Sunday, November 19, 2006

And Now...

...for something completely different. Sorry, dear readers, for waxing political of late. It must be something in the water. But I promise that this post will be a completely politics-free zone. At least I'll give it a try.

The monastery of Mar Musa (Saint Moses) is hidden away in the mountains northeast of Damascus. The place was abandonned about 150 years ago and largely forgotten about until an Italian monk stumbled across it some years back and decided to restore it to a functioning monastery. There are perhaps half a dozen monks and one can just pop in and stay with them for free in the relaxing surroundings, spend some time reading, contemplating and going for walks, and all that you are required to do in return is help out with the day-to-day work of the place. Some people stay for weeks, but two days were enough for me. Not that the experience wasn't pleasant, I had fun talking to the many Syrian Christians that come during the weekend for mass and also doing some Bible reading. Don't worry, I'm not likely to convert, but I think it's an important book to read as it forms the basis of much of our culture, and plus I am in the region where many of the events took place, and so it would give me a greater appreciation of the importance of places I visit. I only read the first 150-odd pages and was surprised by the content: a lot of begatting, and an incredible amount of detail on animal sacrifices (perhaps 20 pages). It seems that the early Jews had to sacrifice animals for pretty much every occasion; I'm surprised they had enough food for themselves. (Hmm, I think I might have failed in making my post apolitical.)

Anyway, that was my last place in Syria, and tomorrow I am off to Lebanon. It's a country I'm looking forward to visiting as I've heard so much about it from Syrians and other travellers, and because it's a bit of an exception in the Arab world being much more liberal than its peers (I've been told that Gulf Arabs come here to be able to do the partying and drinking that they are unable to do at home). Add to that a strong French influence that has lasted until today and it's supposed to be quite an exciting and cosmopolitan place.

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