A storm was sending waves crashing into the Lebanese coastline as the bus battled against the wind, strafing the coast from Beirut to Sidon and Sidon to Tyre. Between this coastal road and the sea, the palms of the banana plantations were outstretched to the bus, seemingly clinging on to their branches as the wind tried to rip them from each other. Further south, the the finer leaves of the citron groves fared slightly better.
The Roman columns in Tyre jut out into the sea. The setting seemed a million miles away from that of the long colonnade that I had seen in Apamea. Next to this site stood a Muslim cemetery. Many fresh headstones bore the photographs of young “martyrs”; this city has sacrificed much of its youth. The yellow flags of Hezbollah adorned many of the graves, and Fatah and Amal were well represented, too. The violent struggle of this town was reflected as wind whipped the long, black flags lining the beach.
The presence of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIIL) were testament to this. Their checkpoints stationed along the road between Sidon and Tyre, and many troops are stationed in the town.
On the way back north, the small mini-bus in which I traveled was stopped at a Lebanese army checkpoint. The driver was questioned a lot, and not happy about it. He explained that this vehicle provides the income for three families. Three drivers are assigned “shifts” driving the vehicle, the money they earn being the sole support for each of their families. If the vehicle is removed, it blows the livelihood of three whole families. A rough mental-arithmetic of the fares & journey-times put that income at around $40 a day, and then from that one must deduct the petrol costs & servicing of the vehicle.