Friday, February 5, 2010


After claiming in my last post that recounting our weekend could be stretched all week, I have fulfilled the prophecy by not posting =) Not technically what I had in mind, but hey, there were issues. In any case, here is an unjustifiably photo-heavy review of what was an awesome day in Lebanon. We started out early to visit an easily accessible site, Byblos. As with most things that have been around so long, it technically has three names, but I like to refer to it as Byblos because of the etymological link to the alphabet and the written language. The word Bible is derived from the name of this city.

The kids had been anxious to go there for a while for several reasons. As is common with many young girls, they are very interested in princesses. As part of my anti-Disney princess inoculation program, I have been introducing them to princesses like Catherine the Great, the Tudor queens, Pharaoh-queens of Egypt, Queen Rania, etc. etc. In our house, princesses have tea parties, lead their armies into battle, and follow-up with egalitarian social policies. Hence, going to actual castles is a big hit. Byblos has a nice one, so it gets bonus points right off the bat. Second, some of the items we found on our scavenger hunt at the national museum come from Byblos, so showing them the greater context has obvious archeological value. Third, Lebanese sites specialize in offering direct access. Being able to actually enter and play in the ruins from the various time periods offered a great way to make the history come alive and provide fun pretend. Fourth, the kids are somewhat familiar with it on account of an excellent book:

Since the first one worked out so well, I put together another scavenger hunt for us to walk through. The kids wanted their sheets as soon as we left the car. According to my making-it-up-as-I-go plan, I’ve noticed that young kids generally feel quite powerless and really enjoy times to take charge. I decided to help link what they had read about and what they were experiencing by bringing their Byblos book along and using it as a guidebook. We opened to the map page and they got to take turns being leader.

Arrival at the site was a big hit. The kids were thrilled with the castle, and went straight for it.

After a brief stint in their on-site museum, we moved on to the castle site itself, learning what each part was for, why the arched roofs have sunstones and so forth. Shortly thereafter, we found a very photogenic niche that gave me a chance to present them with surprise plan #1. One of the best gifts we have ever received was a set of dyed silk scarves from my mother (I think this was 3 years ago). I highly recommend these as play items. Incredibly polymorphic. In this case, I brought a few in my bag along with some crowns (made out of saved-up cardboard from the box our dishes came in). A few squeals of delight later, and the princess of grass and princess of lava were holding court.

A little role-playing later (I tend to shift between being a servant and being visiting nobility), and it was time for surprise plan #2. While sneaking the scarves and crowns into my bag, I noticed the tea set their Aunt Katie gave them in STL. Quick bottle of water later, and it is tea time for all! The princesses mostly agreed on how they would renovate the castle, but there was some minor difference of viewpoint in where to put the dragon.

After the sustenance, it was time to continue the scavenger hunt. The kids were having difficulty focusing, so I activated emergency reserve plan A – cameras. I’ve noticed that when the kids are having difficulty focusing, giving them some digital cameras really sucks them into the moment. There is something about digital photography that gives the exact same vista a new fascination.

Fortunately, it worked and they got back on track quickly. From there it was easy to transition onto the grounds to continue our hunt.  At which point, we had a serendipitous diversion. Byblos had significant Egyptian and Greek influence due to a nasty habit of being interesting enough to conquer. In any case, this means we had the good fortune to stumble across some super-sized kouros pieces I had never noticed before. I tried an ad hoc explanation of the kouros concept to the kids, and showed them how to stand like one. I’ll probably try to interleave this into some sort of activity box in the future. Maybe on human poses in art….

Anyway, we had so much fun, that I’m going to have to cut out a couple hours worth of content to keep this post even remotely manageable. If you like it, I can make future posts filling in the gaps. We stayed in princess regalia for the rest of the trip, and had a grand time claiming rooms in the foundations of ancient temples. I picked mine too quickly and ended up with the smallest one, but I did have a pool outside my room, so there’s that.

We made our way over to the ancient spring complex, which I had never visited before. We are in this picture I promise.

The end of the day was filled with finding the ancient tombs of the rulers of Byblos. Dandellion informed us that when she dies, she wants to be buried in a clay funerary jar. OK then.

We had a great time putting on two plays and a gladiatorial combat scene at the roman theater, and capped off by taking a look at some of the ancient sarcophagi that weren’t interesting enough to be in the museum.

We were able to again make reference to our excellent re-purposed guidebook to see exactly where and how the artifacts from the museum were found. I’d like to think that helped make it come alive for them.
It was a delightfully fun trip.

1 comment:

  1. That really does sound like loads of fun.
    Another trivia fact on the scarves...they were died with Cool Aid- boiling water and silk and you have slightly sented rainbow scarves!