Lebanon-On the verge


Lebanon is bounded on the north and east by Syria, on the west by the Mediterranean, and on the south by Israel.

The country consists of two mountain chains, the Lebanon and the ante-Lebanon; a narrow coastal strip, where all the major cities lie; and a fertile plain, the Bekaa valley, which lies between the two mountain chains and provides most of the local agricultural produce. 

The capital, Beirut, was chosen for its ideal location on the Mediterranean and acts as the heart of Lebanon's banking industry, tourism, and trade. Concrete manufacturing is a major source of jobs within the country, wine production and agriculture is prevalent in the Bekka Valley.

In a constant state of fear due to past and present civil wars, the people of Lebanon are weary of the turmoil and economic struggles they have endured but continue to work towards a stable capitalistic economy. 

A Nomadic Life-Syria's Bedouin Tribes

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Tripoli, Lebanon

A ancient tribal community hailing from the desert regions of Syria. The Bedouins are some of the most affected refugees by the ongoing war, losing not only their land and livestock but their livelihood. A loyal, interconnected group of people that rely on community, honour and family to exist. The governmental camps set up for escaping refugees do not fit with their nomadic traditions that drives them to move with the rhythm of the agricultural seasons.

Many of the Bedouin communities have set up undocumented camps on the borders of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Sustaining the community by raising livestock, working the land along the camps and coming together as a community ensuring survival despite the loss of their homeland. Unlike many of the refugees abiding time in government run camps, the Bedouins have no hope of returning home and have adapted and overcome many of the barriers they have encountered to preserve their traditions and heritage.  


Sun streams into my hotel room as I am woken by the sounds of a city waking up. The muffled chatter of street vendors, café owners and steady stream of cars combined with the crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea hitting the rugged coastline. The city is calling me, begging for me to discover its secrets, meet its people and fall in love with its beauty. A city once toted as the Paris of the Middle East, before war and military occupation became commonplace. My fixer and security would not arrive until the following day, I had purposely set aside a day to explore the city, making arrangements to meet a fellow humanitarian for coffee that morning. Cindy was a woman approximately my age, three children and a husband. A midwife by trade she spent the majority of her year working in an undocumented camp near the border of Turkey, providing medical care to the many refugees who had escaped the horrors of war in their homeland. Chatting briefly about our backgrounds, work and family I felt an instant connection, an understanding that we both felt called to our positions in life, that our passion to make a difference would drive us to succeed, to make a difference.


Chatting about our adventures, making our way down the maze of streets in Beirut with the assistance of Google maps, I imagine we both looked terribly out of place and right at home at the same time. Google maps wove us in and out of different districts, each one different, each one begging for photographic documentation. Two men on the corner tending to the fruit and vegetable stand, sitting in green plastic chairs. A group of Lebanese military crowded around the street vendor dishing up piles of shwarma on large pieces of flatbread, more interested in lunch than the presence of two foreign women. We passed pastry shops with long marble counters filled with Middle Eastern desserts of filo dough, nuts and honey and cafes with men sipping sweetened hot tea and smoking shisha. Upon arrival at the small local café we were ushered to a large patio covered in a camouflaged netting to shield patrons from the heat of the mid day sun. Starving we ordered hummus, tabouleh, fried potatoes and cheese pastries deep-fried to a golden brown. Brined olives in varying shades of brown and green and warm pita bread accompanied our orders. Both of us content with our surroundings quietly dove into the food before us. Once my belly had been given a proper mediteranean meal, I looked up and quietly observed the people around us. A group of women, hijabs tightly concealing their hair tucked in one corner. A man and his wife sitting to the right of me, her head down while he leaned back in his chair smoking shisha, a group of young men chattering loudly while attempting to take selfies of their gathering. The assembly of patrons was a combination of both traditional Muslim ideals and the more modern western view of a younger generation. Our leisurely lunch came to an end and we headed down the streets of Beirut once again. This time more confident in our sense of direction and armed with the knowledge that the coastline would guide us to our hotel, we set aside our phones. The Raouche’ district is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, its beautiful and rugged coastline dotted with large rock formations and sandy beaches. Small rock stairways allow locals to maneuver closer to the water. Many had set up plastic chairs and leisurely sat in the sun eating and socializing with friends and family. In the distance a man and woman were perched on a collection of rock formations embracing in the glow of the late day sun. As we approached the base of the cliffs I was greeted by the melodic sounds of an Arabic song. Enchanted I turn and smiled at the man, he gestured to share his tea. I happily obliged, encouraged him to continue his song and contently sipped my tea as the sky turned vivid shades of orange, pink and bright blue. Lost in a world that seemed so foreign to me the evening before, it now would be hard to leave.


The First Day

A three-hour delay sent me into a full sprint to my connecting flight; I reached my destination as the attendant began to close the door to the jet bridge. Please, I yelled breathlessly, I need to be on that flight. The woman stopped, smiled politely and reviewed my ticket and passport. Shukraan, Madame you may take your seat.

I walked down the aisle; head down struggling with my backpack and pelican case. Arriving at the center of the plane, I glanced up scanning the plane for seat 24G. A sea of Middle Eastern men and women in headscarves of varying degrees of modesty greeted me. For the first time in my life I felt completely out of place, a foreigner. I took my seat, closed my eyes and let out a little sigh of relief. Four hours later the flight attendants voice rings sweetly over the intercom, attention ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing in Beirut in 15 minutes, please fasten your seat belts and prepare for arrival.

Walking through the airport in Beirut I navigated my way to the visa line, keenly aware of the ever-present military personnel, watching.... Smiling sweetly I requested a visa, handed over my passport and documentation. The attendant examined the documents, looking for evidence of entry to Israel and asked when I intended to leave Beirut. February 14th, I confidently answered. Both men looked up and smiled widely, a good day to go home they both agreed. As I approached the declaration area of customs, I was singled out. My gear examined, multiple questions asked, undercurrents of distrust and curiosity when inquired about my nationality. What are you doing here, is your intent to work, what are you documenting, and are you traveling alone? Smiling politely I answered each question, seemingly satisfied with my responses the men sent me on my way. One more desk, a few more questions and I gratefully sunk into the seat of the hotel van. My driver was pleasant, we chatted about America. He revealed he had lived in Dearborn, MI for twenty years of his life and had to return to Lebanon to care for his elderly parents. Politics and thoughts on our current president were discussed, he was adamant that the U.S. was and is the best country in the world and no one could change his mind about that... An interesting perspective based on opportunities he had in the U.S. that were not available to him in Lebanon; a decent wage, advancement, freedom of speech. Driving through Beirut, there is a beauty to the city but remnants of war are evident in the occasional shell-shocked building and walls riddled with bullet holes. Perhaps the strangest thing for me is the constant presence of military, both obvious and not. As I chatted with Houssam, I watched the city pass by me. Taxi drivers, pedestrians and motorbikes co-existing together. A busy lively city, with military outlook posts behind barbed wire and graffiti concrete. I glanced to my right at our last busy intersection and caught a glimpse of a man in blue military garb behind barbed wire to the right of the intersection, his gaze seemed to be directed at me as if he knew that I did not belong. In that moment I am intrigued, lost and anxious about being here.