Log #25l Lebanon to Haifa

August 20, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 25 EMYR, The Logs

Aug. 20, 2002
Kos Town, Nisos Kos, Greece

Hi Folks,

We’re now back in Greece, on the Isle (Nisos) of Kos, in the main town of Kos where Hippocrates, was born, raised, and practiced, becoming the “Father of Medicine”.  We have also visited another Crusader castle that together with the castle at Bodrum and Rhodes gave the Crusaders control of the waters at this crucial corner of the Mediterranean for a couple of hundred years. We are at the Kos Marina, an excellent marina, for a couple of days. They have an internet access here, and so I will send via floppy disc and AOL this Log #25l Lebanon to Haifa. I can’t be bothered trying AOL directly from my laptop as it s too frustrating, and m Superonline account at present is operational only in Turkey. I think I can switch it to international, but will not do so until I return to Kemer in October. So keep sending me your reactions to my logs to veledaiv@aol.com until I finalize any switch.

I will be starting a new series of logs after the EMYR series is finished, and will be making a new mailing list at that time. For those of you who want to keep getting my logs; please let me know. Enjoy Log #25l.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #25l Lebanon to Haifa

Aug. 18, 2002
Mersincik, (south across from Bodrum), Turkey
36ْ 45.4’ N, 027ْ 28.4 E

The marina at Jounieh is indeed one of the most luxurious of all the marinas in the Med. The marina and Jounieh Yacht Club is operated by the Automobile and Touring Club of Lebanon. We had to pay port dues of $85.00 US but the officials and marina staff were most helpful.  As mentioned in my last log, we were delayed a day in leaving Latakia in Syria, and so missed the tour of downtown Beirut the previous day (May 31), but after arriving at 0730, were assigned our slip and were able to make the 0900 tour on June 1st. The first stop was at the Jeita Grotto, a fantastic cavern carved out of the limestone rock by an underground river. As described in the write up of Jounieh in my last log, this cavern went over 6 kilometres through the mountains behind Beirut, on two levels. The river burst through the first or upper level creating the lower level where the water still flows. The space where these two levels join is over 200 feet high, the height being so great that the lower level appears shrouded in a haze in places. The dimensions of this cavern are the astounding aspect of this formation. The quiet boat ride through the lower waters created a sense of reverential awe that meant we felt we should whisper rather than disturb the tranquility of the depths with our chatter. The water was so still and so clear that the rocks illuminated on the bottom could have been one foot or five feet below the surface. The walkway led from the lower up to the higher level, then back down, the depths, heights, crevasses, and yawning chasms simply illuminated with white lights. It was the most impressive set of caverns I have ever visited.

Next we went to an ancient church, from which we walked to the prehistoric ruins at Byblos. Foundations of primitive huts dating back to 5000 BC, thick Bronze Age walls, the remains of Egyptian temples, the subterranean rock tombs of a Phoenician royal necropolis, a reasonably intact castle from the Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman period, and a present day Lebanese house left on the excavated site provided an intriguing experience of the history and civilizations that have evolved in this seminal location. I could have spent an entire day rooting through these exposed archeological remains, but we only had a couple of hours, then back to the bus to go into town (Beirut) to an upscale Lebanese restaurant for a most enjoyable afternoon meal. By the time we got out of there and had to wait for the buses, several were too tired for the rest of the tour, so one bus went back to the boats while another went on to the church and monastery of the Virgin of Harissa on the mountainside overlooking Beirut. The statue of the Virgin can be seen from the coast and many parts of Beirut. The cathedral is modern and dramatic in its flaring, soaring, ribbed roof design, calling to mind (what else for us sailors) the skeletal structure of the inverted hull of a wooden sailing ship, the vee of the keel lifting our eyes skyward to the heavens. From the escarpment was a panoramic view of Beirut and the coastline below.

Upon returning to the boats we had a light supper (one of the few we have had on board during the EMYR) as we had such a good but late lunch.

Next day was the tour to Baalbeck (cost $50.00 US each) up the Bekaa Valley. This was a considerable trip inland through the mountains into the fertile valley area, one that is still divided up into zones of influence dominated by different militia groups, several of which are Syrian. We went through several non-threatening control points (which could easily be converted to road blocks), saw several billboards with fierce looking ayatollahs raising AK47’s, shouting “peaceful” messages in Arabic against whatever demons they were fighting. We stopped at a restaurant for a breakfast break, but for us, it was not well organized, and I hate waiting in lines. So Judy and I wandered down the street to a store that had a refreshment kitchen and ordered a “borek”, an unleavened flatbread and cheese “sandwich” and a pop. However the store also happened to be a gun shop with all kinds of pistols, rifles, machine guns and other weaponry, ammunition and camouflage outfits available. An interesting combination for a take-out store! After we boarded the bus to continue the trip to Baalbeck, we noticed more of these weapon shops in every community, as well as periodic tank emplacements in specially dug berms, off the roads. I guess Lebanon still has its problems.

