It's 2015, and our family is embarking on our virtual travel to Lebanon. To explore this country and its culture, we will follow along with the festivals, cook and eat traditional foods, learn of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Season & Celebrations in Lebanon

Easter is the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and for many Christians, it's the most important celebration. The Christian population in Lebanon, the largest of all Arab countries, is 40% with various communities, including Orthodox Christian, Maronite and Armenian. Though not always on the same dates for the Orthodox Christians (who follow a different calendar), Easter in Lebanon is celebrated similarly as it is in the West with processions, church services and large family gatherings. Special dishes are enjoyed, Easter eggs are decorated and everyone looks forward to the egg cracking game on Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday

Special anise and sesame cookies, called Kaak el Chaanineh, are made especially for Palm Sunday, and you can find a recipe for the below cookies here

Kaak el Chaanineh, Palm Sunday Cookies
Photo Courtesy of Rosanie Nabbout of

Holy week, the week preceding Easter, begins on Palm Sunday (Sha'nineh in Arabic). Palm Sunday celebrates the path of Jesus Christ's last journey into Jerusalem, when his followers laid palm branches in his path, before his crucifixion. Wearing new clothes, or at least new shoes, families parade with their children, often on their shoulders, in a procession led by a priest. They carry olive branches, branches with palm leaves, and flowers. Children carry special decorated candles, with ribbons and flowers. Children are the main participants in these processions, because Christians believe that children were the first to greet Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. It's also an occasion to celebrate peace and love for one another. Here's a quick video of a Palm Sunday procession.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World | Women's History Month

For Women's History Month, I'd like to bring your attention to thirteen Muslim women from ancient to modern times who have lived extraordinary lives and influenced their communities, often overcoming extreme hardships. These women, from various nationalities and economic backgrounds, have had a positive impact throughout the ages.

We were introduced to them in the wonderful book Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World. From poets to military pilots to nobel prize winners., this book offers an account of the lives of these women in an easy to read, approachable and intelligent storytelling way, each with one full page illustration of their portraits. It dispels stereotypes about Muslim women and offers role models you may never have known. I highly recommend reading this book with your kids, it will inspire them to pursue their goals and dreams. As importantly, it will show them that inspiration can be found in all people, no matter their gender, nationality or religion. Here's a quick introduction to thirteen Muslim women well worth getting to know. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Our Virtual Year Begins | Fast Facts about Lebanon

We are finally headed for Lebanon! 

Did you know where to find Lebanon on a map? It's on the coast of the Mediterranean sea and borders Syria and Israel. It's just the tiniest strip of a country. There are cities and beaches by the sea, and high mountain ranges with forests of pine and cedar trees. I've read that you could be skiing in the mountains while looking out at the sea below. 

Panoramic sunset in Jounieh, Lebanon
Photo Credit: Paul Saad (CC)

  • Lebanon has a population of nearly 6 million people, 87% of which live in urban areas. (There are approximately 18 million Lebanese outside of Lebanon)
  • The majority of the population (95%) are Arabs, though many Christian Lebanese don't identify as Arab but as Phoenicians. 
  • The main religions are Muslim (54%) & Christian (40%)- the highest percentage of all the Arab countries- and altogether there are 18 religious communities.
  • The main languages are Arabic, French, Armenian and English.

In Beirut, the St. George Maronite Cathedral stands right beside the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque.
Photo Credit: Mike (CC)
  • Beirut is the capital and largest city in Lebanon
  • Beirut is the 10th most popular shopping destination in the world
  • Beirut has been destroyed and rebuilt 7 times in its 5000 years due to earthquakes and wars.
  • The first law school in the world was built in Beirut
Temple of Jupiter in Baalbeck, Lebanon
Photo Credit: Paul Saad (CC)
There is quite the rich history in Lebanon (along with the first law school) ...

  • The name "Lebanon" has been unchanged for over 4000 years, making it the oldest known in the world
  • Some of the best preserved Roman ruins are in Lebanon
  • The city Byblos is considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (having been continuously inhabited for 5000 years)
  • The first alphabet was created in Byblos

Did you learn anything new? 

Monday, March 23, 2015

My thoughts on our year in West Africa - and moving forward into Lebanon & beyond

My Thoughts On Our Year In West Africa

We're finally here, the end of our West African exploration. About a month late, based on the fact that we started in late February of 2014 - and 3 months late were I to stick with a regular year, beginning and ending in January. But there you have it, we've explored the fascinating region of West Africa - and barely scratched the surface. It is distinctly possible that by choosing an entire region, I bit off more than I could chew.

Our Winter in a Nutshell

It's been so long since I've written an update on our goings on! In our little corner, we've had quite the winter weather this year. Our east coast province, Nova Scotia, is being dubbed as Snova Scotia -  a little cheesy, but so true! No one remembers having this much snow or snow days home with the kids - between the frozen rain storms and snow storms, the school board considered cancelling spring break to make up for how much school kids are missing. With all this snow, we took advantage of local organizations offering free snow shoe rentals and learned how to snowshoe. In fact, that's how we spent the first weekend of spring - in snow shoes :)

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