Way back in 2011, I managed to find myself a bit uncomfortably sandwiched between two cars. A car reversed into my car (parked politely by the side of the road) without taking into account that I was standing in front of it. The damage to both cars was inconsequential. I couldn’t really say the same thing about me though. Despite not having much interest in astronomy, forget stars, I managed to get into Spaceman Spiff mode and explored entire galaxies between the time an ambulance arrived and I reached a hospital. Within three weeks I was back on my feet, due to a not-so-modern invention called crutches and a lot of orthopedic attention. Thanks to the freak accident that almost made me say sayonara to my left leg, the fact that life could be unpredictable was highlighted in triplicate. So, we did the most practical thing under the circumstances – decided to go on a short holiday to think about life.
The destination was the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos - located about 30 km from downtown Beirut and a thousand miles away from its ‘Paris-of-the-east-so-let’s-party-all-night’ reputation. Which suited us fine. Neither of us was really into happening clubs kind of scene then, and come to think of it, even now.
Before Greece and Rome stamped their presence on the ancient world map, Byblos was the city-state that everybody was in awe of. Founded around 5000 BC, give or take a few years, Byblos shot to fame as a result of the shipbuilding prowess of its inhabitants as well as for its high quality of timber that found wide acceptance in Egypt. Remember those logs that you saw (in history textbooks) carried by those poor souls involved in making pyramids, as per Mikipedia, they are obviously cedar logs imported from Byblos.
This kind of information gleaned from tourism leaflets in hotel lobbies, however interesting it might be, can occupy one’s mind for only a limited period of time. So, despite a persistent dull ache, I started hobbling up and down the charming tree-lined cobbled lanes of Byblos. Stately houses, stylish eating joints, quaint bookshops, churches and mosques, big and small, a castle that had collapsed in parts yet maintained its regal air – these walks didn’t really take long, but allowed a fascinating sneak peek into the glorious past of Byblos. My favourite part was the promenade though. Families, lovers, lost souls would gather quietly every evening to soak in Technicolor sunsets over the Mediterranean. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too dramatic. But a great sense of calm and atmosphere that makes you feel good to be alive.