I park my car in a tiny spot adjacent to our vineyard a short distance from the house. The high neon light my father installed when I was a child makes a laughable white circle on the graveled ground. It has always served to accentuate the darkness around it rather than illuminate it.
Extending from our little patch is the entire Koura plain - the heart of the Northern Lebanese district. My ears are perked as I make my steady walk towards the house. Beyond it is the Northern mountain chain. The only signs of its existence tonight are its barely visible outline against the sky and glistening patches of orange dots. Towns and villages bespeckle it like tangled up necklaces amid bigger patches of black. I may have come of age, but this particular scene holds all my memories and childish hopes and fears, preserving them beyond the weathering effects of time.
I come here every other week. Lebanon’s centralized economy has driven most of my generation to give up on the notion of financial prosperity in its rural districts.
The landscape is diverse and characterized by great heterogeneity. This is an understandable aspect of Al Koura’s geography because it is both coastal and mountainous, with an elevation extending between 0m above sea level to 600.
After a steep ascent from the coast, the district becomes a set of small hills and expansive plains. The most notable of which would be the Koura plain which shelters uninterrupted expanses of olive groves the area is famous for. In spite of the sprawl, Al Koura retains a sense of natural aesthetic which blends nicely with its human counterpart. Its main roads may reach the point of congestion in day time, but night time maintains dominion over its asphalt and cement.
Lights hang in solitude over roads which extend like ribbons between its scattered villages. The tarmac glints desolately in the dark.
In the morning, Al Koura feels like a Fleet Foxes song. The mountain line, the highest in Lebanon, looms over it like a majestic watch-guard, sheltering it. Nestled between mountain and sea, Al Koura feels very homely. Its vegetation and moderate climate emphasize its Mediterranean identity. It helps that it lies at the center of a triangle with Tripoli, Bcharreh and Batroun as its vertices. This instantly makes it a strategic starting point for many activities.
Northeast is the Qadisha valley. On its periphery is the Hamatoura church, carved into the mountain side which overlooks a valley separating it from one of Al Koura’s most traditional towns, Kousba. To the Northwest is Tripoli. The coastal city of Batroun is southwest. Each area with its own notable Bed & Breakfasts: Dar Qadisha, Beit El Nessim and Beit Al Batroun respectively.
From my kitchen balcony, I can see Amioun, Al Koura’s capital, perched like a fortress of cobblestone and red brick on a set of intersecting hills. I spent my early adolescence in its winding streets. It is one of the few Northern towns which have achieved a somewhat urban status. From my balcony, armies of olive trees stand guard on all of its borders, threatening that status. I smile.