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I’ve taken the plunge!

January 26, 2010

Doctor with young burns patient

Gulf For Good sent me an e-mail last week and after reading it once I was hooked.  I got in touch immediately and have booked my place on The Lebanon Mountain Eco-Trail (in the Footsteps of Khalil Gibran) in May 2010.  I admire this Dubai-based non-profit org. which raises funds for children’s charities by organising challenges and adventures, but I’ve never seriously thought about signing up.  This was right for so many reasons.  In January I started working freelance rather than employed so I can be more flexible about taking time off.  The trek is not during school holidays – very important when you are chief taxi-driver and TV watching regulator.

The venue is Lebanon which ticks so many boxes for me.  It’s not too far from my home in Dubai, UAE, so there isn’t a massive cost either financially or environmentally.  I’ve visited many lovely places in the Middle East but this part of the Levant remained on my “to do” list despite good intentions.  I’ve been invited to Lebanon countless times, often by people I barely know – and the invitation is genuine.  It’s usually followed by the exhortation “but you must come for a long time, at least a month.”  I’ve been on the receiving end of the most generous hospitality and impeccable manners and etiquette that seems to form the backbone of Lebanese society.  If you are a friend, you are welcomed by the whole extended family.

Reading the work of Amin Maalouf opened my eyes to a great story telling tradition as well as Lebanon’s complex history.  Byblos is sadly missing from my list of Roman ruins visited (Jerash, Palmyra and Leptis Magna set the pace).  And of course the food.. I attended a session with the eminent food historian Claudia Roden at last year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.  She pointed out that the food we think of Middle Eastern is actually Lebanese.  Because of the tenacity and resourcefulness of economic migrants and refugees (and the deliciousness of the food I would add), we think the typical dishes of the entire Middle East are humous, taboulleh and fatoush.

Anyway, back to the appeal of this trek…it’s an Eco-tour and will benefit the local economy as  local guides are employed and we stay in small motels and home stays.  The mountain communities created this first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon as they are determined to conserve their unique natural and cultural heritage through environmentally and socially-responsible ecotourism.   The challenge itself will be ..well, challenging.   To quote Gulf For Good, ‘Trekking 117km in 5 days, this will be a hard test of your fitness requiring stamina and perseverance to complete the long-distance treks every day.’   I’m going to have to address my fitness levels drastically as a meander with the dogs round the streets of flat Umm Suqeim of a morning has not prepared me for the distances, inclines or terrain.  Luckily Gulf For Good are fantastic with their support in this respect and a 13km group walk along the beach is scheduled for this Friday morning to get us started.  Altitude sickness or running doesn’t come into it thank goodness.

Finally, and thank you if you’ve read this far for your patience as this is the main reason that I have signed up,  the charities that we will raise funds for are making a huge difference in the lives of young children in Lebanon who have often seen circumstances that no-one should face in their entire lifetime.  Look at the image at the top and read the articles linked to the Charities page about how the UAE has hosted many of the young victims of war and provided medical care.  Please click the links to the right or ‘The Charities’ tab at the top to find out more about the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the Lebanese Association for SOS Children’s Villages.  It has inspired me to start work immediately on raising the minimum 12,000 AED (about 2,000 GBP) but I am aiming higher.  The funds we raise will make a tangible and lasting difference to these charities and the children whose lives they change – and we get to visit at least one of the organisations when in Lebanon.  Plus my registration fee (already paid to secure my place) goes to Gulf For Good.  This means they can continue their fabulous work which has seen 29 challenges in 9 years raising over US1.5 million for schools, hospitals, orphanages and medical equipment in 17 countries in the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa.

Well I’m off to get a good night’s sleep as an attack of bronchitis left me doubtful, earlier in the week, about attending the first training session.  I really don’t want to miss it so will get some early nights and OD on Vitamin C.  I’ll be the wheezy one at the back who everyone will avoid!

This has been a long ramble as it’s the first one.  I promise that the next updates will be quick, energetic and focussed…just like me up those mountains!

I’d love to hear from anyone who’s done a similar challenge.  Any tips for fitness training or fund raising?  And I’ll bring back a present from Lebanon for the first person to sponsor me…promise.

One Comment
  1. ciara Wharton permalink
    January 31, 2010 4:33 pm

    Sally, this is fantastic, go girl, I will be behind you every step of the way form my sofa in Malmo. Truly inspirational charity and making a big difference at the grass roots.
    Hugs Ciara

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