My brother Dave and his wife Deb spent a week with us after our travels to Greece. Here are their impressions of Beirut and the country of Lebanon.
From Deb –
Beirut is a city of contrasts, new buildings standing next to old broken down ones full of bullet holes from the war of 20 years ago. Scarved women who wear tight fitting clothes and large shinny bangles of jewelry that seem attention grabbing. It is also very cosmopolitan and has a European flavor.
Lines and lanes seem to mean nothing as well. Cars and people just straddle the middle and weave in and out of those in front to advance. Once you get used to this, it’s fine. We found the Lebanese people to be extremely friendly and helpful! Everywhere we went, whether people spoke English or not they tried to help us find what we needed. When we couldn’t find limes at the grocery, but they used them to make Cosmos at the Hard Rock Cafe, we asked the bartender if we could buy one from him. Instead he gave us 3!
The things I most enjoyed were the Roman ruins at Baalbek, the hike in the Quidasha Valley, the walking tour of Beirut and the museum at the American University. As you know, we had several adventures when it came to transportation. Both the bus to and from Byblos along with the cab to Baalbek turned out to be fun and educational to say the least! The hardest part about the bus ride was the open windows and the poor air quality which I am certainly not used to. I found I felt like I needed a shower whenever we returned to your place.
But the bus ride gave a us a chance to really see the cities up and down the coast and the cab ride to Baalbek allowed us to see Lebanon’s high country with I really loved! Outside the city were vistas of snowy mountains and clear air! Beautiful!
Your advice to us about traffic and walking around the city was great! We found that in Lebanon traffic lights and lane lines are merely a suggestion. When you want to cross the street,look for a slight lull in the traffic and step out. If you wait for the walk signal and rely on that you could get run over as David and I nearly found out trying to cross to walk the Cornice!
All in all Beirut is a very diverse and interesting place. One I will never forget!
From Dave –
We arrived in Beirut on 5/3 and stayed until 5/10. The weather throughout our visit was superb, although the smog did irritate the eyes for a few days. The first thing that struck me was the old, disrepaired buildings along the waterfront as our plane made the approach to the airport. I would have expected newer McMansion homes on the waterfront. In the USA newer development is usually found in a particular section of town, here new will sit right next to old and disrepaired, or even war damaged property. While there are a lot of old, damaged cars on the streets of Beirut there are also a lot of Mercedes Benzs and BMW, in fact most taxis were either MBs or BMWs.
Lebanese drivers are the best in the world, they turn every two lane road into a three lane road, a four lane divided highway into a six lane highway, ( and sometimes not even divided) , vehicles can be going both directions on your side of the divided highway. In the USA we often see accidents on good roads on a clear day- obvioiusly caused by inattention. I did not see one accident in Lebanon-you have to pay attention driving there if you wish to survive the journey.
We really enjoyed Mike and Sharon’s apartment, with its spacious rooms and view of the Mediterranean.
We took side trips to Byblos, Baalbeck and the Quidasha Valley. Each was spectacular. We have viewed ancient ruins in Greece at Athens, Delos and Delphi, also in Turkey. The Roman ruins at Baalbeck were a highlight of our trip.
You cannot find limes in the stores but the bartender at the Hard Rock Cafe was gracious enough to give us three for Cosmopolitans.
We would not have put Lebanon on our itinerary if Mike and Sharon had not been there, we are so glad we did visit there-it is a fascinating country.