A changed Babylon

A changed Babylon

Changed Babylon

I’m sitting in the sun while the dry and empty landscape flashes by. Arabic music fills the car and I’m recollecting images from a past I haven’t lived through. Caravans of camels, merchants going back and forth, history was written, and stories made. The road I’m taking has always been a crowded trade route. A route on which merchants as much as silk, spices and knowledge travelled. And at the end of the trade route was Baghdad, the magnificent capital of the world. The city where tastes, cultures and languages got together and merged into one big melting pot.


The biggest and most important city of the ancient world now lays in ruins. The aftermath of several wars and disputes is visible on every street corner. Bullet holes in buildings tell stories of a sad past. Baghdad has deteriorated and attracts not merchants, nor dwellers, but dark tourism and war journalists. The people show a light in the ever-darkening city. They welcome foreigners as if Baghdad is still the metropole of Mesopotamia. But, I leave Baghdad behind me. From one metropole to another.

Church in Baghdad


Babylonia was a state in ancient Mesopotamia and is still one of the most famous cities of antiquity.

The city of Babylon – Babil in Arabic -, whose ruins are located in present-day Iraq, was founded more than 4,000 years ago as a small port town on the Euphrates River. It grew into one of the largest cities of the ancient world under the rule of Hammurabi. The Amorite king Hammurabi founded the short-lived Old Babylonian Empire in the 18th century BC. He built Babylon into a major city and declared himself its king.

Inside the new walls of Babylon

A visit to ancient Babylon

Babylon has long been on my mind. I guess since the tales of 1001 nights entered my bedroom and filled my dreams. When I was young I was sure I would one day meet Sinbad, I would eat an apple in the Garden of Eden and write tales of Babylon as did Alexine Tinne about Cairo. I would walk through the alleys of the ancient city and greeting every merchant like Belle in Beauty & the Beast, jump from building to building like Aladdin and maybe even find myself a flying carpet. Fairytales of course, but they made for great dreams when I was young. I’m all about making dreams come true but some dreams better stay just that instead of turning the into failing reality. Anyway, there I was. Standing in front of the gate of Babylon. It’s not really the gate of Babylon because the official and real gate is still in Berlin, protected from invasions. Although, Europe isn’t really safe from invasions as well. When Baghdad became a lesser city than it was and the Mongols moved up to the East they went as far as France so… And we all know that history is quite good at repeating itself.

The map of Mesopotamia

But still, I’m here, walking through the fake gates of Babylon into the ancient city. As the city is destroyed almost till the last rock there is not much to see of what was. Sadam Hussein did rebuilt part of it, and while he did that he added stones in every rebuilt wall with his name on it. Not idle at all, don’t you think? Saddam Hussein also built a palace overlooking the ancient Babylon. Not sure what he wanted us to think about that but one can let his/her mind go wild. It is the best spot to overlook the city and it’s easy to believe he thought of himself as the most powerful man of, well, Babylon?

He wasn’t really. Let’s get back to some of the history of Babylon, shall we?

Saddam Hussein written on the new walls of Babylon

The ancient capital of Mesopotamia

Babylon is one of the most famous cities of antiquity. It was the capital of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) from the early 2nd millennium to the early 1st millennium BCE and capital of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) empire in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, when it was at the height of its splendour. Read more on Brittanica.

Not Saddam Hussein but Nebuchadnezzar I was the most famous Babylonian king of the 2nddynasty of the Isin. Our turtle is named after this Babylonian king.

There is so much to tell about the history in this area I could write a book about it. Luckily for you, and time saving for me, there are many books about this. Like this one: Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization or The Silk Roads: A New History of the World – recommended!

Anyway, for a couple of hours I walked through the ancient streets of the newly made Babylon. The walls didn’t tell the stories I was searching for. Instead it told me the ideology of Saddam Hussein. Graffiti filled the empty spaces on the walls, weeds were growing everywhere and rubbish was left to roam the empty streets of the museum. Not much was left of the Babylon I dreamt of as a little girl. Exploring now isn’t what it used to be, it doesn’t mean it is less of an exploring though.

