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. 

Baalbeck

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.

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