Balbek – the day of Ashura

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To see this, we had to freeze in a cheap hotel. There was no glass in the bathroom window, and we got one liter of kerosene to heat our room. It was well below freezing outside when the stove gasped to a halt at 2 a.m. We slept in our clothes, bundled into a ball and wrapped three blankets around us. I have been in warmer snow caves. We got up like you get up from camping – run around the room to get your circulation going, then put on frozen boots. We emerged to crisp desert morning, on a street in which young men were flogging themselves, bleeding onto the pavement.  No pictures allowed. This is Amal and Hezbollah country. My wife is searched, patted down,  by a woman in black hijab before we are allowed to enter a little restaurant. We eat large cold fava beans for breakfast, called “fūl medammis” in Arabic. The ancient Egyptians ate them too.  Then we see this, in the cold hard sun of Balbek.

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