Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Falougha

The attack; (continue #10 of fiction novel)

The night before the attack on the Capital Mtein, Antoun sensed the anxiety overwhelming his comrades and ordered to set up five bonfires and distributed the leaders to gather with the insurgents around the fires.  He refrained from meeting with his leaders in close quarters and repeated his address to the five encampments separately saying:

“The time is approaching to execute our decision for a better life, a life based on fairness in the laws as worthy equals in our society.  It is time to start erecting a society with the right to elect a government of the people and for the people; a government that understand the wishes and dreams of its people and has experienced the sufferings and injustices of the peasants and working people under the despotic and unfair feudal system.  It is natural to feel scared otherwise, I wouldn’t trust your courage and determination if you didn’t feel apprehensive tonight.  Our project is the life or death of our destiny tailored to our big heart. Our project is the dream and wish of many citizens in the towns and villages whom have been keeping these dreams burning deep in their compassionate hearts.  We know each other; we are friends and we will take care of one another as we had done for many years.  We have planned together our revolution to the minute details, as intelligent and responsible leaders of people should do, to succeed and win against the heartless and irresponsible feudal Cheiks, Beys and Emirs”.

“You all know by now that I don’t dwell much on abstract notions such as freedom, liberty and self-determination; we have discussed the meanings of these concepts so that we don’t abuse and short hand the intelligence of our citizens.  Opening and creating opportunities for learning and working go hand in hand with empowering the individual citizens to take bold decisions, fortified by laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and social status.  That is how we give sense to liberty and self–determination and that is what our citizens should demand from us.”

He went on saying: “In a few hours we march boldly toward the Capital of the loathed executioners of our rights; who denied us the joy of life commensurate to our labor, sweat and blood.  Obey the orders and directives of your elected leaders and be steadfast in your fight.  I can see our flags fluttering in the morning wind at the top of the Castle. Victory is whispering sweet songs and the shout of Long Live the Revolution is already deafening my ears.  I can see hundreds of peasants gathering around you in the Capital’ Square and shouting in unison ‘Long Live the Revolution’!  Is Victory singing to you too?  I cannot hear you! Long Live the Revolution! Louder! Louder!”

The insurgent detachment headed by Antoun descended from Baskenta toward Mrouj with 150 fighters while Mustafa and Hanna accompanied by Elias headed for Falougha, in currently the Chouf County, with 200 insurgents. They were advancing at the pace of caravans and looking very much like trading caravans with a few women prominently exhibited and some well know caravan regular leaders perched on their ornamented mules. As soon as the two groups reached their first destinations they would descend on Mtein at sun down helped by the moon light. They were to wait for the combined attack at 5 o’clock in the morning after the peasants had left their homes for the fields.  Supporters in the Capital were ready to guide the insurgents to the residencies of the strongmen and powerful landlords in and around the town.  The insurgents were successful in capturing the targeted noblemen and entered Mtein with no major resistance.

At the same time, two dozen fighters were guarding the entrances to the Bishop Atanasios’ residence, waiting for the fire signal to elevate over the highest hill to enter the residence and have the Bishop and his monks under house arrest.  At every entrance and exit passageway, a handful of guards with an officer disguised as a monk regulated the traffic of civilians and clergy.  People coming in to pay a visit to the Bishop were discouraged to resume their trip because of a special conclave for the clergy and the impossibility of meeting anyone for a couple of days.  The peasants working the land of the monastery or traders were allowed in and retained there.  Gergis was leading this group of partisans with the mission of striking a deal with the Bishop after Antoun’s insurgents enter Mtein.  Elias was behind the project of this necessary house arrest coup but was instead assigned another task because he was still officially excommunicated and for fear that his zeal might foil this important mission.

Gergis’ task was to convince the Bishop and his associates in the clergy that the takeover of power was not the work of ruffians and outlaws but of learned gentlemen, citizens concerned with the status of lawlessness and injustices which was fueling a feeling of restlessness among the population of believers.  To convince the clergy that this revolt sought the approval and leadership of their Patriarch, Gergis promised that they will receive the proper documents very shortly.  Gergis insisted that he was ready to deal fairly and squarely on behalf of the leaders of this popular movement of believers.

In the mean time, Bishop Atanasios agreed to say mass in the Capital Mtein next Sunday with all the official ceremonies befalling a highly important personality.  The two parties were not duped in their respective intentions but they implicitly agreed that this negotiation was the business of politicians awaiting better circumstances.  The Bishop was convinced that this movement, like other previous revolts, would not survive long, and that life as usual would return under the full control of the clergy and the feudal old political structure.

The official mass was to be held at nine o’clock and the leader was outside by 8 am accepting the congratulations and respect of the town people and dignitaries while anxiously keeping an eye on the horizon waiting for the Bishop to be sighted.  At twenty to nine, a small group of pedestrians wearing black cloaks and following a person perched on a mule was sighted, plodding at an average pace.  Antoun who had become mainly a city man and, relatively removed from the customs of the mountains and the declining economic status of the clergy, did not pay this group much attention and was scrutinizing the horizon for dust generated by a cavalry accompanying the Bishop in pageant procession.  When the black clad group, many bare feet in dirty cloaks, was thirty meters away Elias nudged Antoun and shouted: “The bastard has come”.