Baalbeck was fantastic! Unfortunately as I write this I have no data from the area available, and so can give only my memories and impressions. They were of magnitude! The area had a temple with all the Roman panoply of the Syrian sun god, Elah-Gabal. The size of the pillars, friezes, and sculptures were mind boggling. The foundations and columns were at least three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. The foundation blocks were the largest stone blocks in existence, measuring 25 metres long by 5 metres square. I marvel at the technology in that era of the 2nd or 3rd century AD that could construct such gigantic edifices. The sculptures were strewn around the area; mute, open mouthed, empty eyed testimony to the beliefs and deities of the time. At one side were the Byzantine remains of a later era. Again, we could have spent several days in the area absorbing the archeology and history of this grandiose site. But, we had to get back on the buses and back to Jounieh for a late rally dinner

We showered and dressed up for the formal rally dinner at which we expressed our appreciation to our Lebanese hosts, exchanging gifts and plaques to commemorate the visit, and watched a display of belly-dancing. Next day was a free day until our afternoon departure. Charles from  Malaika II and I went into town to try to find a camera shop as we were looking for a gift digital camera for Hasan, and I wanted to buy another digital camera to replace the one that went for a swim with me a few weeks earlier. Lebanon was supposedly tax free and we figured we could get a good buy there. However the two places we went were out of digital cameras. On returning to the boats, I went to an internet café, but was unable to access AOL again. Without a doubt, the greatest frustration while sailing is getting access to AOL, sending and downloading E-mail! Aaarrgghhh!

When leaving we had to complete some paperwork about our crew list and destination. Because of the sensitivity of Lebanon, we declared our next port to be Limasol in Cyprus, rather than our intended port of Haifa in Israel. Similarly if anyone had had an Israeli stamp in his passport, he would not have been allowed into Lebanon, or other Arab countries. Our friend and Rally Secretary, Umut Tepedelenloglu from Kemer, had to get a new passport for this trip, as he had an Israeli stamp in his old one.  So we went on the 85 mile passage directly into Israeli waters with many cautions to contact the Israeli navy 50 miles from the Israeli coast. Again we had to stay a minimum of 6 miles off the Israeli coast, and we assembled 6 miles off Haifa, awaiting individual contact with the navy for permission to proceed into Haifa. Some boats (such as Three Sheets to the Wind) were very frustrated, having to wait more than three hours off that point before finally being recognized and given permission to proceed. We were asked the same laborious questions, being searched for any inconsistencies from the data provided by the rally, before being allowed to continue. Many boats were then approached by a naval, police or harbour launch for their passports and registration certificates. We were not asked for such and were allowed to proceed in to the Quishon River marina where a harbour boat directed us to a mooring. Before we could leave the boat we were questioned by security about our crew list, where we were coming from, if we were bringing anything in from a “friend”, if we had been asked to deliver anything to anyone, etc.

One minor confusion was that they had us listed as having three people on board! They had David Mulholland as one of our crew but did not have the fact that he left us in Mersin. Did he leave anything with us? Will he be joining us later? Where is he now? They were checking and double checking everything, and understandably so, given the Intifada that was plaguing Israel at that time. They apologized for the inconvenience, and welcomed us to Israel. I found them more polite than the agents when I came to Israel 25 years ago. The conflict is the same, but the Israelis have improved their PR.

We were hosted by the Carmel Yacht Club, and given tours of Haifa and Acco (Acre) which I will describe in my next log. Below I have pasted the write-up from the rally bible which covers Haifa. We found the Israelis very appreciative of the fact we would come to their country in such time of turmoil. The Intifada has killed the tourist industry in Israel this year.

6/       Haifa, Israel

Arrive – Tues. 04 June (am)    Depart  – Wed. 05 June (pm)

Israel, “The Holy Land” sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will provide many sites of religious significance. Its length is 248 miles, and its width varies from 8 to 68 miles. It is a new country as of 1948, but has a history going back 5000 years. Israel is a land of contrasts considering its past, presence and future, populated by exiles from over 70 nations, with mystics and technocrats, believers and agnostics, holy sites and hatreds.  Haifa, described as the “San Francisco of Israel” because of its luxurious suburbs on Mount Carmel, is a short distance across the bay from the ancient Arab city of Acre (Akko) with its walled town, and Crusader remains, site of the order of the Knights Hospitaliers. Our hosts, the Carmel Yacht Club, have arranged a tour of Haifa on Tuesday and of Acre on the Wednesday prior to our departure.

Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, is built on three levels. The downtown level city has quaint old stone houses that alternate with modern glass walled towers. Red tiled roofs of the German Colony dating back to the Templar period of the mid 1800’s, and the bustling commerce and produce markets present the flavour of contrasts of the old new and historical. The Hadar district midway up Mount Carmel offers well kept pedestrian malls and colourful shops. The Carmel district at the top features elegant tree lined streets and stately residential neighbourhoods. Walking down the steps of Haifa from the top to the bottom of the mountain gives a vista of the city taking you through the Bahai temple and gardens, the “Nuns of Nazareth” school. Other sites include the cave of the Prophet Elijah now a pilgrimage centre, The Carmelite Church and Monastery, and the Kababir, a Moslem community of inhabitants belonging to the Ahmadiya sect, integrated into the city. Museums include the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, and the National Maritime Museum, as well as museums of Japanese art, and other art, science, and archeological museums.

The historical legacy of Acre on the north side of Haifa Bay, spans more than 4000 years, noted in the “curse scriptures” of an Egyptian Pharaoh in the 19th century BC, and occupied by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, Austrians, British, and now Israelis (conquered by the Israeli army in 1948). Under the Romans it was the most important port in the Levant, and became part of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem during the 11th and 12th centuries AD. It was under the Crusaders that the walls and fortifications were built. This ancient walled Arab town will provide a wide range of architecture from massive walls and fortifications to underground dungeons and narrow cobblestone streets.