Trip Start Oct 20, 2008
93Trip End Jan 31, 2009
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Today was the independence day for Lebanon. I had caught glimpse of it on TV. However, the celebrations were over by the time Diana and I got to Downtown. There were still soldiers around the area. In fact, I had not seen so many soldiers in my life. A couple of them wanted to check my bag.
The Downtown is a true downtown in the New York meaning of the word. Tall modern skyscrapers that mix Eastern and Western influences and wide, well-planned roads flowing between them...
Was this city more developed then Istanbul? Although it may as well be, it's a difficult comparison. Istanbul is so vast both in area and population. 1,250,000 Beirutis compared to 15,000,000 Istanbulites...
I had never seen so many churches and mosques clustered in the city center, side by side. This arrangement symbolized an idea that excited me a great deal. Only if Lebanon could put this idea into practice by minimizing the friction between the Muslim and the Christian leaders...
Visited late PM Rafiq Hariri's tomb. Most believe that he was assassinated by the Syrians, because he was planning to break ties with the Syrian army that had been in Lebanon for nearly 3 decades. I could not understand why the Lebanese had not made a proper mausoleum for such a popular leader. His tomb was covered by a large, dirty tent.
When I was walking toward the entrance of the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, apparantely an undercover policeman got stressed out; walked towards me and put his hand on his gun. Diana observed all this; I had no idea. It must be intimidating to live with so many soldiers and policemen around.
Although the Lebanese are very fast with reconstructing, there are still many buildings that have been ruined by bomb blasts.
Went to the Tribeca Cafe. Coffee was good and the ambiance nice. 4,500 pounds.
Under pouring rain, Diana left for Amman. I will miss her, but I won't be too lonely for the next few days since the volleyball team is still here.
Came to al-Kahwa right across from the American University of Beirut (AUB). I don't understand why LP thinks so highly of this place. The food is nothing special and there is nothing authentic about the atmosphere.
AUB has a large campus in Northern Hamra. As I was touring the campus, I noticed how similar this school was to Robert College and Bosphorus University in Istanbul. Large, American-style campus, situated on a hillside that extends all the way to the see. AUB is one of the best universities of the Middle East, along with Cairo University.
Diana was attending a language program at AUB, during the summer of 2007. When the Israeli army marched into Lebanon due to their fears over increasing Hizbollah power, she had to be evacuated by her embassy. Even though the Israelis were targeting the Hizbollah strongholds, they also bombed civilian spots, such as the airport and the main highways. It was very brave of her to come back after having fled such horrifying scenes. She thinks that the Israeli invasion garnered more support for the Hizbollah, while its main objective was to destroy all support.
Went to the Pass par Tout internet cafe to catch up on my blog. Slow computers and smoking is allowed.
Had shwarma and coke at Bliss House, for dinner. Nothing spectacular.
The volleyball team was making plans to head to a club. Unfortunately, they could not coordinate and the plan was called off. So, I went to bed at midnight.