Stories from Afar & Up Close

How many Zghartans does it take...

Monday evening I was leisurely driving around on the small roads in Koura, an area in North Lebanon, when I noticed a sign that said ‘Zgharta 4km’. Zgharta is a Christian town with a colorful history, and it has the reputation to be rough but extremely hospitable, with a population that has a soft spot for weapons of all types and sizes. I have wanted to visit Zgharta since I first came to Lebanon, yet somehow it never happened, and it had taken on almost mythical proportions from all the stories I heard about it. So here was my chance – and even though the sun was setting, I decided to take the right turn rather than continue my way back. Full of anticipation I drove on. I saw another sign: ‘Zgharta 1500m’. Almost there! And just as I was getting excited seeing the first houses left and right of the road, I hit a speed-bump and heard a noise that no car is supposed to make. I parked on the side of the road and was immediately notified by a boy walking in my direction that the problem was with the left front tire: it was completely flat. There I was, just outside of Zgharta, with nothing left to do but to fix the wheel, then turn around and head back.

But how to change the tire if you don’t even know where the spare is? I asked the guy if he knew a garage close-by. Yes he did, he actually worked in one, but it was closed now – he was on his way home. However, he quickly spotted the spare tire underneath the car, and asked me for the car jack. While we were searching inside and outside, a girl passed by and upon seeing my situation, she immediately took my phone to call her father and brother who also happened to work in a garage. In no time, the brother arrived on his scooter. The girl kept asking me questions about where I was from and what I was doing in Lebanon, while the two boys searched in vain for the car jack.

Then a taxi-driver stopped to offer help. Fortunately, he had a car jack. Unfortunately, it needed a little iron stick to make it work, which he didn’t have. No worries, though, because soon another car pulled over, and that driver did have a screwdriver to make the jack work. It took all men present to lift up the car and put the jack underneath, while the girl was still trying to find out whether I was married and if I had any kids.

In no time, the broken wheel was taken off, replaced by the spare tire, and the car lowered to the road. Everything was fine (nothing like this!). Before I could even say thanks both cars drove off, and shortly after that the two boys disappeared on the scooter. The girl offered me coffee, then let me turn around and carefully find my way home. Zgharta will have to wait for another day, but I am glad to have met its people!


Bonus shot: the view from Balamand towards the sea; North Lebanon.