Just a minute, I hear you cry, where is day 4. A good question! Day 4 is languishing in my memory somewhere refusing to come to mind in any sensible order. It was a long day, I do know that, the result being there was no time to write it up. So it will have to wait. Let us proceed with Day 5.
Up early again and packed as we had to hit the road at 8.30 bound for Byblos. We headed out through the Beirut suburbs, crawling through heavy traffic and up vertiginous hills until we reached the LSESD, the Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development. Here we were made to feel most welcome and the purpose of this organisation set up by the Baptists was explained to us. It is a wonderful charity which works with children with learning differences and with refugees in Syria and Lebanon. It also seeks to improve relations between Muslms and Christians. It gives unconditional love, so it helps all regardless of their beliefs. It does not evangelise bug has found increasing numbers coming to the Christian Faith of their own volition. Its work is remarkable, enabling churches to support refugees and the disadvantaged in their communities. We were very impressed. I have made notes and there is a website, so if you are interested then do look them up.
We left there at about 11.00 and set off for Jeita which has some of the most spectacular limestone caverns I have ever seen. Unfortunately photography was not allowed and cameras had to left in lockers on the way in. We boarded a cable car which took us ups the valley to the cave entrance. There we walked in and the sight took our breath away. Stalagmites and stalactites, columns, curtain folds wherever you looked. All of it was beautifully lit. The lighting was quite subtle and just brought out the beauty of the formations. Then we took a toy road train down to the lower cavern and boarded an electric boat and floated through another spectacular cavern for about 10 minutes. Wonderful! Unlike the haloumi sandwich which followed at the cafe opposite the cave. Indeed theat sandwich stayed with me for much of the afternoon.
Our next visit was to Harissa to a modern basilica and a towering sculpture of Our Lady, looking out over the coastal plain below. I trust the Virgin has a good head for heights as she is ranged in various forms on various peaks along the coast. Unfortunately a thick fog covered the plain, so there was nothing much to be seen from the Virgin’s viewpoint. Furthermore the basilica was shut. Some of our party managed a quick look in side, but the rest of us circumnavigated the building pulling frantically at doors to no avail. I know that Catholics are our brothers and sisters in Christ, but my thoughts towards them were not Christian at all. So we were left with the tacky gift shops and a grotto.
Never mind Byblos was worth waiting for. We have a hotel in the beach close to the old town. Our balcony looks straight out to the Med. In the late afternoon we wandered into the old town which is very pretty. We visited the crusader church of St John Mark and another ancient chapel. We wandered through the souk – very much a tourist area with trendy shops and then visited the little port. Boats clanked at their moorings, as the very blue sea leaped the shoreline and the sun set over the bay. It was idyllic.mthe harbour had been fortified and there is the remains of a keep at the end of the old harbour arm.
After a shower and change we had a talk from Professor Huw Strachan on the recent history of Turkey and the Levant and then went to a restaurant in the old town for dinner. The mezze were particularly good, and the fish served was enormous. No idea what it was but it was whole and seemed to eye me with disdain as I dismembered it.
Tomorrow we visit the cedars, but I think an early morning swim is called for!