2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Friday, January 12, 2018




I have lived in Cuenca almost seven years now, and this was no doubt my overall most enjoyable Christmas Season, since I first moved to this enchanting city in the Andes.  The Christmas Holiday Season in Cuenca can be divided into four parts, which begins approximately two weeks before Christmas with El Noche de Luces, followed by Pase de Ninos on the Day before Christmas  and Navidad (Christmas Day), the third stage is Vespera Anos Nuevo (New Year's Eve) celebrations, and finally, the big parade of El Dia de los Innocentes on January sixth.

A tourist could come to Cuenca for a month over the Christmas season, and would have a great first time experience in the appreciation of much of what Cuenca has to offer at the zenith of its year, and of all of its holiday festivities, in what also provides the warmest temperatures of comfort during the year.

I haven't posted in quite awhile.  Assembling this Christmas season post and album truly was an act of love for me.

The link below is for the Pase del Nino or the Parade of the Children.  The photos of which are not provided in the above album link.

Monday, August 14, 2017


One of many nice things about Beirut is that when a tourist isn't going outside the city for many archaeological trips, the city's downtown is in walking distance to Zaytuni Bay.  The downtown is also strategically located to so many other restaurants and attractions in adjacent neighborhoods. Therefore,  people who enjoy walking have little difficulty exploring the main areas of museums, shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, and discos within relatively close proximity to one another, and without need of public transportation.

Below is the Beirut skyline looking from Zaytuni Bay on the Mediterranean.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a great deal of wealth in Beirut, and it was well represented by the large numbers of yachts anchored in the bay.

The esplanade along Zaytuni Bay had been constructed since the Civil War. I was amazed, as I walked along it, how I would continue to discover additional  large food courts providing seating with a mix of high-end restaurants along with restaurants of everyday fare, as well as endless shops.  From my perspective, thank God, there were no international fast food places present, except for Starbucks.

In the background, below, is a remnant of a crusader's castle.

Beirut has a very lively and sophisticated restaurant, bar, and disco scene.  You won't find a more exciting scene in the Middle East.


On my last Sunday in Beirut, Marc and I first went to Jeita Grotto, which is an underground cave of Stalagmites and Stalactites, some of the largest and most beautiful in the world.  Colored lights enhanced the experience, which was quite impressive and a definite for tourists to visit.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the cave.  


This entire Sunday was the most outstanding day of many good days in Beirut.  After touring the Jeita Grotto, Marc took me to Byblos, which has a number of excavated archaeological foundations, but what is best preserved are remnants of another crusader castle that was part of a chain that extended across Beirut during crusader occupation of Jerusalem and its environs. 

The one day that we had less than an hour of a downpour, we had visited the Harissa Souks.  Another open historic market, which was well worth the visit.

Below was one of the very nice restaurants we had gone to, just on the tail end of the storm, while the wind was still blowing.


After Byblos, we made our way to Harissa.  

Photos of the Bay of Jounieh in Harissa, which is twenty kilometers from Beirut.

We are in a gondola taking us up the side of the hill and the views are spectacular.

The gondola lets us off partially up the hillside as we continue the trek upward along wide open staircases that meander up the side of the hill in a circular fashion.  The planted flowers along the way are beautiful.  They reminded me again of how the use of the right kind of flowers in large quantities, which cascade and overhang, could do so much to make my hometown of Cuenca more attractive, and further enhance itself as a destination for tourists. Unlike Beirut, Cuenca is blessed with warm temperatures with every season, which makes it perfect to serve as a wall-to-wall tapestry of flowers throughout the city the year long.


As you may have noticed in previous posts about Beirut, the Lebanese Catholic groups have a great devotion to the Virgin Mary.

As we ascended to the top of the hill, we our met with one of the biggest tourist attractions in Beirut with the Church and the Statue of Our Lady of Lebanon (Maronite Catholic) upon its huge towering pedestal.

The church is done in a contemporaneous style of architecture, and the photo below is an interior shot of the church. 

Millions of pilgrims come to the site to pay homage to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  These pilgrims include many Druzes as well as Muslims, members from both groups who have a special devotion to the mother of Jesus.  

This sixteen foot bronze which is French-made is the highest  pinnacle on the hilltop.

As we made our way down to the gondola to our return to flatter ground, I knew I was saying goodbye to my last opportunity to enjoy the scenic views of coastal Lebanon.

Marc and I were hungry. He took me to a big restaurant that was not his favorite for the best food in the Beirut area, but would offer a totally different experience. I found the food good, although Marc had been spoiling me with some of the best restaurants in the city. The place was humongous. It easily accommodated at least 500 people in various rooms and open courtyards, and the place was filled at 3:00 or 4:00 p.m on a Sunday afternoon.  It was definitely a scene that I would never experience in a restaurant in Cuenca.

