1st travel blog entry
14.12.2010 15 °C
We're sitting in a family hotel on the beach, cold beer in hand and the usual wide selection of fresh nuts and seeds on the table. We're looking out over the Mediterranian back to Beirut where we landed a few days ago.
The highlights so far:
The first crisis happened before we arrived in Abu Dhabi. In getting ready for landing, Lee realised that her sapphire ring was missing. Thorough searching was to no avail and as stress levels started to rise, we had the entire flight crew on hands and knees. Half a dozen, beautifully presented Etihad attendants filtering through filth and ground crew ripping up seats found nothing. As we contemplated the loss of this highly valuable and sentimental piece during our three hour stop over, our grief was halted by a quick check to the bra area where the said valuable was safely tucked. Relief and joy accompanied us on our flight to Beirut.
When you land in Beirut, you’re immediately hit with two things: 1) bullet riddled buildings; and 2) the level of commercialisation. Everything from mobile phones to Kentucky Fried Chicken is advertised in English among images of Che and the Iranian President.
We walk by the tank and military bunker on our hotel corner to explore the city. What you find is opposing forces living side by side. Mosques and Cathedrals (Lebanon is roughly 50:50 - Christianity and Islam) new developments next to bombed out blocks. You can see that Beirut is trying to make a new start with modern apartments and office space, but the recent war with Israel has ensured that the battle scars remain.
A walk around the National Museum shows us that the land has had many discrete eras from the Phoenician to the Romans, then Byzantine and Arabic with a hint of the Crusades. The shopping district is full of Christmas cheer, the bar strip abounds with affluent Beirutis having their Land Rovers valet parked and the Uni district has all of the bohemian charm that you’d expect from 1960’s Paris. The French influence can still be seen in the architecture, the language spoken and the food options.
We choose back alley local haunts for meals and bar hopped with the locals last night. Beirut is a confident and complex place full of sophistication and hope. You get the feeling that they’re on the verge of getting back to their best. Let’s hope regional factors don’t take that away.
We arrived in this little fishing village today and wandered the part Phoenician port, Roman fort and Crusaders citadel. A wonderful seafood lunch by the harbour and a wander around the ancient souk brought us to Pierre Abi Saad and his workshop, Memoire du Temps. Google this guy it’s a great story.
The sun’s going down and we’ve been told to stay here the night as Tripoli (our original destination) is not advisable for two plucky westerners like us. The plan is to ski tomorrow (recent storms have dumped snow) and then north into Syria.