I always felt there was nothing left to be explored now the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth. However, as Kate Harris so well described “in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refueses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.” – Lands of Lost Borders – a journey on the Silk Road.

And she was right. Even though I felt further away from 1001 nights I had ever been I did feel closer to the dreams I wanted to realize as a little girl. It wasn’t what I expected but it was what I needed to see. The world changes, it did back then when leader after leader took possession of the city and it does now when Saddam Hussein carved his name in the walls of the new Babylon.

The new walls of Babylon

From Babylon to the Garden of Eden

Babylon was just a quick stop on the way. The impressive stories have left the place and so did humanity. The road took us South East, while the Marsh landscape stretched out as far as the eye could see. Some palm trees and a little mosque reminded us we were still on earth while a sand storm hit the Iraqi planes.

After three hours and a big lunch we arrived in the dark at Al-Chibayish. A long time ago this must have been the middle of the Gardens of Eden. Endless green, water from which you could drink and enough fruits and veggies to pick for everyone. Now, it’s a dry and bare city with dirty waterways. But, as everywhere in Iraq the people are kind and welcome us into their home.

I’m here with a journalist on assignment for National Geographic. In a next blog I’ll continue about my trip to the Garden of Eden, also; Mesopotamian Marshes.

Information on Babylon


Babylon, Iraq

The town of Babylon was located along the Euphrates River in present-day Iraq, about 80 km south of Baghdad.


Spring & Autumn

It’s a bit cold and windy in January but you might not want to be here in summer. March – May and September – November is nice. 



Anyone can travel to Babylon. It’s quite easy from Baghdad with a taxi. Entrance costs 15 Iraqi dinar. 

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The good, the bad and the desert

The good, the bad and the desert

To the desert we go! 

After visiting Petra it was time to visit one of the most beautiful areas of Jordan: Wadi Rum! It’s also called ‘Valley of the Moon’. We first drive for a long while through more and more empty landscape until we arrive in Rum village. We have to register ourselves before we can actually start the tour. The tour you ask? Well, we are normally not really fan of tours but in Wadi Rum there is no other option if you want to explore the desert. Still, we have a car and driver of our own, so it’s alright. In the back of the 4×4 we sit with a little roof above our heads and really feel like tourists. Which we of course are but we rather not call ourselves that 😉

In the desert one comes across camels, sand and these kind of jeeps. It looks a bit silly but it’s really fun. The wind rushes through our hair (Yuri’s beard hair that be) which makes us feel not too hot and the shadow thanks to the silly roof keeps us from burning alive. 

Alright, enough about our vehicle. More about the trip. Our driver is Suleyman, a Bedouin local from around. He’s born in the desert he says and wears a beautiful white djellaba. That makes for beautiful photos! But he also has his iPhone ready, so a Bedouin with a touch of technology. Totally understandable. He drives, we watch and take photos. Good deal! 

Our first stop is at a spring which isn’t visible from where we stand. Thus, the original inhabitants of this region wrote on a rock, not sure exactly what but it must be something like “dear fellow traveller, you are in luck because here, near that tree on the left side behind this rock is a little spring where you can wash yourself, have a drink and take care of your animals. Take good care of the place. Leave nothing but footprints.” Ok, maybe the last part wasn’t truly written there but should’ve been, because even in the desert we see lots of plastic bottles which makes our hearts cry.

The next stop is a viewpoint. Nothing interesting but a nice view and when walking down we run down on a sand dune which is a lot of fun. Also quite hot under the feet. When we arrive at the bottom of the dune, we have a tea, of course. As soon as our tea is finished we’re going to our next spot. A canyon with more writings on the walls. We see animal drawings, men and feet (maybe we were right after all ‘leave nothing but footprints’) and some letters which probably meant something like “Lawrence of Arabia was here 1916”. 

