The land of nativity scenes

As Christmas draws near (four sleeps to go!!), I thought I’d share the Lebanese love of nativity scenes with you. These first shots are from the display at ABC mall. Great attention to detail, and while I looked everywhere for a special treat such as the Christmas lobster accompanying the three wise men, sadly I couldn’t spot anything too untoward…

And then this little number is down the road from our place.

Our expanding family

Okay, it’s time that we fessed up. We’ve actually been busy procreating over here in Lebanon and now have three kiddies instead of one. Don’t believe me? Check out the evidence!

Yeah, alright, they’re not all ours. During the Eid long weekend we had Marc and Barbie, and their two gorgeous kiddies come to stay with us. It was great fun showing them around, although we also seemed to spend lots of time just chilling out and yakking away about old times in Abu Dhabi.

Christmas is coming!

The weather has taken a decidedly chilly turn of late, with wonderfully heavy rain the other day translating into a blanket of snow in the mountains (although this has already melted). The traffic on the road to ABC Mall, which runs through our neighbourhood, is at gridlock every evening as shoppers flock in. All of the streets and houses in our neighbourhood are decked with lights. The tree has magically appeared in the living room.

Sounds like Christmas is coming!

Mitchell is really into the whole concept of Christmas this year, enthusiastically devouring his way through his first advent calendar and exclaiming with delight everytime he sees a Christmas tree or any kind of Christmas decorations. And he’s especially uncomfortable with the fact that there’s currently no presents under our tree.

I wonder what Santa will bring?

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Last weekend while we were in the UAE we hotfooted it down to Abu Dhabi for the day. It was great to look around and see what had changed since we moved away from there in 2003, and it was also terrific to catch up with our old pals Barbie and Marc and their two nippers Megan (seen holding hands with Mitchell below) and four week old Chloe.

One obvious change is the completion (almost) of the Sheikh Zayed mosque. This towering edifice has been under construction for more than ten years, and even now is not completely finished. (Landscaping seems to be taking forever.)

It boggles the mind that in Dubai they can build all of this in less than six years (I kid you not – in 2002 there was only a bare patch of desert there). By contrast the Sheikh Zayed mosque just seems to be taking forever.

The old legend was that it couldn’t be finished while Sheikh Zayed was alive. Well, the old guy’s dead now, so what’s the hold up??

Anyway, here’s a collection of then and now photos. The former set were taken during a private tour of the construction site in 2003.

2003 – – – – – – – – -> 2008

As you can see, it’s a bit fancier these days. In fact, it would be fair to say that it’s anything but subtle. In the central prayer hall that’s the world’s largest carpet and the world’s largest chandelier. Unfortunately some goon decided that Sheridan wasn’t allowed to take her chair onto this famous carpet – which seemed pretty rude and uncharitable for a house of worship. I mean, they let anyone walk on it in their stinky funky socks…

And you know what? I kind of preferred the brutalist style of the unfinished product.

Time to Dubai something

We’ve been back from holidays for only a few weeks, but geez it feels like ages since we had a break away.

So in the spirit of true global wanderers (and at the risk of sounding like overpaid expats), we’re off to Dubai for a long weekend. Sun (well, heat and humidity mostly), sand and shopping. Yay!

See you back online on Tuesday.

Father’s Day in Faqra

Although today is not Father’s Day in Lebanon, it is in Australia so we thought bugger it, let’s celebrate (afterall, daddy deserves a bit of goodwill from his wee lad!).

This morning I got to sleep in while mummy managed Mitchell, which was a lovely treat. Then it was up for pancakes and bananas for breakfast. Yummo. After a quick call to Granddad in Australia we bundled into the black beast and motored our way up into the mountains.

Our destination for the day was Faqra, situated about an hour from Beirut at an altitude of 1500 metres and home (in winter) to a number of ski resorts.

Faqra’s main sights are the Qa’lat Faqra Roman ruins, and a 50 metre long natural rock bridge which, as you can see from the photos, is popular with abseilers and climbers. The bridge is quite impressive and fortunately there’s a nice little Lebanese restaurant with an outdoor dining area overlooking it. So we settled in for a typically Lebanese meal of humous, tabbouleh, kibbe, sambousik, stuffed vine leaves, grilled chicken wings and a mixed grill (which had the most succulent shish taouk chicken I’ve ever had).

Delightful!

What to do today??

Ahh, there are certainly moments when it’s lovely living in (or at least coming from) a monarchy.

Today we’ve got the day off for the Queen’s Birthday. We have a whole day free to do as we wish, while everyone else in Lebanon has to go about their normal business day.  Bliss!

We’ve packed Mitchell off to school for the day and mummy and daddy are going to have some quiet time! Yay! What, that’s not fair you say?  Like hell.  Mitchell loves it at school where he gets to paint, draw, run around, sing songs, play with his friends and be a little sociable rabbit.  Much more fun than boring old home where there’s nothing to do and no-one to play with other than his dull parents and of course Fina.

So anyway, now we’ve got the day free, I guess we better work out what to do with ourselves!