People generally sat at long tables, and there were so many large families there. Once the food started to be served, it just kept coming.

These are what almonds look like in their pods.

As usual, I begin to eat well before I think of taking photos.

Below is an avocado smoothie.  Into the blender goes yogurt, banana, avocado among other things, and it is then topped off with a variety of fresh fruits.  It's a thick, heavy drink, but to die for.  It was so good, and is a meal in itself.

This was my last time that I would be eating out in Beirut, and I must say, the food really was exceptional almost everywhere that I ate.
Monday, I would pack up and have a quiet meal with my son at his place in the evening.  Say my goodbyes to him and his great dog, Jimmy, who appears to be doing his imitation of a kangaroo.  

The next morning, I would fly Air-France to spend the next two weeks in Paris.  The planes in the photo below, with the evergreen emblem on their tails, are part of the Air Lebanon commercial fleet. I hated to say goodbye to Beirut, and especially to my son. He truly went out of his way to make it a great trip for me.


The foremost and repeated question that I was asked before my travel and after my return from Beirut was, "Is it safe to travel there?  Actually, as long as there is no war taking place involving Israel and Hezbollah, which could suck in all of Beirut; the city and its environs are quite safe to visit.  In fact, one could make a case that Beirut is safer to visit and walk around in areas which the vast majority of tourists visit, than visiting Chicago and many other cities in the United States; and there is far less terrorist action in Beirut than currently taking place in London, Paris, and Sweden and Germany.

If you want to experience a Middle Eastern culture with European trappings, extremely rich in history, and with excellent food--both Middle Eastern and European--Beirut is an unforgettable experience. I chose the early month of May for my trip, because it was warm and dry after the spring rains, without yet getting hot and humid, as it does by June.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017



A walk from my residency to downtown Beirut took about thirty minutes.  On the edge of approaching the downtown from my direction is the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, adorned with its blue dome and four minarets; which was built in the Ottoman Empire's grandiose style, and therefore, exhibits Turkish rather than Lebanese architectural style. The mosque was completed in 2005, and dedicated in 2008. 

The mosque was financed by Rafik al-Hariri, a billionaire and former prime minister who was assassinated ironically in the same year the mosque was completed. The Syrians were accused of the assassination, which over a four year period almost engulfed Lebanon in another civil war, this time between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The incident did lead to Syria withdrawing its troops from both Lebanon and Beirut after a thirty year occupation. However, Syria still exerts much influence through its Shia proxy Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon.  The political influence of the Christian groups in Lebanon is even less now than it was in 2005.

On this day, I had joined my son and his two friends, who were relatively new to Beirut as we began our day visiting this Sunni Mosque.

Usually in most Islamic countries, infidels are not permitted inside the mosques.  Therefore, I was surprised that we were not only allowed inside, but also very warmly welcomed.  We removed our shoes and toured about at leisure. 

The mosque was exquisitely beautiful.

In this particular mosque, the floor is covered in wall-to-wall carpeting.  Each of the dark spaces is where the believer bows prostrate to the floor in prayer.

Notice that each spot for the the supplicant is like the space in an Islamic-styled archway of pillars.

One of the amazing things about Beirut is the fact that in the above and below photos, there is basically a shared-campus of the Mohammad Al-Min Mosque and St. George Maronite Catholic Cathedral (seen from two different sides of the building). Some see this as a metaphor for the coexistence between Muslims and Christians. 

However, critics say the building of the mosque, sends an imposing message of Islamic dominance, which dwarfs both the cathedral and everything else in the area. The Maronite Catholics are the single largest group of Christians in Lebanon.  

At the same time, in this day and age, for the moment; nothing like this level of Christian and Muslim coexistence any longer exists in any other area of the Middle East.  

                                                                                                                                                                   Attributed to Lebnen 18

The interior of the St. George Maronite Cathedral (below).

Below is the entrance to the Soulks in Downtown Beirut, which is known as the Central Business District (CBD), an area of a very spacious shopping mall of high end retail. What you see below is called Iman Ouzai Square.

Above is an interior shot upon entering one area of the ABC Mall, the most exclusive of a number of upscale malls in Beirut.  

Below, is the Soulk El Akel street food market with all kinds of delicacies and incredible assortment of all types of Middle Eastern foods from which to eat...

and eat we did.

At one point, while the guys were doing whatever they were doing, I ducked into a entrance hallway to get out from under the hot sun. I never could tell what time the Islamic "Call to Prayer" would take place.  It seemed to happen at odd minutes like twenty-three minutes after the hour.  I no sooner entered my area of respite from the sun, as the "Call to Prayer" began to resonate.  I have no idea if it was coming from the Mohammad Al-Min Mosque nearby, or if it was blasting from loud speakers that sounded like they were on the other side of the concrete wall from where I was standing. Wherever the call was coming from, it reverberated with such a blast that I scurried out into the sun again to escape from the unrelenting ear-piercing echo. 

