Fineekia is Ahiram's land of birth. Hemmed by two mountainous chains called the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon, Fineekia is a fertile land stretched along the Great Sea.

One could cross from north to south along the coast in a day, but to cross its mountains could take a month, so ragged are their edges and so numerous their ravines, canyons and valleys.

Fineekians have a visceral attachment to the homeland they call "El's hallowed footstool." Indeed, the poet Shalimar stated: "Fineekia is my first and lasting love, my final resting place, and the quiet garden of my children's dreams."

As a child, Ahiram lived in the coastal town of Baher-Ghafé, but his parents had roots in the Lebanon. In the thick of summer, when the humid haze of the Great Sea would still the winds and heat the walkways, Jabbar and his family would trek north up the Lebanon along the Way of Adonis and spend several weeks in the cool shades of rocks and trees, of narrow canyons and overbearing mountains. From his earliest childhood, Ahiram had seen sea and mountain joined in a unity of topaz and coral, of blue and green, of white and emerald; a dazzling painting of colors when the sun washes over the waters and "caresses the face of the mountain and makes her blush," as his mother, Hayat, would say.

Qaraoun Lake in the Bekaa

His sister, Hoda, had gone to Baalbeck once or twice and had seen the Anti-Lebanon up close. She had crossed the Bekaa, that great lush valley where wheat and vines were grown. She had felt the stillness of the night between the mountains and the powerful tug to search for a concealed truth, as if Fineekia was the doorway to a hidden world beneath the stars.

From north to south and east to west, Fineekia is dotted with temples, alcoves and hidden hives. Some say that deep within its narrow valleys lie a door, the Screaming Door as some call it, that leads to the City of the Dead. Other calls it Astarte's Doorway and speak reverently of the journey Astarte undertook to bring Adonis from the dead. But the majority of Fineekians are people of the day, of the sun, and of the glades; they prefer a familial gathering over the brooding of the gods, a wedding to a funeral, and good wine to all the hidden secrets that lurk beneath.

WorldMichael Joseph Murano