The alarm went off at 10:30am. Uuuuuuuuuuhhhhh. My eyes felt as though they were cemented shut, my entire body paralyzed. Somehow, I managed to animate my left hand and flopped it against the snooze button. What felt like a mili-second later that annoying MEEP! MEEP! MEEP! was going off in my ear again. That sound is like nails on a chalkboard. Although, I have discovered that any sound that habitually wakes you up in the morning – be it generic alarm beeping, a rooster crowing, or even music – begins to have that unfortunate effect.
Want to indulge a random tangent? When I was in high school, I had a year during which I was obsessed with a series of old musicals. Okay, it was longer than a year. Whatever. Anyway that same year, I discovered to my great delight that my CD player had a function that allows you to set your alarm to play the first track of any given CD. I popped in ‘My Fair Lady’ and for the rest of the school year woke up to the opening bars of the overture. In May, I discovered to my great annoyance, that just like Alex’s reaction to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony after undergoing the Ludovico Technique in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ the opening bars of the overture of My Fair Lady had begun to invoke feelings of nausea and irritation. And they still do. So I’ve switched back to the grating ‘MEEP!’ alarm so as not to forever ruin all of my favorite songs. A sucky but necessary tradeoff.
ANYWAY, finally out of bed, I quickly got dressed and rushed over to Hamra Street to meet Charles and Ozge, where we hitched a cab down to the Cola Transport Hub and tried to find a mini-bus to take us down to Sour (pronounced ‘Soor.’ In English it’s called Tyre – pronounced ‘Teer’), in the south of Lebanon. After some bartering in our combined broken Arabic, we figured out that while it was about $3 more per person, it would be significantly easier to just take a service (shared taxi), as opposed to a mini-bus down to Sour. So, we hopped in the first willing service and began the long drive down with our driver Ali and fellow passenger Abbas.
Before too long, we all got to chatting. Well okay, chatting might be an over statement. Ali didn’t speak any English and Abbas knew only a few words. Our Arabic…well, it’s weak, but semi-functional. So Abbas gave us Arabic lessons, and there was lots of laughing at the inevitable misunderstandings. Two hours later, we arrived in Sour, a city which, unlike Beirut, doesn’t claim English as a lingua franca. Abbas had an afternoon to spare and offered to take us around the city and help us communicate when necessary. How insanely friendly is that?? I love the Lebanese!
Sour is a port city in the south of Lebanon that according to Herodotus was founded in the 3rd century BCE. You know Herodotus – that old, 5th century Greek historian, ‘the father of history,’ who’s word on a significant amount of history we just have to take as it is, because there isn’t much else to go on – isn’t it amazing the power held by major historians?? Particularly the ancient ones. Blows my mind.
The first thing we saw when we arrived in Sour was the harbor, packed with small fishing boats. The city is known for its many ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins, so after a quick stop for some water, we set off in search of the al-Mina excavation site, where many of these ruins are located. Down a dirt path and through a vine-covered entry way and all of a sudden, we were twisting our way around columns of an ancient palestra (basically a public gym – I wish my gym had massive marble columns! Well, I’d actually have to go to a gym first…but you get the idea – how amazing would that be??) the remains of a huge open-air theater, and Roman baths, all set against the stunning backdrop of the sparkling Mediterranean. Yeah, it was pretty fantastic.
After about an hour in al-Mina, Charles, Ozge, Abbas and I walked alongside the beach until we found a small place to stop for some cheap food and Almazas. Bellies full and thirst quenched, we began a long walk back down the beach to the old souk, located near the harbor where we’d first arrived. The beach was full of families laughing and playing in the water, and I noticed, that many of the Muslim women actually go in the water dressed in full clothing, head scarf and all. I honestly don’t know why I was surprised, it makes perfect sense, I guess I’d just never really thought about it. As we turned away from the beach, I glanced back and saw a little girl, completely veiled, determinedly pushing her way against the current and out into the sea with two inner-tubes to keep her afloat. Made me smile
We continued walking and chatting with Abbas as we made our way through downtown Sour, and finally to the souk (market). The souk was actually closing up for the night, but the smells of fish, fresh fruit, spices, shwarma, and pastries lingered as the store owners tucked away their displays and pulled down the aluminum coverings over their storefronts.
That seemed to be our cue to go, and as the sun began to set, Abbas put us on a bus backed to Beirut and waved goodbye. I was so tired from the sun, the few hours of sleep last night, and the long day of walking that I barely noticed the 10+ near collisions caused by our maniacal driver on the way back to Beirut and just closed my eyes and let the hot wind knot my hair.
And now, I’m home again home again. It’s 9:30 pm and I’m going to try to squeeze in a quick shower before heading out to meet up with friends for Saturday night out in Beirut! Life’s too short to sleep .