The leader briskly faced Elias and waited for an explanation to his rude comment when someone raised his voice saying: “Let peace be upon you, Antoun my son “.  The Bishop was directly confronting him from the top of his mule with a thin smile across his lips and hard eyes piercing toward the inattentive leader of the peasants.  Antoun was taken aback in total surprise and fumbled down his mount, helped the Bishop to dismount and then kissed the proffered hand.  Elias was beside himself and was ready to wriggle the neck of the Bishop as well as Antoun’s for his vile humility toward this despicable high placed clergy and shouted to the Bishop: “Atanathios, remember me?  I am waiting for you to publicly recant your excommunication of me and everyone in the Metn.”  The cunning Bishop seeing an opportunity to reclaim his power replied: “Son Elias, I am glad to admit you back into the flock. You have already suffered enough and the church is forgiving to human weaknesses”.  Elias was about to retort but was taken away by a gesture of impatience from Antoun.

The new leader was received as the avenging hero who will strengthen the force of order and prevent violence, injustice, and anarchy. He could deliver his promises since the outlaw men and deserters were part and parcel of his well organized army.

Part 6: “Wild trails of Mount Lebanon” (Mar. 8, 2010)

Pierre Bared, a middle aged man, tall, svelte, with graying beard and three children decided to walked alone for 22 days on the wild trails of Mount Lebanon crossing it from the upper northern town of Kobayat to the southern town of Marje3youn  in June 2008.

On the 17th day, two Syrian workers, guarding a newly renovated villa, did their best to welcome Pierre. They reserved him one of the two beds for the night and purchased a roasted chicken.

Many Christians denied Pierre, even a listening ear, during his walking trip.  The place allocated to the workers was miserable: “the others” must have been used to miserable conditions!

Pierre descends a valley to the river and crosses a rickety bridge; he reached the town of Bzebdine by 1 pm.

It is Sunday; Pierre’s friends Joseph and Saba were to meet him for a picnic. The son of the owner of a building, studying for his public exam, gathers red and green prunes from his garden and offers them for the three men.

Two armed civilian militia of the socialist Druze party (of the warlord Walid Jumblatt) pay them a visit for questioning.

Pierre has hard time locating the trail to Kornayel using the useless guide book.  He traverses a forest and hears gun shots and various arms firing.  The forest is degraded by men.

By 6 pm, Pierre is in Falougha.  Kids are playing soccer by the church yard: it is an unknown notion in Lebanon to reserve playing grounds and spaces for kids.

In Falougha, the mayor stops to pick up and collect detritus off the sides of streets: an example that renders this town clean.

Joseph, a member of the association “Sentiers du Mont Liban”, meets Pierre in an ice cream parlor.  Joseph claims that the wild trails are not marked so that people call them up! What an excuse given that the association was awarded $3 millions for that project.  It seems that part of the budget was allocated to restore a few welcoming houses for travelers.  It is good to know that the project is done by volunteers and the private company is doing nothing.

Chamoun, the one who called Pierre to join him for the remainder of the trip, called Pierre and they agreed to meet at the main fountain in the morning. Pierre sleeps at Joseph’s house.

Next morning, Chamoun arrives decked in kaki outfit and all kinds of small flags pinned on the uniform; he even brought a spare boot.  They both ascend to Dahr el Baidar; an army post is there but did not disturb the travelers.  The walkers take a break under the shadow of a lonely tree.

They cross Damascus Highway to catch the old train tunnel: no train rails are left.  They see a quarry, so many unlicensed quarries in Lebanon that are disfiguring the landscape. Many Lorries are suffocating the climate with dirt.  They meet a 10 year-old girl shepherding goats: Pierre gives the girl water to drink.

A couple of old folks are gathering cherries and apricots; they welcome the travelers as if they knew them.  The walkers see another quarry that inflicts significant pain to the eyesight.  They meet an old cultivator who invites them to his one room depot.

They continue to Ain Dara.  They meet workers rebuilding the bridge of Mdayrej that Israel bombed in 2006; they eat with the workers at the central town square restaurant and good boy jokes fuse from everywhere. Chamoun is carrying promotional materials concerning his exploits, adventures, and recommendation in health care; he never stops talking once he is carried away for his aggrandizement attitudes.

Pierre and Chamoun resume their trip to Nabe3 el Safa; they cross a small natural farm of cows and chicken co-existing.  They come into an orchard of peach trees (best peaches in the world).  They stumble over a sofa under a tree: they could not let this luck be missed for a well deserved pause.

