Abdallahs happy to be home from Lebanon

Maroun and Nawal Abdallah are happy to be back in Charlottetown after close to two weeks stuck in Lebanon after Israel invaded the country.

Maroun and Nawal Abdallah are happy to be back in Charlottetown after close to two weeks stuck in Lebanon after Israel invaded the country.

The Abdallahs, on holiday in Lebanon, told CBC News in an exclusive interview that they had originallyintended to leave the country weeks before the invasion was launched.

"Because we had a great time, we decided to extend our vacation," said Maroun Abdallah.

The original holiday was scheduled to end about the beginning of July. As it turned out the Abdallahs found themselves at the airport the morning the Israelis started bombing the runways.

The Abdallahs said things were normal at the airport when they arrived at 6 a.m. for their 8 a.m. flight, but they heard the bombs falling as they were checking their bags. They were forced to return to the home of the relatives where they were staying in Beirut.

"I was thinking about my family, and the fear and the fighting and how they were going to handle that, because they just came out of a war not too long ago," said Nawal Abdallah.

The Abdallahs didn't feel safe in Beirut, and moved to another relative's home in the mountains east of Beirut. While they were safer there, what would otherwise have been a spectacular view over Beirut was frightening.

"You see the bombs," said Nawal Abdallah. "You don't know where they are going down and how many people they are going to kill."

After four or five days in that house the Abdallahs decided to move again. The bombing targets were closer the last night there, and the sound of the explosions kept them up all night long. They packed their bags again and moved to a hotel farther north.

Embassy difficult to reach

The Abdallahswere having trouble reaching the Canadian embassy in Beirut. They couldn't get through by phone, and were concerned about the safety of travelling on the roads. They were relying on television and radio reports, and e-mails from their children at home in Canada. Eventually Maroun Abdallah made the trip and joined the thousands in line outside the building, where he waited hours before talking to an official.

The Abdallahs received a call on Friday asking them to come to the port to get on a ship to Cyprus.

"When they called us we had mixed feelings," said Nawal Abdallah.

"We were happy because we were going to leave, and sad because we were leaving behind our relatives and friends in a bad situation."

Pulling out of the port brought back memories for Nawal Abdallah, who left Lebanon for Canada by boat 30 years ago.

The Abdallahs had a comfortable journey to Cyprus, with food to eat and a chance to sleep for a couple hours. From Cyprus they were able to fly to Montreal, and from there to Charlottetown, where they arrived Tuesday morning.

While they acknowledgeddisorganization, the Abdallahs had few hard words for the officials who got them out of Lebanon.

"I think they did the best they can do," said Nawal Abdallah.

"It wasn't very well organized. The system was not working too good, but those staff that were in Cyprus, they don't have experience with that, and most of them were volunteers, so they were doing the best job they can do under the situation."

Now back in Canada, the Abdallahs are left with worries for the family they left behind, not only for their physical safety, but for their way of life, the lives they were hopeful of rebuilding after the Syrians pulled out of the country in April of 2005.