We continued the tour to watch a tiny arch, which apparently some tourists find interesting. Not us though. What we do find interesting is the incredible landscape. The red and yellow sand, the equally coloured rocky mountains and here and there a camel. Oh and not to forget the many camps scattered around. Truly! So many tourist camps here. Once this was the place for the Bedouin people who roamed the sandy hills of the desert. They are called ‘desert dwellers’ for a reason. Now there are only 15 families left who live like this, the rest of the area is occupied by travellers. About 30 camps can be found in this little part of the desert. It’s hard to really feel lost and alone when you see luxury round shaped tents. Also, at every stop we find many jeeps with tourists. When the tourists explore the attraction, the guides/drivers are chilling and drinking tea in a tent. 

The tea drinking hasn’t changed. Bedouin people do not drink much else, except for camel milk. Which we didn’t try, this time. We did drink a lot of tea though. 

Anyway, lunch we spend with a Bedouin family. Well, that was the plan but with all nomads they come and go whenever they want. So the father of the family wasn’t there. The women of the camp will not show themselves when there are men around not belonging to their family. So Yuri had to stay with the kids and Suleyman, while I had small talk with the women. The mother and daughter, both very beautiful, were drinking tea with me. Luckily for me the daughter spoke some English. She told me she learns it in school. I was happily surprised that she goes to school. She loves it actually and wants to become a doctor. And when she’s a doctor she wants to move to Aqaba. Her favourite city! And she’s been to all over Jordan. So why she couldn’t show herself here is a mystery to me but let’s say it’s a tradition that hopefully will change one day.

We do respect traditions, cultures and religions but one where men can do whatever they want (marry up to 4 women, be around tourists, go wherever and whenever they want to go) and women have to stay in a closed part of the camp where men can’t see them (even when they cover their hair) is something else to me. Especially because they have mobile phones, they do go to cities if they need a doctor and they do study. Let’s just hope it will change with this new generation. Cause this young lady (17 years old) was so bright, so smart, so beautiful and kind. It’s a sin to keep her stuck in the desert forever.

After lunch and tea we continued our trip to more tourist attractions. We visit more arches, a mushroom rock, some beautiful canyons and had a lot of fun with Suleyman. We wanted to see and photograph some camels so Suleyman cuddled one and even gave one a kiss. He’s the best guide, though also very traditional in some aspects. He thinks women should cover themselves fully, that women shouldn’t be as free as I am and that it’s alright to kill Jews because Israel kills Palestinians. Different worlds of course (also a bit more nuances than in this post). He even has a photo of Sadam Hussein in his car. But that’s maybe for a later story. Or not?

Ok in short. In Jordan you’ll find many cars with a bumper sticker of Sadam Hussein. The person we know as a leader of Iraq and in the same time dictator, murderer, torturer. So we asked some people why they support Sadam Hussein. Some do because he fought against Israel, helping his Muslim brothers and sisters of Palestina. Then there is the reason that immigrants and Iraqis were treated the same way. And also because Jordanian students were able to study cheap in Iraq which was good for the students and the country. Some know that Sadam did bad things but they focus on the good. “I know he did bad things, but 95% of what he did was good”. Others probably know but don’t want to know, they point fingers at Western leaders doing bad; Bush, Trump, Obama. They are right about the later though.

We finally end the day at the sunset spot. With other, but not too many, tourists we sit on a rock watching the sun set behind the incredible scenery of Wadi Rum. Totally understandable that they filmed Star Wars, the Martian and Dunes here. Also, Lawrence of Arabia lived here! Fun fact 😁

After the sunset we went to our camp, had some nice talks with the other drivers and owner of the company, delicious diner, campfire, almost full moon and silence! Beautiful.

The Bedouin

At 6 o’clock in the morning, while everyone was still asleep, we woke up to visit the Bedouin family of which we didn’t get to meet the father. You can imagine we were a bit disappointed, thus we went back. The sun was rising while we sat across the man of the family drinking tea and something they call Bedouin coffee. Which is more like a strong tea. We got to photograph him and ask some questions. The light was amazing, the family so kind, the tea and dates delicious. We were so happy that we went back to this place. 

