Desert days

Since we often consider Lent to be time spent in the desert, it’s instructive to read what it’s really like to live in a land blighted by drought.

Journalist Don Duncan reflects on life in Lebanon.  Think Lent is hard?  Think again:

Within a few weeks of my initial move, the hot summer season was firmly in place and the steady supply of water I had come accustomed to became less and less steady. I had just about gotten used to the daily three-hour power cuts, which rotate on a scheduled basis, when I would wake up to find my kitchen tap and shower dry. Water cuts, it seemed, were much less predictable than electricity cuts and so were much harder to get accustomed to. Cuts would happen sporadically and last many hours, sometimes entire days, and the worst was that I never knew, once the water was cut, how long it would be before it would come back on so that I could carry on my household chores. In the meantime, the sink would progressively fill with dirty dishes, laundry would sit unwashed and, worst of all, in the searing, humid Beirut heat, I would have to manage without a shower and feel hot and nasty indefinitely.

The situation became unbearable and I began to try out some solutions. I would buy water bottles in bulk and boil them in big saucepans on the gas stove to do the dishes and laundry. I’d warm up water and give myself a sponge bath in the shower to feel fresh again. It wasn’t the same, and it was really time-consuming.

Then I began to see how Beirutis did it. The rich ones had big reservoirs in their buildings which would be filled by private providers as part of the hefty building charges they paid every year. The poor would resort to pulling water from wells or taking a plunge in the ocean to keep clean. Those in between, many of them my neighbors, would manage by saving and rationing their water and when that ran dry, they’d pay a private water provider who would come and pump water he had taken from a spring up in the mountains. He’d come along in his mini-tanker truck and connect its hose to their water tanks. For a set price, he would pump a thousand to two thousand liters, to be rationed over as long a period as possible.

Read it all at the CNEWA blog, One-to-One. And read more about what is being done to help the people of Lebanon in ONE magazine (wherre — full disclosure — I serve as Executive Editor.)


  1. Oh I’ve had to work in the Arizona desert in July on a 130F day, and it wasn’t pleasant. When a breeze blows, it literally feels like one is inside an oven. 40 days of that would obliterate me.

  2. The southwestern US is beautiful if you go at the right time of year. I prefer my home in the Great Lakes during the spring, summer, and fall. Death Valley, the many national parks and national monuments in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah are among favorite places. Just remember to take plenty of water.

  3. I spent three months in the Holy Land with Greta back in 1959 and remember it being very hot, but one of the most amazing places I have been to in the world. We lived with friends in one of the kabutz. We also took sidetrips out to Turkey and Egypt, again staying with friends living in both those countries. I remember these days as some of the happiest in my life. I got to work on a very secret dig where we uncoved a street in a town where the gospel tell us Christ spent a lot of time. Since the main street in this small town was about the only street in and out, it was pretty certain that Jesus walked on the stones we were clearing. Huge digs would start about 10 years later and what was done before was kept very quiet. It gave me a real love for the desert despite the heat.

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