For the first time in the trail, Pierre sees a notice warning against landmines, cluster bombs, and unexplosed missiles left by Israel recurring bombing of Lebanon.  They reach the “Cedar reserve” of Chouf; the guard of the forest reserve offers them a room with two real beds and a real hot shower facility (5 stars accommodation).

The next day, the photographer Alfred shows up for photo sessions of the routine cedar tree planting.  Planting a cedar tree in the reserve cost $250, including entrance card to the forest any time, having your name attached to the tree, and a certificate; the tree has the number 116.  The mayor accompanies Pierre.

The walkers return to Falougha for another planting ceremony of cedar tree, and then to Mtein.

Chamoun calls up his sister to give them ride to the cedar reserve; she drops Pierre in Mdayrej; Chamoun calls it quit and returns with his sister home.  Pierre waits 30 minutes to be picked up by a truck to Nabe3 el Safa; the next target town for Pierre is Barouk.

Part 5. “On the wild trails of Mount Lebanon”: To Hrajel: (Mar. 8, 2010)

          The next target town for Pierre Bared is Hrajel; the path is visible; a rare case.  He follows an irrigation canal for one kilometer; he arrives at a fork: the right path should lead to Hrajel but he prefers to investigate the left path toward the mountain; an army helicopter is over him.  Hills succeeded to hills for four hours but the objective is not behind any of them and Pierre is losing hope; he starts thinking about his three children for comfort. The water bottle is empty.  He is in the real “jurd” high altitude arid lands; then he reaches a plain with hunting bullet casings scattered all over.

          Pierre observes a giant cross on a mountain and walks toward it in 20 minutes.  He can see Hrajel from this top.  On descending the mountain he meets people drinking the national drink “arak” on a terrace; they appear to be next generation cultivators because their hands are not badly calloused: Syrian helpers work the land.  They invite Pierre to join and they roast a giant piece of meat for him and prepare him a cup of arak.  First thing first, Pierre needs to have water badly.  The “keskoun” (to your health) fuses from every corner of the table.

          Pierre resumes his walk and meets an artisan linking to the main electrical cable (system D) for energy-consuming tasks.  Pierre crosses the Faraya highway and heads toward the town of Fakra.  Two harsh hours of ascent before descending to the small town of Bekaatet Kenaan; he had to ask for directions several times.  Pierre sits in the shadow of a church; he tries to revive a dying bird.  The trail leads to a dry river bed that he takes.

Pierre  has to climb many rocks in the river bed and bypass carcasses of trucks, cars, and mounds of detritus. An hour later, Pierre realizes there is no path on the left bank; he tries the right bank for half an hour and retraces his steps. He had to try creating a path through heavily densed thorny plants. At this crucial moment his cellular rings; a certain Chamoun arriving from the USA wants to join Pierre for the remaining section of his trip. Chamoun got wind of the adventure from the guide-book association; they decided to meet in the town of Falougha in a couple of days.

          Pierre is thinking that if any harms occur to him in this location then no one will find him.  Within 45 minutes he is in front of a newly renovated convent.  Pierre traverses the convent land and comes face to face with a Syrian worker cutting trees for coal for the convent.  The next village is Wadi El Karm with red tiles, arcades, and no cement for home construction.  Pierre sit amid adolescent boys by a shop.  One of them throws his soda can on the street.  Pierre resumes his trip to Baskinta.

          He heads toward a convent hoping for night facility; a monk is having dinner outside with two women; the monk adamantly refuses Pierre to sleeping over. On his way, an older woman sells Pierre a bag of chips and an orange juice; then the woman owner arrives and gives him a plate of tabouli for free. Lebanon is the country of contrast; you walk a couple of miles and customs change. Two women are having their evening walk; one is wearing jeans and the other a veil.

          Pierre stops for a hamburger and soda and then spends the night on the terrace of a vacant building.  On the 14th day, Mtein is the target town.  Pierre passes chicken farm.  A grape-vine is climbing three floors of a building to the roof.  Welcoming gestures are deteriorating: we are far away from friendly north mountain chain with ancestral traditions.

          Quitting the asphalt road of Baskinta Pierre is confronted with a stone fabric; Syrian workers sleep in open air.  A 65 years old woman is filling a 20 liters gallon from a tiny spring; Pierre carries the gallon to her car: the new VIP owner of the nearby villa diverted the water pipe to his unoccupied residence.  Within 30 minutes he arrives at Bteghrine.  At noon, Pierre takes a pause and a guy borrows a cigarette; the discussion reverts quickly to politics: the political figure of the region has bought the allegiance everyone.

          The next town is Mrouj; an hour walk.  Pierre eats “lahem bi ajeen” and yogurt on the terrace of a bakery; he recharges his cellular.  Around 2 pm, Pierre locates a relatively clean place in the forest to have an hour nap.  On the way, a woman is cutting parsley; she halted him a moment and emerges with a sandwich for Pierre.

          From Mtein Pierre arrives at Mchikla; two young men are having lunch and smoking narguileh under a nut-tree; they invite Pierre “tfadal”; Pierre asks directions to Bzebdine.


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