Lebanon – Beautiful Beirut
On the drive to Beirut our car tire got dented and became wobbly as my husband decided not to skip any potholes even though the cars ahead were swerving around them dangerously. We paid $15 at the gas station to have the spare installed and they told us to drive “shavai” which I recognized as slow. We did a quick stop over at Jeita Grotto caves which was worth it and head onto to Beirut, as we knew if we entered, we wouldn’t leave in order to do justice and explore the city as much as possible.
Beirut is a city of contrasts. To the South you have Shias, East – Maronites, and West – Sunnis. All living in temporary harmony. We visited the largest mosque which is next to a large church for Juma along with some other mosques later on. I always try to pray Juma at an iconic place if there is one. Day time and night time view;
Due to the damaged tire, and the replacement tire being too small, we decided to get our car changed from the airport and got a car from the 80s civil war. I had no clue what it was, but it looked ancient. I forced my driver/husband to stop for food and the closest to airport GPS told us was KFC – we ended up in a different KFC driving through short narrow road deep in South Beirut. At one point a few kids on motorbike stopped us, but after seeing me in scarf waved and smiled. In fact, due to my abaya and being a woman with the man, we were always waved through all checkpoints. On the drive back to the hotel I really wished we had arranged to visit Sabra and Shatila camp, but due to time and logistics planning, unfortunately, the plan didn’t materialize.
We stayed near the (Ex) Holiday Inn at Radisson BLU Martinez Hotel and got a free upgrade to an executive room. It is an excellent hotel located near the local amenities as well as walking distance to the Cornish. Hving been upgraded, we had free access to the executive lounge with free internet usage and cold & hot drinks and snacks during 4 to 7 pm. Their breakfast area is gorgeous and the buffet was awesome, i was spoilt for choice =)
Nearby is a fake souk with expensive designer stores – probably a waste of time; says the hubby, but went to H&M and some other stores, squeezed in some shopping and also had expensive ice cream anyway! Nothing beats the heat but ice cream or a chilled drink! It didn’t feel like Lebanon. I’ve had my fill of food and culture – a Christian pizzeria (with halal pizzas clearly labelled) in Byblos, a Druze restaurant in the mountains, Shia KFC in South Beirut.
Walking tour (by a student) was really good as I learned things about the city which weren’t in the guide book, and the bombed out shell of what was The Holiday Inn and Shawarma is not Lebanese food. He promised which did come true that Lebanon will be in the news in the next six months which it was with problems in Syria flaring up. I was lucky and glad I visited at the perfect time.
The scars of the war still very evident… The Holiday Inn
Towards end the day, we took a long lovely walk along the Corniche all the way from Hard Rock cafe to pigeon rocks and took a few photos of the sunset.
This reminded me of the first day I arrived. I leaned against the banister overlook the slow moving waves that jostled against the large rocks, inhaled the refresh sea smell and looked at the lights come on like stars on the nearby mountain as the sun was gradually disappearing behind the horizon, and listened to the adhan; the call of prayer for Muslims which is not usual in the UK. If we’re being honest, we’ve all had our moments where we wished that the time would stop. But time only flows forward with it tracks etched into our memory. The kids playing ball, a young girl trying to ride a bike for the first time, and some old friends playing backgammon nearby. Everything seems it will live in peaceful harmony forever.
Lebanon; The country which captivated my heart…..