We haven’t traveled around Lebanon much since we moved here. First we didn’t have the money, and then we didn’t have time or quite the confidence or knowledge enough to put a trip together. Since Christmas though I’ve had a growing desire to get out of town and explore something new, so I went online one day and reserved a car for a few days during the week between semesters.
We rented our car from the Gefinor Rotana hotel close to campus here in Beirut, so that I could walk and pick up the car. Last time we rented a car, it was from Sixt over on Mazraa, and although we were very happy with them, their offices are so far away that I had to take a taxi to pick up the car (or pay a fee for delivery), and then back home after returning it, adding inconvenience and extra costs. Walking over to the hotel seemed like the perfect solution.
The lesson we learnt here is that a convenient solution is not always the best solution. Our first day, excited to set out and leave Beirut behind us for a day, we decided to drive across the mountains to Anjjar – not too far away, yet far enough, and it looked interesting. After an hour and a half of driving on the Damascus road, somewhere in a small village up in the mountains, the car broke down. Just like that. It over-heated and died. I called the number the guy at Gefinor Rotana had written down for me, and it didn’t work, so I called him directly. By chance I had got his number while filling out the paper work at the hotel. He pretty much quoted our car rental broschure and assured me that someone would come to us with a replacement car “immediately, within ½ hour!” I wondered how in the world that would be possible, since it had taken us and hour and a half through some pretty heavy traffic to get to where we were, but I thought that surely he must have something figured out, or else he wouldn’t commit to such service. Stupid me. (I should mention here that as an added touch to this already unpleasant experience, my cell phone - of course – ran out of battery after our initial call, and I couldn’t keep calling the guy to find out why nobody was coming or when we really could expect help. We just had to wait patiently.) After well over two hours of sitting around waiting with three antsy kids, a guy showed up with a really dirty, icky car – inside and outside. Of course we had no choice but to take it. It seemed to run fine, although it too obviously needed servicing, and the tires were very worn. Since most of the afternoon had been lost and it was too late to continue to Anjjar, we turned around and headed back to Beirut to at least get some shopping in. The boys were very disappointed but thankfully accepted the reality. Driving into Beirut, I managed to find Fahed’s, which Courtney had never been to, and we got some well-needed shopping done.
While we were sitting around waiting for our replacement car, we witnessed some kind of procession that took place by the local church in the little village we were stuck in. What seemed to be a very important man whose face we had seen on posters along the road was greeted by the congregation, a band played, and some kind of mass followed. Then there were fireworks – big ones. I’m sure they were amazing, but nobody could really tell since it was still light out. Yes. Immense fireworks during day-light. Why would someone put on fireworks while the sun was still up? Although we haven’t found an answer to this question, we later figured that the procession and the important man had something to do with this.