After one hour and a half we returned to the camp where breakfast was served. The other people just woke up while we felt like we’ve already passed half a day.

Anyway, we had breakfast, woke Suleyman and left the desert behind. A pity because we could spend more time here but we’ll leave it for a next time.

Time for a dive!

In one hour we drove to Aqaba, the Red Sea. The road wasn’t that great, neither was the Red Sea. Well, yeah it’s a sea, has some nice beaches and beautiful coral but the surroundings were horrible. Anyway, we came here so Yuri could dive. Diving is not for me so I enjoyed my time in the airco of the apartment editing some photos. Yuri on the other hand went for two dives. One near some old military vehicles; a helicopter, car and tank! He also saw many fish like his favourite the puffer fish. But also clown fish and a snake eel. The military vehicles were placed here btw.

In the evening we went to a restaurant in Aqaba city. A recommendation by the dive instructor and wow was it good! Traditional food with a modern twist. Yum! No photos of course cause we eat faster than our camera’s click.

The way back

A week flies by. We are already on our way back to the airport and with that to Armenia. But on the way back we scheduled some stops. The first one is Dana. A nice old village where several hikes through the gorges are offered. We heard they are nice but didn’t have the time to hike ourselves, also it’s very very hot!

The next day we would drive the famous Kings Highway. Everyone told us it’s a beautiful road and a must drive when in Jordan. You can read our disappointment. The road wasn’t that great at all and there was garbage everywhere. Truly! It was hard to watch the beauty of the scenery through the garbage that lies everywhere. Insane and quite sad. Also, the road itself isn’t interesting. It’s just a road going through a very dry area, not much to see so we won’t recommend it.

The last night we stay in Madaba, known for its mosaic. We had our PCR test done here and ate at a very nice restaurant. The meze was quite good, not as good as in Lebanon or Turkey but the Jordan food so far was a tiny bit of a disappointment, so this was a welcoming end to our trip. 

We were tested negative (hurray!) and headed out to check the mosaic in the St George church. The mosaic is the first known map of the Middle East and especially detailed about Jerusalem. It’s on the ground and quite big, pretty could to see. It dates back to the 6th century!  

After the visit we drove a very nice road from Madaba to the Dead Sea. Half way we visited a hot spring with a cool waterfall. However, it being almost 40 degrees outside we found it way too hot to chill in the even hotter water. We then continued to have lunch at the Dead Sea for one last time and afterwards headed to the airport.

That was it. Our trip to Jordan came to an end. We enjoyed it, had a lot of fun but were also disappointed. Disappointed about the amount of trash we saw everywhere, of the roads that weren’t as beautiful as people told us and the amount of tourists and tourist focused shops and prices. Petra is one big open air souvenir market, in the desert the Bedouin sell soap made in Pakistan and visiting a gorge costs 25 Euros per person. 

But let’s focus on the good. Petra was amazing, Wadi Rum spectacular and the people very kind and friendly. 

Love, Milene & Yuri

Holiday in Jordan

Holiday in Jordan

Time flies when you’re having fun. It really does. One week in Lebanon was over within what felt like a second. The flight to Jordan (1.5 hour) felt longer than the whole week in Lebanon and we guess that’s a good sign. 

Arrival in Jordan

Up to now crossing borders went rather easy. In the van it’s quite relaxed as we just sit in the van wait until it’s our turn. But flying somewhere is always a bit of a hassle. Well, Jordan is something else.

We immediately feel we are in a totally different country. Men in djellaba’s standing in line, people shouting, chaos, women in burqa cutting the line. So, there are several lines to enter Jordan. The first one being the PCR test line. We have paid for it before arrival so we just have to wait until there is someone available. It goes rather smoothly, also the test itself. Maybe our noses getting used to it, maybe it’s the kind woman.

