LEBANON & A LEBANESE WEDDING


MB had not traveled to Lebanon since the financial meltdown of recent years and the August 2020 Beirut Port bomb blast. But in recent months, he received an invitation to the wedding of a young friend and work colleague and found himself on a 29 December flight to Beirut for the wedding festivities on following day.

Since MB’s last visit, Lebanon has changed.

The collapsed currency means that when you exchange 200 or 300 USD or Euro, you receive in return, (assuming you use a black market dealer and not some rip-off governmental controlled exchange) a very fat wedge of Lebanese pounds. In times past the same wedge would have been 5% of its current thickness, when the currency traded at 1,500 to the USD. Now, it’s hovering around 30,000; a loss of 95% of its value. Those that have access to foreign currency are doing well, such as relatives of those working overseas, which is, thankfully, a substantial portion of the country, maybe 40% of the population. For the remainder, however, life is a desperate struggle to make ends meet. The average Lebanese army soldier, for example, now takes home the equivalent of USD 30 per month, when previously his salary was worth USD 600. With many goods and services priced in dollars, the struggle is easily imagined.

Mostly, there is no electricity. On a good day, the governmental electricity company can supply 2 to 3 hours of power. After that, businesses and the public at large, depend on diesel generators to supply light, work their air conditioning, or whatever. When the electricity is out, naturally enough, there are no working traffic lights. It’s surreal to drive around a darkened capital city of some 2M people at nighttime with drivers playing chicken at every traffic intersection. Bigger or faster cars have right of way, smaller slower cars await their turn, seems to be the general rule.

People with education and skills are leaving in droves, to any country that will have them. And with the Lebanese Passport being one of the worst on the planet, the choices are limited. The Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar are especially popular. MB had a sad interaction with the immigration official which sums up the whole Lebanon situation.

MB hands his Passport to Passport Official (PO). PO scans the passport onto the system and looks carefully at it. And looks some more. And some more. And more.

MB is starting to wonder what the problem is and the people in the queue behind MB are getting a tad annoyed that MB is holding up the entire show. MB is thinking of many things that could be wrong. He worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years, and now Saudi and Labanon are having a bit of a spat about political issues. And other stuff.

Finally PO says to MB………

“Your Passport?”

“Yes?” replies MB quizically.

“How can I get a job in your country and travel there?”

‘Phew’ – thinks MB to himself.

“Well my young friend, I see you are working all this IT Security technology here today, so I suggest you go online and try to get a job with one of the big IT/Social Media companies who are all hiring like crazy in Ireland. With your IT skills, MB is sure they will snap you up. Then try to get a working visa” says MB, giving the young lebanese lad some hope for his future, probably false hope, given the Passport situation.

[For the benefit of HX followers, the Passport of North Korea gets you ‘visa on arrival’ at more countries than a Lebanese Passport. Seriously. Reason – that’s a whole other story!]

“Actually Sir, I am not an IT professional, I am an Interior Architect.” – replied PO, looking pleadingly into the eyes of MB.

MB then threw PO a few construction company suggestions in Qatar, which PO could google and try to submit his CV.

After that final suggestion, which PO scribbled down on a piece of scrap paper beside the Passport Scanning Machine, MB and PO said adieu to each other and bon chance.

MB discovered a few days later that immigration officials in Lebanon, such as PO, are earning the equivalent of approximately USD 15 to 20 per month.

MB was sad for PO.

And for Lebanon.

But the wedding was great fun. It lifted spirits. It was a mixed-Muslim wedding, between a Shia boy and a Sunni girl. Such mixed weddings happen frequently in Labanon, but not in any country outside, or very rarely, as far as MB is aware. Lebanon is mostly a tolerant country, with all religions living side by side and in peace. They have moved on from the days of the civil war, thankfully. And in that sense, they are an example to their neighbours.

In the following video, which MB shot at the start of the wedding party, followers can see and hear traditional drummers and musicians welcome the bride and groom to the wedding ceremony – welcoming them in a special way to their new life together. This special welcome ceremony is called the Zaffe (Arabic word). Its all a bit crazy and noisy but very atmospheric and great fun.

As followers can also see, the dress style is very modern, with many wearing western-style dress, reflecting the open Lebanese mentality and the fact that the young couple getting married, family and friends are not religiously very conservative. The guests are a mix of religions. Apart from the lively Arabic music, it would be difficult to say which country, region or religion this service belongs to. It could even be an Irish wedding!

Adel & Meerna – Zaffe

Best wishes to Adel and Meerna for their future life together. Thanks for the invitation!

MB

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Old & New


Thanks to Amy for this week’s ‘Old & New’ photo challenge. See Amy’s post HERE. Amy’s challenge is to capture ‘old’ and ‘new’ in a single shot. Read More

A Wedding in Jordan


Jordan’s more correct name, since 1946, is ‘The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’. It is so-called because of the ruling Hashemite family, who have governed the country since 1921. The Hashemites trace their ancestry back to the founding of Islam and are called after Hashim, the great grandfather of the Prophet Mohammed. Read More

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Delicate


Thanks to AC for this week’s Delicate challenge.

MB sticks with his son’s wedding of a few days back to meet the challenge:

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The Wedding of K&S


MB was in Malta in recent days for the wedding of son SB to fiancé KL.

