ZAHLE — Yassir Shebat is still getting used to his new surroundings in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Zahle, a town in eastern Lebanon known for its vineyards and scenic location in a valley between the hills of Beirut and the Syrian border. “In Aleppo, we had a three bedroom house, a nice life,” Yassir Shebat told The Edge Review, leaning against a pockmarked timber buttress supporting the 4-metre-by-4-metre shelter where he and 14 family members have stayed for the past three weeks. “Before the war, I mean,” he added, pointing, resignedly, around the claustrophobic interior of the shack. Syria’s grueling, brutal conflict is just 15 miles from this sun-lit town in the Bekaa Valley, a region that hosts around a third of the estimated one million Syrian refugees now in Lebanon. Around Zahle, the vineyards are interspersed with clusters of shiny white and blue-and-grey tents and tarpaulin-covered shacks.
TRIPOLI, LEBANON – Refugee *Ahmed Assam drives a bus in Tripoli, manning a daily run from Lebanon’s second city to towns and villages outside. He’s staying with relatives, who helped him find the job, but he’s lost touch with his siblings in Homs, one of many Ground Zeroes in Syria’s brutal civil war. He is worried. “I haven’t heard from them for many months,” he laments, adding that “there are people coming from there to here every day, but no word about my family. Zooming in on a photo on his mobile phone – a young man sat diffidently on a garden chair – Assam says, “my brother, he’s dead, killed by the army.”
BEIRUT — With its sun-kissed Mediterranean coast, and cedar-laden snow-bound mountains, Lebanon, like California, is one of the few places where you can top up your tan in the morning, and ski in the afternoon. Add that to Beirut’s seen-to-be-seen party-hard attitude, great cuisine and plush shopping malls, it is easy to see why this tiny country was a Middle East culture-hub during the 20th century. But, as Scripture puts it, “the flower of Lebanon languisheth.” A recent power sharing deal cut in Doha, between the pro-West March 14 coalition and the Iran-backed Hezbollah-led opposition, might seem like progress for the politically-polarized nation, but in reality, Lebanon remains unstable.