Then there is the second line. To enter Jordan we need a visa, but we have paid for it already via the Jordan pass. This pass includes our visa and some tourist attractions like Petra and Jerash. It takes quite long to get through and again is very chaotic. Some women are given special treatment as they cut the line, some men say something about it and the custom man doesn’t like it so tells the group of men to get at the back of the line. They of course get more angry and while it involves a lot of raising voices in the end they do what the man with power tells them to.

It’s our turn and after five minutes we get to the third line; customs. As always we think we choose the shortest line but we don’t and we end up waiting and waiting. Many men in front of us seem to come from another country; Saudi, Yemen, Dubai maybe? They look like migrants, coming here to work and to be honest they are treated as such. Actually they are treated as brainless sheep. A rather big man tells them where to go and what to do and shouts at them when they do it wrong. It makes us feel sad for those men, but they seem not to care too much and just do what the man shouts towards them.

However, it takes very long for the customs to check all their papers. Finally, after two hours (this took longer than the whole flight) we are outside, finding our way to the rental cars. We get a not very interesting nor colourful Kia but it has four wheels so it will get us where we want to go.

We head to our first hotel not far from the airport. It’s midnight already and we can use some sleep. The next day our adventure really start.


We skip Amman, just another big city, and drive north to Jerash. It’s famous for being an important and well preserved archeological site and even though we’ve seen so many already we are quite curious. One of the highlights is the old souk way from one entrance of the city to the temple in the middle. Alongside the road many columns can be found and behind it the old souk. It’s beautiful! One can imagine the many people that once walked here, buying stuff in the souk, talking with each other. It must have been crowded and noisy. A bit further up is a beautiful amfitheater – truly amazing. And there is a nice hippodrome (an ancient Greek stadium for horse racing and chariot racing) and some temples. The temples have been destroyed, only a few columns are still standing. We’ve seen better ones.

We walked here for hours, but at some point it gets too hot so we decide to move on. To the Dead Sea! 

The Dead Sea

Here we arrived at the end of the day. Which was good because we got to see the sunset while floating on top of the salty water. The Dead Sea is about 10 times more salty than the ocean and it’s bordering Israel. That’s also the reason that it’s not allowed to swim after sunset. Apparently the government is afraid of illegal border crossings at night. Anyway we got to drift a bit, see the sunset and enjoy the magic of the Dead Sea. It’s quite nice to just float on the sea and relax. A wonderful experience. Just don’t get any of the water in your mouth or eyes, it hurts. We found out the hard way…

Flat tire and strange border

We were planning a nice route along the Dead Sea to the South, stopping at worthy places and end up in Petra today. Instead we got a flat tire not far from our hotel. Immediately a group of Jordanians stopped and helped us fixing the tire. We had to go to our rental company to change the tire and found one not too far away. 25km’s, so we were hopeful. Until we got nearby and the road looked a bit shabby. At the end we ended up at a check point where the police didn’t let us through. Of course they didn’t know any English and we know no Arabic. We had to go back and circle around them. Which we did. Only to find ourselves in a strange abandoned area, which looked like a modern Wild West. Most shops were empty and left behind to rot. Windows were broken, company names only half visible and bored border patrol flicking their cigarettes. 

Of course the location of our rental company was abandoned just like all the others. As there was no one who spoke English, we decided to get to the airport.

Little and big Petra

We changed the tire at the airport and moved quickly towards little Petra. The road we took wasn’t very interesting it was quick though. It’s called the desert road and that’s just what it is. A highway through the desert with villages scattered around it. Some sand twisters followed us and bumps in the road made us test our breaks every now and then. 

At some point Google took us off the highway and into more desert area. Suddenly we found ourselves in an incredible landscape and soon we arrived at Little Petra. Little Petra isn’t very touristy because there is not much to see, except for one amazing temple cut in the rocks. We were alone except for the Bedouin living here trying to sell some souvenirs.

We enjoyed our short time here, until we headed towards Wadi Mousa. This is the village on top of the ancient Petra, it’s quite touristy but still has something left of the local culture. Like; no alcohol! Well, there is a cave bar where you can find alcohol so not surprisingly we went there to have a Petra beer and food. Now with 50% discount due to Covid-19: nice!

