The Family By-the-Sea
The Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon
About 4 hours after landing in Lebanon, I came across this family down at the sea who were having an infectious amount of fun. I was photographing life on the corniche and stopped to enjoy their enjoyment. It doesn't take too long for people to notice a tall blonde girl with a camera who is staring at them, and before I knew it they sent one of the brothers up to show me how to get down to the water. The corniche is on top of a high retaining wall, but locals get down to the water all the time. I speak a few words of Arabic, and they spoke almost no English, but between a friend I had with me who was learning their language and my general okayness with awkward smiling and gesturing as a language, we hit it off!
They have 13 kids in the family and they were all down at the water that day with their Mom and their husbands and wives, where applicable. Before long we were all doing cannonballs into the water with our clothes on, and generally having a "most creative dive" competition. They got in a huddle and my friend translated that they were asking if we wanted to go home with them. When I said "why not!" with an excited look on my face that they read as a yes, they all threw their hands up in the air and there was more cannonballing and flip-making into the water. After about half an hour of walking on the streets of Beirut in a floor-length soaking wet dress, we arrived at their family home.
Built during the Ottoman rule (I thought we must have misdunerstood that until I did a quick Wikipedia search), the house was crazy old and pretty interesting. Falling down all over, and having lived through all the wars of the last 100 years plus, they had all grown up in this home. The women in this family were hilarious, had huge personalities, and were clearly respected and enjoyed by their brothers. When we all began our walks home, many of the kids now live with spouses or each other in other apartments, we were kissed and hugged and begged to come back and spend more time with them. It was the warmest welcome I have ever received on the first day of meeting a country.