Everyone has conquered Lebanon at one time or another: Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Alexander of Macedon, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamlukes and Ottoman Turks, to mention just a few.
The stone vestiges of all those transient civilisations are still there: Phoenician temples, Crusader castles, old mosques and churches jostling for attention. The Lebanese bear genetic witness to this history: dozens of ethnic-religious groups uneasily co-exist in a small space between mountain and sea, stubbornly defending their rites and traditions in a mosaic-society where politics informs religion and vice versa.
It has captured the imagination of writers from the Psalmist to Mark Twain, Herodotus to T.E. Lawrence (who hated it). And to visit Lebanon—physically, or settled comfortably in one’s chair with this book—is a unique cultural and visual experience.
This book records the accounts of those who visited or lived in Lebanon throughout its eventful history, from the New Kingdom of Egypt to the Israeli incursion of 2006. Violence, beauty, poetry, struggle, humour, and an occasional example of inspiring inter-cultural harmony—as well as bigotry, all are reflected in the writings of those who travelled or lived in this small country. Each section of the book and each text is introduced and presented in its context by my Lebanese archaeologist wife Andree and me. We also translated many of the selections from the Ancient Greek, Arabic, Italian, French and Old French.
Eland Books, London 2009 (Buy Now from the Publisher)
We were honoured to be the subject of a literary dinner hosted by the British Lebanese Association (along with distinguished writer Philip Mansel)