Petra by night

In the evening we went to check out Petra by Night. A bit too touristy for us. With many tourists we walked in line through the siq (a rock canal that leads to the city) to the treasury. Even though we were walking in line people were trying to rush towards the front of the line, which of course annoyed the hell out of us.

At the treasury it looked spectacular, beautiful. With all the candles and the Bedouin music, very magical. However, people (tourists and locals alike) talking through the Bedouin fluit concert makes it impossible to really enjoy the scenery and the magic of the area. Petra by night costs about Eur.20,- per person and is definitely not worth it.


At 6 o’clock we walked through the gates of of Petra with only a few other tourists. Such a relief compared to Petra by Night. At the treasury we were all alone. Except for some locals who offered their guiding services. After taking some photos we walked through the park, cause Petra is a lot more than just the treasury. There are many tombes, cave homes, an amfitheater, temple, church with beautiful mosaic and an amazing monastery.

Between all the historical sites you’ll find many souvenir shops and local people offering tea. For free, or happy hour, but of course it’s kind to give something. It feels a bit like a big open air market and again this commercialised souvenir market does something to the magic of the site. We are wondering what the previous inhabitants think when they see their capital being used like this. Of course we will never know but it’s fun to think about.

To go from the treasury to the monastery is a long walk and the end is quite challenging due to the many many stairs we have to climb. But it is so worth it. The monastery is as beautiful as the treasury but bigger. Afterwards we walk through the site, pass many tombes of which some are unfinished. We hike up the mountain to visit the sacrifice, a place where they used to sacrifice cows and goats to offer to the gods. The blood would flow down a small canal and people would drink it together. From this place we got a view over the ancient capital city Petra. Amazing! 

From here we walked down to a viewpoint on the treasury. Very touristy and Instagrammable. Many of the girls visiting here wear the prettiest colourful dresses to get the nicest Instagram shot. Not really our scene so we didn’t stay for too long. To get to this spot, we actually needed a guide cause the way is a bit tricky and apparently it’s not allowed to walk here without one. However, not surprisingly, we walked down without a guide and as you are reading this blog we survived! Didn’t even get a fine

Petra was beautiful! We walked 23km’s, have seen a lot of the site but not all and enjoyed our time here. We had tea and bought a scarf to support the locals and had nice talks with some guides. The downside of this world wonder is that it’s very touristy, a bit too much. So many people selling stuff made in China or Pakistan, so many people trying to get your buy their stuff or wanting to guide you. It’s too much to be honest and at a UNESCO sight we expected a lot less. A lot less garbage as well. Everywhere is plastic, also at Petra, which is really a shame.

It’s beautiful though, recommended to visit early. For us this part of our Jordan trip was over, more adventures to come.

Love, Milene & Yuri

A week in Lebanon

A week in Lebanon

So much happened in one week that we don’t know what to write. A summery wouldn’t do this week justice but an in dept journal would stop you from reading. So, we’ll try to share our week with you as a combination of photos and text.

Let’s start at the beginning, but not the very beginning cause who cares about a flight right? Ok except for the pilots and all who work in and around a plane and airport. But for us it’s the most boring and less loved thing about travelling. So we skip that.

We only knew about Beirut from the crisis it has experienced in the past. A civil war dividing not only the city and its people but also the religions which before lived peacefully together. Then there was the Beirut blast last year, destroying many buildings and killing many people in downtown Beirut. And the people that survived are now suffering from guilt and other psychological traumas. We know about the poverty in the city, Hezbollah being very present and the good food. Cause we always believe there is more good than bad.

So we make our way through the somewhat chaotic streets of Beirut in search of food, what else!? And food we find. We honestly don’t get why they don’t have bigger tables in restaurants here. All the meze we order hardly fit. We attack our food like a hungry lion does it’s prey. The meze is incredible, we try as much as we can as if we didn’t eat anything the past months. From hummus to baba ghanous and from muhamarra to kebbeh. 

