By Nolan DiFrancesco > Junior > International Studies > Johns Hopkins University
Hailing from cold and bitter western Pennsylvania, I am one to appreciate good weather. Lebanon is the place to be. With spectacular weather year-round, it is a country that offers unmatched beauty and ample outdoor activities. On any given day, you could go snorkeling in the Mediterranean, hiking in the Cedar forests, biking in the Bekaa Valley or even on a winter adventure in the mountains.
Recently, my friend Kayla and I made it our goal to experience the fabled Lebanese ski slopes. It was a gorgeous day on the coast, but by all accounts, the Faraya Mountain resort (a mere 45-minute drive away) offered winter paradise. I was skeptical.
Adventure #1 of the day: getting there. While it is not too expensive to rent a car with a chauffer for a day, we decided to go for just the car. It was incredibly illegal. (Kayla did have an international license but she was still far below the minimum age to rent a car.) Luckily, the few rules that do exist in a place like Lebanon are not enforced. Whew.
Driving is a chaotic experience and not one for the faint-of-heart. Lebanese rules of the road are nonexistent–it’s highway anarchy. Luckily, Kayla drove. (That is, until she was “too tired,” conveniently in the middle of Beirut rush hour. Fun.) But we made it while only having seven or eight near-death experiences on the way to the Mazaar ski resort in the Faraya Mountains. It turned out to be more of an hour-and-a-half drive from the coast, but only because we got incredibly lost on the way. Pulling over and asking for directions–in Arabic, mind you–worked only 50 percent of the time.
But it was worth it. Faraya was a beautiful place. The snowboarding was amazing. With empty slopes that stretched for miles over the mountains, I never experienced the same run twice. The views were breathtaking. We did run into one problem at the end of the day. The lifts apparently closed before 4 p.m., but they had forgotten to inform us of this fact. We were trapped a few miles away from the main lodge and our car. Unable to hitch a ride, we were prepared to make the trek. But who walks when you can just bribe a local snowmobiler?
All in all, it was a fine day. And with ample plans to explore the rest of Lebanon and the Middle East, including a hiking trip in Iraq, the adventures will most certainly continue.