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.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patrick S Poplin
    Nov 24, 2010 @ 21:23:09

    According to this journal entry, Janice, I did write a letter to Grandma. I’m glad. I gave Kay the link to this blog, because I thought she’d like to follow it too. Have a happy Thanksgiving.


    • Janice
      Nov 25, 2010 @ 08:54:29

      Yep, I guess you did. Evidently you and Penny did some. I didn’t remember that. That was nice of you to give Kay the link…I hadn’t thought to do that.


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