Postcard from... Beirut


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The Independent Online

The undulating ski slopes of Faraya, with their sweeping views over the Mediterranean, are one place in Lebanon you expect to be able to escape from sniping sectarian politics.

But if its a break from the bluster you are after, don’t take a trip at the same time as the hardline Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir.

As a colleague and I made our way up the winding, pot-holed traverse to the resort with our car’s engine screaming, we were surprised to come across a dozen or so army vehicles in the road.   “The road is closed,” the soldier snapped, waving us back down.

To our misfortune, Sheikh Assir, who has risen out of obscurity over the past year with his criticism of Lebanese support of the Syrian regime, had taken a trip to the mountains with 500 or so supporters. And as Faraya lies in Lebanon’s Christian heartland, villagers had blocked the roads in protest. Though Sheikh Assir managed to get through, some of us weren’t quite so lucky.

We consoled ourselves with kebabs by a log fire in a hotel a little way down the mountain, while further up the sheikh and his entourage prayed and pelted each other with snowballs.

Disappointingly he didn’t  attempt to ski, but still left with plenty of television coverage.