Harissa and Its Lady

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During my first visit to Lebanon in 2012, I stayed in Beirut.

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This time, I stayed in Harissa, another town about 30 minutes north.

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You simply follow the highway along the coast and turn east in Jounieh to wind up the mountain.

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The city is important to the region’s historic Christian population and hosts a shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon.

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My hotel was right next to the lady, and I couldn’t help but think of this lady from my childhood:

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Virgen de Quito Panecillo 03” by CayambeOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It was pretty crazy how much traffic there was up to the shrine, especially on the weekend. Cars literally wound around the mountain at a full stop as people filed in to the shrine area.

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Curiously, the shrine was connected to a gondola area and children’s play park. The gondola takes tourists down to another recreation area in Jounieh.

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On a free afternoon, I wandered down to check out the gondola. I tried to hop on, but lacked a ticket and could never find where to buy one. I found myself crammed in a lift with about 15 Arabic-speaking teenage boys. (Awkward!)

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The lift operator spent his free moments in between gondola arrivals praying through his prayer beads.

On the way out, I made my way through the crowd and headed to the shrine’s entrance/exit. I heard someone calling out behind me, but as it was in Arabic, I ignored it, and continued on my way. I was suddenly yanked to a stop by a Lebanese solider, who wanted to search my backpack. Apparently, I looked like a potential terrorist. Backpack reviewed, I was free to take in the views from the top.

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