Trip Start Oct 20, 2008
93Trip End Jan 31, 2009
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Where I stayed
As the plane was ascending, I noticed how well-organized, modern and tall the city looked. At first glance, it felt like a miniature Manhattan.
Learned that only Aeroflot flies from Beirut to Moscow. They have biweekly flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays. However, they don't have an office at the airport. So, the ladies at the Middle East Airlines of Lebanon told me that told me to buy the ticket from the check-in counter.
I hate cab drivers
Diana was not staying at the hotel, as I had thought, but instead at her friend's place. The volleyball teams of King's Academy was staying at Crowne. Graciously, the group leaders told me that I could stay in one of their rooms with 2 other guys, for free. Dropped off my stuff at the room and ran down for breakfast. This high-end buffet was paradise after almost reaching starvation at the Damascus Airport
Spent the day walking around Hamra and drinking coffee at random cafes. Had a really good kebab sandwich and ayran (salty yoghurt drink) at Barbar for 4,000 pounds. Barbar is an impressive compound that occupies the entire ground floor of a block. They make everything from Western fastfood to ice-cream.
I could not believe the beauty and the modernity of this city. Slick 20-story buildings standing right by the Mediterranean. The only thing it lacked was a dense history. Although it had been an important Phonecian port in the 3 millenium BC, its relative importance was not carried out through history.
Enormous amounts of French and American funds have been pumped into this country, once again, with the hope of preventing Lebanon from falling into the "Axis of Evil". Numerous French and American brands are present here, all the way from fastfood chains to banks.
Took an hour nap in my room at Crowne Plaza. After a sleepless night at 2 airports, it felt great.
In the evening, went to one of the bars in Gemayzeh for happy hour, which lasts until 9.30pm. I had never seen so many top-notch bars on the same street. After 2 mojitos, headed to Gemayzeh Cafe. This was a French bistro with a Lebanese touch. Had meze, shish taouk, mahallebi (milk-based desert), nargileh and Turkish coffee. 50,000 pounds. The food quality was excellent and the live Arab music added significantly to the atmosphere. This place was the Lebanses version of a meyhane (similar to a tapas bar) at Cicek Pasaji in Istanbul.
When I returned to room 1507 at midnight, lightning struck in the distance. Couple of seconds later, another one and another one and another one... I had never seen lightening occur so frequently. Freaking out, I thought that it was missile fire. Looked into the distance to see if there was any evidence of this. Tried calling Diana, but couldn't reach her. As I was sweating in my bed, finally, it started to rain. The terrifying stories that I had heard about life in Lebanon are to blame for my paranoia.