Now with two spots finished this week, it’s time to head further out. This is a place about twenty minutes away from the center of town, also in the Bekaa Valley. It’s a small town with a Mosque, the people being Sunni Muslims. They are also Arabs, some Bedouin, that have settled in Lebanon over the years and have gained papers as Lebanese.
On Monday, the Sheikh approved of the photography and asked for a pack of Marlboro in return. While this is outside of my usual practice, it seemed like a small request.
I return today with two packs of cigarettes, with him expecting only one and really wanting more. This is clear when he asks: ‘Only one pack?’
He smiles when he sees the second.
A spot is easy to find, a white wall with the sun hitting it nicely. So many kids come and soon it becomes evident that the adults would rather watch than help with anything. A few portraits are made and then chaos erupts, with everyone wanting their portrait first. It gets louder until an older woman comes out telling us to leave, even with the Sheikh’s permission to stay. Seeing that she fails to move me in front of the Sheikh, she decides to make the children leave, an easy task for her and her tough tone.
We walk away and find another spot, across the street. Then the same thing happens, but with another Sheikh. He comes out with a bunch of ropes and starts swinging at the children. They run away, some laughing and some scared. It seems that the Sheikhs of the area have different opinions.
We walk to an open field, only to have the children get even louder. This time, it’s enough for me. My gear is packed and I head out to find a taxi. It saddens me to see some of the quieter girls walk away with sad faces; it saddens me even more to know that nothing can be done.
We walk to the road for a taxi. Then one of the girls stops by with her father, asking me to go to their home. I do and end up finding a safe spot. Some of the girls come back, with some new ones also. We have half an hour and do the best that we can. The most important accomplishment is that all the girls are now smiling. That’s enough for me.
I pack up the gear and stand by the road for a taxi, none drive by my spot. After about thirty minutes, the sun sets and I begin to worry. This is an out of the way town. Just then, two younger men stop the car, offer a ride, telling me that they saw me earlier having a hard time. It’s a chance but I get in. They take me to town, they accept nothing from me in the form of payment, they offer to take me even further, they offer their help in the future, they make up for all of the adults back in that small town, another good ending to a tough day.
Halim Ina Photography