Published: September 8th 2012September 4th 2012
I am restarting my blog for our 2012 trip – Lebanon and Europe for 2 months with my boyfriend and travelling partner Bill. We have now been in Lebanon for 4 days and are well into our intrepid trip. After an epic flight from Brisbane we arrived in Beirut eager to explore this one country in the Levant region of the Middle East we have yet to visit (with the exception of Israel & the Palestinian territories). Our hotel in Beirut turned out to be the perfect location for nightlife in Beirut. Gemmayze, and in particular, rue Gouraud, is filled with bars, nightclubs and eateries. The next day we set out on foot to theneighbourhood and Hamra. What surprised me with Beirut is the amount of money centered on centre ville and the Hamra area with luxury designer chains, many of which we have never heard of in Australia, and then to turn around and see the remnants of the civil war of the late 70’s and 80’s and the Israeli invasion of 2006. After our walk around, we went back to the hotel and well, caught up on much lost sleep from our flight.
The next day, bight and refreshed, we set out to the corniche, the picturesque promenade along the seafront of the eastern Mediterranean. All Beirut-ites who want to be seen are here along the corniche. Sweaty well-well tanned men jogging to be seen, well done up women teetering along in their high heels and men sun baking on the rocks doing very little to keep their modesty! What was a sigh though, were young men taking to the rocks to soak up the sun with an argile (shisha!). haha, I guess that’s one way to spend a relaxing afternoon by the sea! After a long walk around the corniche we stopped in at one of the many restaurants dotted along the corniche and overlooking the many beach clubs. After a pleasant lunch and argile, we set back to our hotel only to walk through different neighbourhoods to avoid the long walk back along the corniche. Well it turned out to be a fruitless effort as we probably walked twice as long and ended up finding our way back to the corniche as that’s the way we knew! Oh well it was an interesting walk through the Beirut suburbs.
That night we met with our intrepid tour leader Mansour and well, it was an ‘interesting’ meeting to say the least. There is only one other person on our tour, Michael from America, and his flight was delayed so it was just us and Mansour. Now with intrepid we are used to group meetings where we get a lengthy explanation of where we are going and what we are doing as well as getting to know the leader and his background and experience. So we didn’t get any of that….and Mansour took us for a walk around the neighborhood (of which we had already explored) but he did take us to the Virgin megastore which really lives up to his name. so we were to meet Michael at 10pm when he arrived, however we were 5 minutes late and they left without us for dinner….! Which was fine as it turned out.
The next day we set off to Sidon (or Saida in Arabic). We met with our driver, Selim a friendly man, in a sedan. Now even though there is only 5 of us (including Mansour and Selim) the sedan was deemed too small (and actually looking back on it for this trip it would have been uncomfortable) we waited for a minivan. 10 minutes…..5 minutes….we heard over and over again. An hour later the new car arrived and yalla, we were off to Saida. Saida is a beautiful seaside town in Southern Lebanon. Waiting in traffic, there were guys selling shisha pipes! Haha, anytime is Argile time ;) I suppose it does make a long trip a pleasant experience!
We visited the sea castle; an old castle built on the sea and connected to the mainland by a fortified Arab causeway. The sea castle was built in the 13th
century by the crusaders. After that we visited the old medina and walked through the old souk enroute to the soap museum. Saida is home to a lot of Palestinian refugees and selling in the souk is their livelihood. The soap museum was a pleasant surprise, giving us a history of how olive oil soap is made and the ancient processes that is still kept alive today. I couldn’t help myself and bought some soaps. After that we walked through the old medina, which is very well maintained by the Audi family (I don’t think the same Audi’s as the car) who also own the soap museum and business. So after that we had lunch in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the sea. So after a lovely lunch of mezze and fish and a hefty bill we left for Beit ed-Dine (and another stop along the way which I forget the name!). Beit ed-Dine is a 19th
century palace where the president resides in summer. It was very beautiful and, while it’s no alcazar in Sevilla or Alhambra in Spain in grandeur, it comes very close. That night we stayed in Zahle and had a lovely night on the town.