Friday, the end of the week and school finished a little early for afternoon prayers and the weekend.
Lebanon is a secular country (not Muslim as I had assumed) with Christian-Muslim power sharing: parliamentary seats split 50/50 with a Christian President. Based originally on the population census of 1932, calls to amend the balance to reflect the percieved increase in the Muslim population have been resisted.
Regions across the country have quite different demographics. For example, Baalbek (last weekend’s outing) is predominantly Shia. While there, we took the opportunity to visit the exquisitely ornate mosque (in contrast Sunni mosques are plainer). We ‘girls’ donned long, black ‘Harry Potter’-like abeyas and went through security (I was asked to turn on my camera). Inside the main courtyard, it was surprising to find not only a couple of shops to buy prayer mats etc, but also an ice-cream stand.
We handed over our shoes and entered the women’s side of the mosque, which was not only beautiful, but also delightfully cool and pleasant, a few women praying, other groups of women sitting on the floor chatting, small children playing. A very tranquil place, apparently used as a social space between prayer times.
Back in the courtyard we rejoined the men. Most surprising of all, there was a separate hall containing a Hezbollah exhibition of various weaponry from (both sides of) the 2006 invasion, along with graphic posters, models and maps. The town of Baalbek was heavily targeted during the war and feelings obviously still run high. An eye-opening contrast of war and peace.