Everywhere you go in Lebanon you find names beginning
with aïn, which means spring or source of water.
There is not a single region where one does not find
dozens of such toponyms: Aïn Dara, Aïn Teffaha,
Aïn Zeytouni, Aïn Alak, Aïn Marje,
Aïn el-Helweh, Aïn Baal, the list is endless
(Spring of the Bride, of the Apple Tree, of the Olive
Tree, of the Bramble, of the Pasture, of the Beauty,
of the God Baal). The origin of each name has its
secrets and its reasons.
In a little nook on the north side of Beirut you may
find a small spring by the sea from which the fishermen
used to slake their thirst, by the name of Aïn
el-Mreisseh, which may be understood as Spring of
the Sea-Queen or of the Lady Chieftain. Or it may
be a diminutive of Marsa, the Resting - or Meeting
In the past this was an attractive and picturesque
spot, illustrated by almost every artist and orientalist.
But as urban development spread its tentacles, a coastal
road came alongside, cutting the inner lake off from
the sea and spoiling the charm of the place. However,
fishermen still draw up their boats there, the multitudinous
call of the ocean is still heard, and the wavelets
still lap up the slope towards the source. So there
yet remains a small corner of poetry and nostalgia,
although crushed by the background of the towering
hotels and business houses. If only this humble nook
had been allowed to stay as it once was!
Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer
el-Mreisseh - Port:
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