Posted by: englishdubai | May 19, 2008

Away from Lebanon

A combination of international travel, moving house and waiting for an internet connection at home as hampered my blog writing over the last couple of weeks. Last month before the current troubles in Lebanon broke out I was able to make my first trip to Beirut. Since coming to the middle east about two years ago I have really wanted to make a trip to Lebanon. I have many Lebanese friends and when they speak of home there is a longing deep within their eyes. I wanted to find out what they were missing.

I stayed in the very comfortable Moevenpick Resort and was fortunate enough to have a great room with an excellent view over the pools and out to sea. I understand that the pool is very popular at the weekends and in the summer is full. I would like to see that. Here it is at 7am in the morning:

I got to travel to Beirut with some Lebanese friends and they did an excellent job of looking after me and taking me to cool places to eat and drink. They also pointed out some of the local beauty spots including the famous Pigeon Island which was simply stunning:

In the heart of the city I was privileged to experience lunch at Lina’s cafe in the old square. It was fantastic, but it was eerily quiet in the late afternoon. I would put that down to it be a pedestrian only zone, however I was not one to complain, as we enjoyed the the ideal weather which made for a nice break from the searing heat of Dubai.

Travelling around the Middle East region you get use to the extra security around the hotels and airports. Car bomb checks, armed guards and metal detectors are all par for the course when visiting certain countries and I appreciate them being there. However in Beirut it is on a whole different level. Every street in the centre of the city appears to have concrete barriers forming a path, or anti-tank obstacles, or military police , or APCs, or regular army troops, or razor wire. However intermingled with all of this are people getting on with their lives. Be it enjoying a Zatar bread, or buying groceries or even getting spruced up ready to hit the town.

I admired the local inhabitants ability to be so resilient in the light of the history of the city. Even when I stopped in at the Hard Rock cafe to buy a t-shirt I queued behind a peace keeper from the UN. He had conveniently parked his enormous armoured vehicle outside while he loaded up with caps and badges:

I can see now why Beirut became such a popular tourist destination. With wonderful weather, mountains for skiing and beaches for swimming the diversity is amazing. All the time set in a culture of a curious mix of Christianity and Islam side by side. I am all ready looking forward to going back however with the current situation I am unable to travel there at the moment.

Over 20 years ago the famous 80s band “The Human League” wrote a song called “The Lebanon” in it there is the lyric:

“And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone?
From The Lebanon”

Twenty years on, it still holds true.


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