It is three years since I left my last corporate position, determined to launch into a less predictable and more adventurous lifestyle (*). Extensive traveling was not part of a formal plan – I did not have any plan anyway. I ventured into the unknown with a taste of fear in my mouth and a flame of faith in my heart, mustering the courage to dive into an intangible flow and let the current take me to vast oceans and new shores. Little did I know that I was about to turn into a modern (female) Ulysses, landing on several exotic countries and filling my travelogue with experiences I never thought I would have. And, as months passed by, traveling became not just an integral part of my identity (even though I had been a frequent traveler since childhood), but, mostly, an indivisible part of my consciousness. On a perpetual quest for Ithaca – the mysterious home which is permanently luring the voyager deeper into the corners of the psyche – I do not travel anymore for recreational purposes, nor for business: I travel to keep exploring myself through the heartbeat of the lands and the eyes of humanity. [Read more…]
In the Chouf valley of Lebanon, in between Deir Al Qamar and Beiteddin Palace, there stands the Moussa Castle – a construction of a quite imposing magnitude. Unlike most of the typical tourist attractions in the country, this one does not represent any major civilization, nor does it commemorate a landmark of historical significance. Still, every year numerous visitors stoop to pass under its low entrance door, captivated – like bees to honey – by the story of love, ego, and betrayal out of which the building emerged.
The castle was single-handedly built by Moussa Al Maamari, a Lebanese man, now in his mid-80s. Today, Moussa does not frequent the dimly-lit rooms regularly; yet, his presence is palpable not only in the construction itself but in the overall ambiance, like a spirit destined never to let go. After all, he spent 60 years of his life (that is, 21,900 days or 394,200 hours) carving each stone separately, or crafting the numerous clay animated figures that populate every room and corner! It is not easy to get detached. Not for Moussa, anyway. [Read more…]
The path stretches ahead, following the bends of the Andean ridges. Despite the masculinity that mountains usually breathe out, this trail caresses the slopes with the tenderness that only a woman’s body inflames. I step on flat stones, most of which are still the original ones that were meticulously put together by the Incas, and have been ever since smoothened by thousands of people – pilgrims, explorers, tourists – who have been treading towards The Old Mountain: Machu Picchu. I initially feared this journey would be too busy with other hikers who would turn the popular pilgrimage into a crowded touristic experience; however, I now find myself walking alone – and it is not the first time. [Read more…]