Published: September 8th 2012September 8th 2012
We are at the end of our sojourn in Lebanon. I left the last blog at Bacharre. As it turned out we didn’t go to play billiards the last night at Bacharre, rather we had a nice evening under the grape vines chatting with the hotel owner and shared a bottle of wine. The next day we were on to Byblos, but first we went for another hike (!) in Tannourine reserve, which is the second largest cedar tree reserve in Lebanon. After that we arrived at Byblos. Byblos is a lovely medieval town on the Mediterranean. Not long after we arrived, we hit the beach and rewarded ourselves with a couple of bottles of Almaza, Lebanon’s beer. Then we went for a walk through the medieval souk. Byblos is such a pretty town I wish we stayed there longer and unfortunately we did not have time to see the citadel. Byblos is what I imagine Dubrovnik in Croatia to be, medieval stone castle walls, large archways and little shops dotted along the walls. That evening we went to a lovely seafood restaurant overlooking the sea. Unfortunately I had started to get sick but I still had a lovely evening.
The next day we made our way to Beirut. Along the way we stopped at Harissa and took a funicular up to the mountain to see the our lady of Lebanon monument. The ride on the way up gave us a spectacular view of the sea. The monument seemed very popular, for both Christian and Muslim tourists so it was lovely to see that. Afterward we went to the Jeita Grotto. Imagine a massive cave with limestone jutting out from below and from the ceiling and a pool of water – that is the Jeita Grotto. Just magnificent. In terms of sights in Lebanon, that is my favourite. According to Lonely Planet, the Grotto is a series of caverns and ‘contains one of the world’s most impressive agglomerations of stalactites and stalagmites’. The website is www.jeitagrotto.com
go check out what I am raving about!
After that we went to Mansour’s apartment in Jouneih for lunch. It was very lovely of Mansour and Selim to make lunch for us. His apartment overlooked the sea so we had nice views while we waited for a yummy lunch. Then it was off the Beirut. Unfortunately I had started to feel worse and had a night in once we arrived to Beirut.
This morning, feeling bright and refreshed after having a high fever last night, I set off with Mansour to see the dentist. I had been nursing a saw tooth for over a week, so rather than enduring it for the next 7 weeks I went to see Mansour’s dentist friend. After an x-ray, we saw the dentist and good news I don’t have a cavity. Just an ulcer (which I knew). After we made our way back to the hotel, it was time to say goodbye to both Michael (who was on his way to catch his flight back home to New York) and Mansour as it was the end of our Intrepid tour. Today we have just been to the ABC mall and now at the hotel (as unfortunately Bill has caught whatever 24 hour bug I had, and sounds like Michael did too).
My impressions of Lebanon? Fabulous, amazing, must see! Lebanon has an unfortunate history which keeps repeating itself in a cycle, but really the Lebanese are wonderful people and very friendly and open. I have visited much of the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, UAE, and Morocco) and even though I have encountered friendly people everywhere, the Lebanese are one of the most easy going people. The one thing we did not do on this trip is visit a mosque – that is probably because of guide and driver were Christians, but in any case I hope to visit to Al-Amin mosque before we leave tomorrow. We visited a fair few Christian (Maronite) monuments which was lovely but more so for Bill and I (as non-Christians) we appreciated the serenity of these places and the architecture, as well of course respecting the spirituality and people's beliefs, rather than attending for religious purposes. It still would have been nice to also see mosques as well to see both sides of the coin, so to speak, of both religions. Lebanon is about 40% Christian 60% Muslim (perhaps a bit less on those percentages to account for the small minority of other religions) which is one thing I didn’t know about Lebanon. But to me it doesn’t matter what religion people - respecting eachother's culture and customs is what is important. Oh and I must mention the language! The Lebanese out us English speakers to shame! Because of the French rule, the Lebanese speak French as it is still taught to a very high standard in school, and, because of English being the lingua franca, most people have a bit of English too. Travelling always leaves me red-faced when it comes to language. I haven’t continued on with my French after university (with the exception of bartering in French in the souks of Morocco), and I never really tried to learn Thai properly, and with me being a shy person, basically English is my only fluency. Thought I need to dust off the French for Paris though….!