Beirut = Nightlife, guns and soap bubbles
Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
86Trip End Jul 27, 2011
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Before we test out the nightlife however, we are warmly welcomed at Fady's sister Nayla's place by her and boyfriend Serge. A request to grab a quick snack run turns into love at first bite with Lebanese food. The next day, Manu's first interview appointment is with someone who started an organic farmer's market, Souk El Tayeb. It so happens that Nayla and Fady's mom works at that market, selling her home made goodies as a hobby. So there our love affair continues and we keep eating our way through mint- and yogurt/Labneh heaven, baklava paradise and our favourite, Zataar.
That night, we have reservations at Music Hall, a club with traditional life music that is impossibly hard to get into
Things I learned in Beirut:
- It is the most diverse, extreme city I have seen so far. Everything goes. You will see fully covered women alongside botox-overdosed, skimpily dressed 'species'. Old ruins, fancy new buildings, decrepit housings, gun-shot covered walls and flashy malls, all side by side. Heavily armed military guards at every corner and kids blowing soap bubbles next to them.
- Everyone wants to help you. Getting directions is a challlenge. There are no maps and three different people will send you in three completely different directions. If they don't know the way, they will ask the people around, call their cousins or try to walk you there.
- Everyone drives everywhere and has at least one car
- The hospitality is amazing. Nayla after speaking to Fady tells us that she now understands the reason we don't just help ourselves from the fridge is of cultural nature. Apparently, it is what people do here if they stay with someone. We are also blessed to be driven around a fair bit by them.
- It is called the 'Paris of the Middle East' and deserve its nick name.
- Real estate prices are quite comparable to T.O. The investments of some Saudi King make a real estate couch surfer host I met confident that it will remain politically stable. He feels they would not put their money here if their ties to to the government wouldn't guarantee stability.
- We might or might not be able to get a visa for Syria. Everyone has a different story about our chances. I think it will depend on who we meet at the border and how they feel that day.
- Before a wedding, the couple needs to undergo a blood test, excluding STDs, drug use and illnesses. The men also undergo a fertility test.
- If caught in a gay act, the legal punishment is 7 years in prison. Hard to believe at what otherwise seems such an open culture. I wonder if it is really enforced.
- If you have kids outside of marriage (even if from a long term, seriously committed relationship), that will be noted in the kid's passport and he/she will not be able to get a job in a government or similarly official role. This is utterly nuts in my mind, isn't it?
- Listening to church bells and muezzin call at the same time, competing with each other is quite the spectacle.
- What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. What happens in Beirut, ends up on facebook.
For the first time I feel truely hindered not being constantly online or reachable via phone. There are so many plans to be made and people to meet in Beirut that it is hard to not be reachable to coordinate.
Another couch surfer (CS) spends a day driving me, two French guys, one American and another German girl around some Lebanese cities and sights for no more than our share of gas. Couchsurfing.org by the way is not just a place where budget travelers can find a couch to crash on. There are plenty of members that only offer their time for a coffee, drink or to show you their city, culture, night life, or generally a good time. The idea is of cultural exchange, not free accomodation.Yes, of course there are those who join in hopes of using it as a dating site. But you can easily identify them based on their profile, other members' feedback and how they communicate with you
On our second last day, I take another walk by the water front. One tourist with covered hair and stiletto boots is climbing down the cliffs in that gear! There are famlies sitting on benches atop the cliffs, enjoying a picnic complete with rice cooker right there. Watching some of the more 'traditionel/Middle Eastern' tourists be tourists, I am conflicted. On the one hand my prejudiced Western point of view, judging their behaviours such as flashing their wealth in my eyes inapproproate ways, like a little girl decked out in a head to toe fur outfit at 25+ degrees C. On thother hand seriously wanting to be accepting and open minded towards their different culture.
We are meeting loads of CS people, some of which are Eurpeans and Americans livinging in the ME. We are excited to get invited to stay with a French guy in Amman and a Belgian in Damascus. Brilliant!
Fingers crossed for our Syria travel attempts!