Wellness stemming from diversity
Strolling into alleys of an Old coastal city | Byblos – June 24, 2016.
We might wonder on the best place to bring back enchantment to the heart, gratitude to the soul and rejuvenate tears of the skin during summer holidays. Could diversity in Old cities be the source of all that wellness?
Naess said that ‘Natural diversity enriches our lives because it enriches our extended self. So the greater the diversity then, the greater the Self-realization…We can be just as big as the cosmos, in a sense, we ourselves, as human beings, are capable of identifying with the whole of existence.’
We may believe that only during those journeys spent in exploring wilderness, trekking valleys and rivers, sailing seas and oceans, walking forests and riverbanks, kayaking rivers and trampling wetlands, we may feel our expanded self and an urge to embrace the whole world, an intense feeling towards places identities and strong sense of belonging. What if those journeys can be spent in places that not only hold a wealth of natural diversity, but also historical vestiges and records of resilient societies and local economies? What if during those same journeys we got inspired by records of passing civilizations, visiting sailors, pilgrims, tourists, transhumant city dwellers and seasonal and occasional residents? What if the identity of those places replenishes our soul and revamps our thinking patterns? We end-up experiencing an internal rebirth of the self!
Stepping out to the coastline at 48 kilometres from Tripoli, 50 kilometres from Beirut, 65 kilometres from Sidon and 120 kilometres from Tyre, those places can be 1 to 2 hours from our home and at a glance from the routine we might be living every day! A one-day journey in Byblos (Jbeil)- designated UNESCO World Heritage site, brings a variety of experiences when crossing the Old Souk and squares, visiting the Citadel and harbour from medieval era, walking the public garden and strolling into the stairs and cobblestones alleys, to end up on its beaches. A day spent in here could revive ancestors’ memories and passing civilizations in one of the oldest ‘continuously inhabited’ city in the World. The area features vestiges of an Ancient Phoenician temple and traits of medieval city. It holds the Sultan Abdul Majid mosque dating back to Mamlouk times and St John the Baptist Church built during the Crusaders conquest. A wonderland for naturalists is the museum hosting collection of fossilized fish, sharks, eel, flying fish, and other marine life aged millions of years.
Getting out of the old city at the harbour, the trail along the coastline passing by the famous traditional House, a landmark on the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, ends on sandy beaches. The journey might start at dawn with the fishermen preparing their boats for sailing and could end up bare footing the sand and enjoying its warmth. In our field of sight, coastal resorts seem to be either nude or covered with green tapestry made of bouquets of trees, climbers and shrubs. Those beaches unfold with every step we make towards the south of Jbeil. In the colourful resort, we could feel that we are wandering a small island. Detached from the reality of cities, we might live the illusion to be tiny enough to enjoy the diverse miniature spaces and ponds designed and planted by skilled gardeners. Walking the street from the port to Northern Jbeil, beaches covered with pebbles or rocks are around the corner. They offer other characters of the ‘bluescape’ and coastline bringing another type of experiences.
Bathing in the Mediterranean sun, we can’t miss meditating on the diversity of that city and the beauty and authenticity revealed in its walls and beaches. At the end of our day, we can’t but carry with us, memories of the oleander alleys and the bougainvillea-made arches, the panoramic views of the sea and old houses, scent of native plants growing in the crevices of the city’s walls, and taste of traditional foods and international dishes served in the restaurants in the port and old souk.