What is this folio?’ ‘A Lebanese passport,’ I replied. “Out of respect for you, I will believe you. But I am still unconvinced that this is a passport,” he retorted. Case closed peacefully, we carried our baggage and headed out.
At the exit, I heard a man calling ‘Who is Anis Fraiha? Who is Anis Fraiha?’ As we inched closer towards him, Najeeb Doumit, who was walking in front of me answered ‘Here is Anis Fraiha ’. I was dumbfounded. Who could possibly know of me in this city, whose name I had never even heard of!
“I am Mr. Davidson, father of Marguerite, wife of [I have forgotten his name], to whom you gave Arabic classes. Marguerite wrote to us from Tripoli, where she presently is, saying that you would arrive in the US today.”
Apparently, Marguerite, whom I remembered very well, had obtained my trip details from Fabre Line and wrote to her parents asking them to give me a friendly welcome and help me with my travel affairs.
‘What a pleasant surprise!’ I replied, utterly delighted with the encounter. He then turned to a beautiful young woman standing by his side and added: ‘This is my other daughter Malderd. She is going to give us a ride. My wife has prepared an American breakfast for you so you can get introduced to the American civilization through its cuisine.” As I shook hands with the young lady, Mr. Davidson picked up one of my bags. I carried the second bag and we all headed to the car. ‘What about you, Najeeb?’ I inquired. He replied that he was going to New York and that he would see me back in Lebanon, God willing.
It was an amazing American breakfast: milk, cornbread, scrambled eggs with salty pork chops, coffee and cream, and a wide variety of cheeses and jams.
Our conversation revolved around Lebanon. Marguerite’s mother wanted to learn more about Tripoli: its houses, port, gastronomy and the living conditions in Lebanon generally.
I had brought a box of Baklava from Beirut and had planned to give it to my teacher in Chicago. But then I decided to give it instead to this generous family. I took it out of the bag and put the box on the dining table. They all indulged in its delicious flavor and the wife addressed her husband, saying ‘it must be a civilized nation which makes such a treat.’
‘My daughter Maldred will show you around. Ours is an old and exquisite city that makes us all proud’, Mr. Davidson said as he begged our leave to go back to his office at the railway station.