SIDON, Lebanon: New Year’s Day produced a good haul for fishermen in Sidon, who cast their nets hopefully in the final hours of 2018 and drew them up teeming with fish early on the first day of 2019.
“We waited until the storm calmed down on New Year’s Eve before we took off in our boats,” Basem Habli, a fisherman, told The Daily Star.
“We returned this beautiful morning with a load of fish, which is a good start for the new year. We hope it brings peace and a new government that implements projects.”
It was welcome news among practicers of an age-old trade subject to the whims of the sea.
Sidon’s fishermen in particular must square up against what they call “al-marabania,” or “the 40” - a period in which the city is beset day after day by either storms or uninterrupted sunshine.
So far this winter, Sidon has experienced 20 days of storms.
Its fishermen reckon it will see another 20.
Abu Rabi Sanbal, a Sidon fisherman, told The Daily Star that despite the weather conditions, a number of fishermen have been going out between the end of one storm and the start of another, even though the sea remains unsettled.
“Fishermen can’t remain on forced vacation throughout the 40 days, because they rely on fishing as their only source of income. Many also hope to catch a good haul after all the storms,” he said.
Saad al-Ahmad, a coffee seller for more than 20 years, approached a group of fishermen as they cleaned their nets on the sidewalk of Sidon’s port.
The port’s traffic, including sea fishing, has been negatively affected by storm after storm since mid-December, though this did not stop two steamboats from bringing goods to the new port and setting off again on New Year’s Day.
Unlike the old quay, the new port has become a haven for ships during bad weather, protecting them and allowing them to continue their work emptying and carrying goods.
Ahmad rattled his coffee cups before pouring each of the fishermen a cup, then joined them in their talk of the sea and the new year.
Relief was apparent on the face of fellow fisherman Mohammad Wahbi as he struggled to free fish from his overladen net.
“It has been a good day’s work, and an encouraging start to the beginning of the year,” he said.