Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Postcard featuring the beautiful Jeita Grotto in Lebanon

This undated Kruger postcard (with an unreadable date on the postmark) features the amazing Jeita Grotto (مغارة جعيتا‎ in Arabic), which is located about 11 miles north of Beirut, Lebanon.

The natural attraction consists of two separate limestone caves. The upper cave can be visited via a specially designed walkway for tourists. The lower cave is along a underground river and is only accessible by boat.

The Jeita Grotto is one of the top tourist attractions in Lebanon and, as such, plays a vital role in the region's economy and national pride. According to the official website, "Jeita grotto contains a lot of touristic attractions that fill the visitor’s time with enjoyment and happiness, The attractions include ropeways, train, miniature zoo, gardens and many sculptures."

And, of course, there are gift shops. Four of them, to be precise.

Unfortunately, Lebanon is not considered the safest place in the world to visit right now, especially for Americans. The U.S. Department of State issued a lengthy, updated travel warning on December 11, 2015. It states: "The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of ongoing safety and security concerns."

The revised warning in the wake of a November 2015 suicide bombing that killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 in the southern Beirut suburb of Bourj el-Barajneh. The travel warning cites public demonstrations, road blockages, terrorist attacks (ISIL) and kidnappings as potential threats.

While the threats are very real and Americans have been killed in recent incidents in Lebanon, others say the conditions in the Middle East country are not as dire as they are made out to be. In a forum labeled "Is it safe for American to travel to Beirut, Lebanon?" someone wrote, just a few days ago: "The travel warnings appear to me to be ill informed. I had been safely and comfortably living in a couple of different countries for extended periods when I found out much to my surprise they had dept. of state travel warnings."

And, back in September, another TripAdvisor commenter wrote: "Beirut is very safe. ... I am an American. Lebanon welcomes visitors. It's really safe, police around, army, tourist police ... all make sure people stay safe."

Finally, there was this comment in the forum last summer: "This can happen in any country, including the USA."

So sadly true.

As I mentioned, there's no date on this postcard. It was mailed to an individual in Mahopac, New York, with the following note:
"Hi Chris,
Having a fine time here in Beirut. Doing a lot of touring & swimming. Went to the Hall here. I've toured this cave in the mts.
So long,
The postcard includes these really cool Lebanese moth and butterfly stamps, for Pericallia matronula and Satyrus semele.

Peace and butterflies ... not hatred and war!

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