Hezbollah souvenirs! Get your Hezbollah souvenirs!

     Not many people know this, but the name “Lebanon” originated in the latter part of the Phoenician era and means, “Dry Falafel”. The Syrians have brainwashed me! I need to be deprogrammed!
     Made a day trip to Baalbek which is famous for two things: its remarkably well-intact Roman ruins and as home of the Hezbollah party, which is either a hardcore gang of anti-American terrorists or a bunch of misunderstood do-gooders or something inbetween. I haven’t read as much about them as I should. I only know that Syria has better Hezbollah souvenirs (at least a dozen different kinds of fridge magnets) but if I bought a lot and sent them home, U.S. Customs probably wouldn’t see the humor in it and next thing you know I’m on a no-fly list. Sourpusses.
     I wonder what Hezbollah thinks of Lebanon’s currency being tied to the U.S. dollar? And it’s not just pegged to the dollar, it is interchangeable with the dollar. The two are mixed freely here.

     I had a reasonably good-natured argument about being overcharged with a minibus driver and his esteemed colleagues which grew to about 10 or 15 people including curious passers-by. These Lebanese had a funny way of arguing where they alternate between being upset and then laughing about the situation. An English speaker was somehow summoned and he, too, was bemused at having to mediate even though he acknowledged I was lied to. I knew I was in the right despite everyone against me and it continued without end until someone stepped in to point out my shoes to the group. Everyone looked down, murmured in a mix of laughs and disbelief at all the holes, and in that moment, it was over: I won.

     From Byblos, about 35km north of Beirut. Taken from in front of its tiny harbor which I loved as I couldn't hear car horns. Car horns, garbage everywhere, and people coughing while not covering their mouths are the three things I dislike in all three countries on this trip. It's hard to get used to any of them.

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