Why are we writing instead of showing you this? Because we often devoured the food before a photo could be taken. Sorry, not so sorry, for that. 


Lebanon is in yet another crisis at the moment. Ever since the blast and civil war it doesn’t have a government, but it does have a shortage of … everything? There is no fuel, no medicine, no electricity, no money. People get fired, wait for 10 hours in front of gas stations and if you’re ill your waiting for a miracle. As we are here to work we went to a medical clinic to drop medicines and have a talk with the director. He tells us about the political situation in the country, about the government providing for only 4 hours of electricity a day and the challenges he faces. They are giving medical care for free to people who can’t afford to go to a doctor. They are not a hospital so no surgeries are done here but they do provide some dental care, a gynaecologist  and many more things we can write down but it’s just a list of the many things they do. 

So, after we get a tour through the building, meet some people and take some photos we are on the streets of Bourj Hammoud. This is the Armenian district of the city. Lots of Armenians live in Lebanon and this area is filled with them. You find Armenian food, gold and flags here. The Armenian language is written on walls as is “genocide graffiti”. From ‘Stop Azeri Violence’ to ‘Turkey is guilty of genocide’. It’s a nice hectic and a bit chaotic area of Beirut. While looking up one has difficulty of seeing the sky through all the electricity cables. It’s a bit ironic, all those cables reminding you of the electricity you do not have. 

We talk to people on the street who cannot work due to the economic crisis. The hyperinflation made everything ten times as expensive, the only thing that didn’t increase are the salaries. People now pay 10 times what they used to for diesel, bread and a taxi ride. However, their salary has stayed the same. Thus many people end up not being able to pay for the basics: home, food, health. 

2019 – civil war, 2020 – Beirut Blast, 2021 – hyperinflation. Every year another crisis. Maybe that’s why the people are so resilient. They lived through many wars to be able to overcome this as well.

After a couple of days working we decided to head out of Beirut to Byblos. Byblos is one of the oldest cities of the world and the word ‘bible’ deprives from Byblos. It normally takes 30 minutes from Beirut but now with the crisis – thus traffic jams at gasstation that have diesel – it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. But we make it and happily so because the town is pretty! 

So there’s an ancient sight with lots of beautiful ruins, a souk with mostly souvenirs for the few tourists that roam the streets and lots of cute cafes and restaurants. 

Time to go to Beqaa Valley

We are going to Beqaa valley for several reasons.

One – it’s beautiful! We visit the most beautiful ancient city we’ve ever seen: Baalbek. Its temple of wine is still standing and part of the temple of Jupiter as well.

Two – Anjar, an almost completely Armenian village, celebrates its beating of the Turks in 1915. So, that’s the genocide Turkey – and many other countries – do not want to talk about. Millions of Armenians were killed in death camps or during the death marches through the desert to Syria. In Musa dagi some villages gave some resistance. They were able to fight the Turks for 40 days until a French warship came to their rescue. Most of the descendants of these heroes live in Anjar today. Thus yearly they celebrate this heroic act.

Three – because Milene has to work for an NGO working in the refugee camps here. There are about 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Most live in houses but there is still a big group living in tents scattered through the area. 60% of the children do not go to school and there is not enough money to go to a doctor. So Milene followed a medical NGO for a day, to see their work first hand. 

We also visited two Syrian families Milene got into contact with. One living in a previously abandoned building. While we were sipping our mint tea the police entered ordering the people to get out within a week. He took a photo of our passports but didn’t dare to put the family on the street while we were there. 8 kids, 3 adults without a proper job. Where should they go? 

The other family finally found a house of a good Lebanese man. He is living in Turkey for a year and told them they could stay in his house for free during the year. The father has a heart disease and can’t work. The oldest son is 22 and tries to work by installing air conditioners. Payment isn’t good but it’s better than nothing. As a present the family gave us the holy Quran. There is no higher gift from a Muslim than this. We will cherish their holy book. 

Long story short: it was an amazing week! 

Want to know more about Lebanon? Let us know in the comments below.

Love, Milene & Yuri