Malta was selected as the wedding venue following the decision not to have the occasion take place in either of the home countries of Ireland and UK, and what an inspired decision that proved to be. The venue was a 200-year-old traditional Maltese farmhouse and surrounding grounds called Ir-Razzett L-Abjad, which is situated in the inland location of Iklin, approximately 20 minutes drive from the capital city of Valetta. It makes for quite a spectacular wedding venue.

MB will not go into Maltese history in this post (or any other!) which is vast, particularly in respect of the Knights of St John, The Order of Malta, the eight-pointed Maltese Cross, the unsuccessful Ottoman invasion and siege of 1565, the many spectacular churches and cathedrals, and, of course, the multiple locations that Malta has recently provided for the Game Of Thrones TV series. And much more. As this post is about a wedding, MB is aware that the ladies will only want to see some pics!

MB will not show any personal photos of family or friends, as he has no permission to do so, but will instead try to convey a sense of the occasion and venue with a small selection of more general pics, and hopes and son SB and new DIL KB (formerly KL!) will not kill MB for doing so!

Long life and happiness to the S&K.

Herewith:

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The Wedding of David & Myriam (9)


D&M are escorted to the dance floor.

A small flavour of Lebanese Christain Wedding madness!

Note the video drone that hovers into view in the later stages, that was ever (silently & unobtrusively) present on the night

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The Party.

Lebanese wedding parties are mad crazy affairs, and the wedding party of D&M was no exception. The venue was a resort complex called Orizon which is located about 5 minutes drive outside the town of Jbail, on the road to the famous church of St Charbel. Lunatic tribal dancers waving sticks, swords, and guns over their heads, dazzling fireworks, live music and DJ, food to die for, following a drinks and snacks reception on the entrance lawn with fountains, a free bar, all to the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, made for one hell of a spectacular Lebanese wedding bash.

Thanks so much to D&M for inviting MB to your special day. He enjoyed it immensely.

Shukran jazilan!

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The Wedding of David & Myriam (5)


The Wedding Ceremony.

As MB has already mentioned, the wedding ceremony of D&M took place in the Christian Maronite Church of St Jean Marc in Byblos, which is part of the modern day Lebanese town of Jbail. MB’s previous Lebanese wedding experience in December 2016 witnessed a Christian Orthodox ceremony in which the bride and groom do not utter a single word throughout. There was no “I do”. But, for the information of those who may not know, the Maronite Church is a branch of the Roman Catholic church, so the ceremony on Sunday last was similar in most respects to a Catholic Church wedding in Ireland – but no pictures of St Patrick were evident!

Anyway, the church interior and its floral decoration were stunning, as followers can see:

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Time for Desert!

MB spent 2 full days in Lebanon, one of which was spent at the wedding of D&M, and 2 part days travelling to & from. He returned to Qatar some 3 kilos heavier than when he departed. It’s not difficult to see why:

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Feeding Time.

Weddings are tough work. For the participants and guests alike. The food can not come soon enough for most. And on the occasion of D&M’s wedding, MB can assure followers that the food was mouthwateringly delicious and amazing!

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The Bride Arrives.

Nobody cares about the groom. Any groom. In any country. Except maybe his mom. He just arrives as early as he can with his best man in tow and prays that half of those invited actually show up. He prays even harder that the bride will show up. Inshallah she will!

But when the bride arrives, that’s when the excitement starts……..

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The Guests Arrive (2 of 2).

And they just kept arriving………..

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The Guests Arrive (1 of 2).

MB lodged himself just inside the church entrance under some foliage to protect his follically-challenged head from the warm August rays. He had arrived at the church grounds some 30 minutes before the wedding ceremony was to take place to capture the location and the guests as they arrived. Despite wearing an open-neck shirt, minus any tie, it was still perspiration weather due to Jbail’s summer humidity, a consequence of its juxtaposition next to the adjacent sea.

And so the guests arrive:

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The Church.

MB mentioned in a recent post that he was again amongst the Lebanese for the wedding of a work colleague. The ceremony took place on Sunday last in the 900-year-old Christian Maronite Church of St Jean Marc in Byblos, in the modern-day town of Jbail, Jbail being situated on the Lebanese coastal highway approximately one hours drive north of Beirut. The beautiful old stone-cut church lies in the port area of the ancient habitation, next to the Crusader Castle which was built around the same time.

The church was constructed in the year 1115 AD, according to MB’s research, as the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, and is today dedicated to St John Mark, the patron saint of Jbail. It is thought that St JM was the founder of the first Christian community in the locality.

As a location for a wedding ceremony, perfect!

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Foto Friday – Assaha Hotel, Beirut.


MB will head to Lebanon next weekend (the Islamic Eid Holiday weekend in the Middle East), where he is invited to a wedding in the ancient town of Byblos. Having seen the church and party venue online, it promises to be a great photo opp occasion for MB and his camera. Big thanks to work colleague DAM and his wife-to-be for the invitation.

The below photo is from the inside of Assaha Hotel, where MB spent the first night of his December 2016 previous Lebanon wedding trip. He received some special hospitality from local residents on the following morning on a local street when he went to buy a local phone sim card. But that’s a story for telling at another time.

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