Baalbek so I told her what I had committed to memory.  Then I sealed up my letters, took a bath and got ready for bed.

November 24, 1961 – Iraq

Baghdad Hotel, Baghdad, Iraq – Clear

     Edith and I forced ourselves to get up early, again, so we could get a little breakfast before leaving for the airport.  I chose to have a light meal of grapefruit, some toast and coffee because I didn’t want to fly after eating something heavy.  Once Edith and I were both done eating we joined the others in the lobby.  As it turned out we arrived a little early so we had to wait for awhile.

      Our flight to Beirut, Lebanon was another short one and only lasted a couple of hours.  I enjoyed the drive to our hotel from the airport because it gave me a good feel for the area.  I didn’t have any preconceived ideas as to what Beirut would be like but when I saw the spectacular summer residences, beautiful hotels and the fabulous sea I was delighted.  The blue of the ocean was a rich sapphire color and it made me want to swim in it.  Curt had told us that Beirut compared very highly against many famous resorts found in France or Italy. 

      On our bus drive in our guide Josef stood up to give us some background information about Lebanon.   He told us that we would likely be surprised to find out that besides olives, olive oil and wool that Lebanon exported a hundred thousand tons of apples each year.  He mentioned that the orchards were terraced on the side of Mount Lebanon.  When Josef asked us how many believed that the majority of the 500,000 inhabitants were Muslim most of us raised our hands.  However, he surprised us and said that only 45% of the population was Muslim and that most were Christian.  We all agreed that we were surprised but pleasantly so. 

      We checked into the Riviera Hotel and like its rich sounding name the hotel was wonderful.  When I checked in I was given nine letters and it made me ecstatic.  There was one from my friend Susan, one from my brother Ed, two from Ramona, one from Ray’s mother Anna and finally a letter each from Bob, Pat, Patrick and Penny. When the clerk handed me my letters Edith turned away because she hadn’t gotten any. 

      Edith and I made it to our room and found our room had a balcony with a view of the Mediterranean Sea and the view was quite stunning.  We had time to freshen up before we were to meet the others in the dining room for lunch so after I did I took time to read just a couple of my letters.  I didn’t want to call attention to the fact Edith hadn’t gotten any and cause any hard feelings.

View of Mediteranean Sea from Hotel

View of Beirut

      Lunch turned out to be first-class and it made me happy that our meals would be so good during our stay in Beirut.  After eating we left the hotel to take a short tour.  Josef first took us to the city’s museum where we had a chance to see some of the Lebanon’s culture.  The museum was very interesting but I found several of their sculptures amazing including the one depicting Jupiter and Apollo.  I marveled at the genius behind the sculptor that had been able to produce such stunning creations.   

      As we drove around we passed a grove of Lebanon cedar trees which looked far different than the cedar I’d seen before.  I was glad that we were able to stop so I could take a picture because I hadn’t seen many trees since we arrived here. 

Lebanon Cedars

      On the way back to the hotel Josef announced we would be stopping in a market place where we would have a chance to shop.  Several of us, Edith and I included, gave a yelp of joy and made ourselves ready to look through the stores.  It was fun walking around and I was glad for the opportunity to see if I could find a gold bracelet.  After looking through several places I finally found one on sale for $40 American that I liked.  However, I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t sure if it was what I really wanted.  I decided that it would be better to wait and come back later if I changed my mind.

      Once we got back to hotel I had really worked up an appetite.  I was glad when I had a chance to order my dinner.  My eyes lighted up when I saw my diner arrive and my mouth started to water.  The service was perfect again and we were given new plates and utensils with each course.  I wondered who was going to wash all the dishes and I was glad it wasn’t me.  I wished I could just keep the same plate because I felt sorry for whoever had to clean them.  When I offered to keep it, the waiter brushed away my suggestion and he took away each plate quickly before I could protest any further.

      Edith and Flo wanted to play cards and needed a fourth person but I turned them down because I wanted to go back to my room to read my letters, get ready for the trip to Damascus tomorrow and catch up on my correspondence.  It was nice to have the bedroom to myself for a few minutes.  I’d already read the letters from Anna, Ed and Ramona’s but I still needed to read the letters from Bob, Pat and their kids.  I loved the newsy letter from Pat about the kids, hearing how they were doing along with the personal little details that I didn’t usually get from Bob who always wrote work oriented letters.  When I started to read the letter from Patrick and the one from Penny I got teary-eyed.  The correspondence was written so carefully in kids handwriting and contained little newsy information about school, projects and things which I loved hearing.  Patrick noted several details about Sammy to let me know he was doing okay too.  Penny wrote about what Liz Anne was up to because, as always, she was so considerate of her siblings. 

      I was so moved by Patrick and Penny’s letter that I decided to write them first:

Nov 24, 1961 – Beirut, Lebanon

Dear Patrick, Penny, Liz Ann and Sammy;

     Do you mind if I write just one letter to you all? 

     We were in Baghdad for two days and I went to see Babylon.  I am bringing you each a piece of clay pottery with some cuneiform writing on it that I found there.  We saw some interesting sights like a camel train with the herdsman riding a donkey and a large band of Persian sheep and their shepherd.  I took some pictures of them and some children too. 

     This morning we got up early and took a plane to this place.  It is a very big city on the Mediterranean.  We have a room with a balcony overlooking the sea and the sea is the bluest blue you ever saw.  Our room is beautiful and we just came from a wonderful lunch.  When I get home, everything I eat will have to be served on a different plate with clean knife and fork with each and every service.  Maybe I will have to wash the dishes then. 

     I received your letters and I was so happy to get them.  Patrick, it sounds like you are having fun.  I am saving the foreign money for you and you will have to study about it so you will know what each coin is.  Penny I am so happy you are getting good grades in school and glad you had such a nice birthday. 

     I thought about you all yesterday on Thanksgiving Day.  The hotel in Baghdad served us a lovely turkey dinner and the food was good.  Also we had real linen sheets embroidered and linen towels in our bathroom, unusual for a hotel. 

     I didn’t get to do any shopping in Persia or Baghdad even though they had lovely things there.  We went to a couple of stores here in Beirut but only for a half hour and it wasn’t long enough to make a decision.  Gold is very cheap here and I would like a gold bracelet but I want the right one. 

     Tomorrow we are going to Baalbek and then Damascus to stay all night.  We have heard their hotel is lovely.  We saw the museum today and the statue of Jupiter, Apollo and some very, very old mosaics 500 and 600 BC. 

     Write to me again.  All my love, Grandma

P.S. Thank you so much for writing all your letters, Penny.  You write so good now.  Much better than I do and both your letters were so interesting.

     After finishing the letter to Bob’s kids I put it in an envelope and sealed it then I prepared an overnight bag to take with me tomorrow so I wouldn’t have to take my big suitcase.  I took the ribbon I’d received in one my letters from Ramona and did some sewing on my gold dress.  Once that was done and since Edith wasn’t back yet I decided to take a long luxurious bath and relax since I wouldn’t feel obligated to hurry.  By the time I had finished toweling off I heard Edith coming in the door so I dressed quickly and left the bathroom so Edith could use it if she wanted to. 

      I was asleep by the time Edith came out of the bathroom.  I was glad I didn’t have trouble going to sleep because I wanted to be rested in the morning.

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