Above is what has become iconic in many major cities.  "I love Beirut!"

We walked down to the area you see below heading toward the Place (Plaza) de l'Etoile where you can see the Hamidiyi Clock Tower in the distance. This area, where East met West, was considered one of the most luxurious places in the world before the Lebanese Civil War .

It suffered much destruction during the war, and has recently been meticulously renovated to appear as it did prior to the war.

The area above where is still in need of retail tenets.  The restaurants here were not really attracting many customers on the two afternoons when I visited the area, although (below) closer to the clock tower (Nejmeh Plaza), restaurants with their sidewalk cafes were serving a steady stream of customers. Having visited Paris upon leaving Beirut, this area is very reminiscent of Paris.  At the Nejmeh plaza a number of avenues converge from about five different directions.  There are some upper-end shops; but overall, the area is somewhat like a ghost town.

I understand that if you have an easy four million dollars lying around, you can purchase yourself a condo in this neighborhood.

While not the only city in the world to sport ruins right smack-dab in the heart of the city. Beirut literally has excavated ruins right smack-dab in the center of downtown, along with everything else that down town has to offer.

Yes, those Romans were truly everywhere, and here are the excavated ruins of Roman baths to prove it.  Not exactly as well intact nor as somewhat rebuilt as the Roman baths in Bath, England, which I so enjoyed last summer.  Nonetheless, it was a surprise for me to see these ruins as if they suddenly popped out of nowhere in the heart of the city's business district.

My son and I visited the Corniche district on the Mediterranean where the Pigeon Rocks are located.  This is a must.  I very much enjoyed them.  Below reminds me "of the little old lady who lived in a shoe, and had so many children, she didn't know what to do".

Spot the speed boat below to give yourself some idea of how big pigeon rock is. 


Writers for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal proclaimed the Hanni Metri Ice Cream shop to have the best ice cream in the world.  

There definitely was a steady stream of customers in this run-down building still covered with shrapnel from the civil war, yet incredibly located in what is Beirut's most posh neighborhood. Hanni Mitri Moussa opened the store in 1949, and claims to have kept it open all through the civil war even when bombs were going off.  His car was annihilated as it sat on the street in front of the business, and all of the glass in the business's windows shattered. The family just cleaned-up the mess, and continued to make and serve ice cream.  The oven, which is used to bake pastries during the holiday seasons, still contains shrapnel. There is little room for the customers on the interior.  It is simply a carry-out business.

The ice cream is not anything like American ice cream--not as sweet or as creamy.  This Lebanese ice cream is as best as I can describe it as a cross between Italian ice, but smoother and not as grainy, but not quite exactly Italian gelato either. About a dozen different flavors are served. The owner uses a small paddle to pack the ice cream into the cup, and I had about three flavors in one cup. Definitely refreshing, but I'll leave it to you to visit Beirut to determine if you think it is the world's best ice cream.  It's hard to imagine anyone in Beirut who hasn't heard of Hanni Mitri.

Hanni Mitri Moussa died in 2012.  His son took over the business in 2011,  Above you see his son packing the ice cream in a cup.  It was afternoon, and I wondered how long he had been doing the same repetitive process that day.

Below is a photo of his father and founder in the background:


There are a lot of fabulous beach resorts along the Mediterranean shore line running out of Beirut. We went to one of the private clubs one weekend.

I like design, so I like the way this simple ceiling was designed below, and how the ceiling reflects on the ground, with the planter in the center.  A great deal of attention was paid to the design of the resort, which offered everything from accommodations, to restaurants, to swimming pools, to first class chair mattresses for lying out on the beach, to shops, to spas, etc.

Not since 2012 while on the Ecuadorian coast have I had an opportunity to enjoy lying on a beach and enjoy the sound of the waves, and the thrill of the water.  I've always loved beaches and the water--a love I learned from my father.

Saifi Village

Marc encouraged me to seek out Saifi Village one day on one my walks while he was working.  It has been renovated, is quite attractive, and a nice tranquil place to walk around. There is still a need for many retail tenets and further expansion of the restaurant offerings, but there are a few good restaurants available.  

Below is the Catholic Armenian Church of St. Elie.

I began this post with the Mohammad Al-Min Mosque, and I end it with a church flooded in lights against the evening landscape of darkness. 

I could not help but think about the transitory nature of life, and wondered how successful Beirut would be in dodging through the mine fields of sectarian differences and Middle East conflicts; particularly after the hopefulness of so much rebuilding efforts since the civil war, and with a number of Beirutis who have lived abroad for decades, who now find themselves returning to begin life anew in the land from which they once fled.