Stories from Afar & Up Close


In Paris it’s a miniature Eiffel Tower, in New York City a small version of the Statue of Liberty, and I don’t doubt one can find a tiny Big Ben on a keychain in London, or a little red double-decker bus. After all, it’s nice to bring something home that is ‘typical’ for the location, a little symbol to remind the traveler of the country that s/he just visited. In Lebanon, one can find plenty of Phoenician figurines to take home as a souvenir, or pictures of the Pigeon Rocks and the Temple of Baalbeck. Of course that is how the Ministry of Tourism would like everyone to think of Lebanon, but is that what people will remember most? Most people I know who come to Lebanon are more obsessed or amazed with the chaotic and almost incomprehensible politics than the country’s ancient history, and are far more interested in Hezbollah than in an extinct people who may or may not have invented the alphabet.

Now, a tourist can find paraphernalia of the different political parties by going to the area where most supporters live, and buy a lighter which lights up with the face of Nabih Berri, a sticker of a rosary in the form of Lebanon, a keychain with Hassan Nasrallah or a Holy Card with Geagea on it, just to name a few. Or, one can do the political shopping all at once in the Chinese dollar-store on the Corniche, and get a mug of each one of them:

mokken-3a mokken-3b

This guy has everyone! Nabih Berri, Rafiq Hariri, Hassan Nasrallah, Amine Gemayel, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea, and Michel Aoun (not in the picture). No mug of the president though...


Wonder what the last time was they had a cuppa together...

So there you have it, souvenirs to remind you of the ‘real’ Lebanon… unless what you remember is slightly more violent, in which case a small souvenir-shop in Jezzine might just have the souvenir you are looking for: pistool2

A penholder with a Phoenician ship next to it? A beer bottle opener with the Lebanese flag? Or something slightly bigger? Apparently not every souvenir needs a cedar on it to be a good reminder of Lebanon...