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August 20th 2013
Published: August 23rd 2013
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Kuwait to Beirut and around

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I am still seriously out of whack and sleeping at strange hours, I plan to have a late night in Beirut tonight as a means of sorting the jet lag. Breakfast was identical this morning, simple but filling after which I booked a taxi to the airport.

I arrived at the airport at a little after 10 am and waited a bit over 90 minutes for my flight to Beirut, I was lucky enough to get a seat with extra legroom and the man next to me insisted that I eat his food as well. I had arranged an airport pick through my hotel as other means of transport either do not exist or are not worth the time or money to arrange. As I walked through airport doors my first thought was chaos the airport is surrounded by hills all covered in ugly high rises and the traffic is as bad as anywhere I have been.

By the time I arrived and checked in at the hotel I was feeling fatigued again so decided to stay in my room and went to sleep about 6.30 pm, which meant I was awake at about 4 am but that is
Jeita GrottoJeita GrottoJeita Grotto

Cant show pictures of the caves so this sign will have to do
an improvement and the wifi is often faster then.

At 7.30 am I made my way down to the lobby to await the representative of the tour company, as I had decided to do a couple of tours because of the security situation in the country. While I was waiting the hotel sent out for take away as I was leaving before breakfast was served.

The first destination was the Jeita Grotto which is not far from the Beirut, although you would have to live here to know when the capital ends as it sprawls in every direction with out any real break to tell you, you have left. Every flat spot has an ugly concrete slab house of five or more stories stuck on it. At first I thought there were planning laws but later discovered corruption is the reason this city is so chaotically ugly.

There are other reasons of course, civil war, invasions and bombings also did nothing for the countries beauty the remains of bullet scarred buildings still evident where ever you look Lebanon is a tiny country but the number of cars on the roads is just phenomenal, the government does not seem to provide any other means of getting around, which means travel is very slow.

Arriving at the caves I was confronted by a variety of small animals stuffed in small cages, then a really slow cable car and a kitsch toy train so I was thinking what have I gotten myself into, only to have that premature assessment smashed by one of the most amazing caves I have ever seen.

The top chamber was massive and produced one stunning formation after another there were just to many to name, the cave was so well lit that photographic conditions where excellent, unfortunately photography was not allowed so I bought the cd.

Then we went down to the lower chamber which had a river flowing through and took a pleasant but short boat ride.

Next we went to the town of Jounieh on our way to Harissa where we saw a large statue of the Virgin Mary before continuing on to Byblos which may be the worlds oldest continually occupied settlement (5000+years) with neolithic ruins, Phoenician ruins, a Roman amphitheatre and a crusader castle. Unfortunately the place was a little run down as the government doesn't seem to care enough to protect natural or historical treasures.

I am a nut for ruins so I liked even though humidity is awful, it was then off to restaurant for a traditional Lebanese lunch was good but there was nothing I had not tried before.

I managed to stay awake till 9.30 pm that night although I was tired, I have no adaptor to charge my tablet so I plugged it into the back of the TV, pure genius, except I had to leave the TV on all night or it would stop charging.

I awoke again at 4.30 am but managed to doze off till 6, headed down stairs again just after 7 and the hotel ordered me breakfast again, it is a kind of sweet flat bread with melted cheese inside very nice. Today we head east to the ruined 1300 year old Ummayad city at Aanjar which was quite impressive with it's imposing palace and lovely mosaics in the bathhouse.

Then we moved on to the Beqaa Valley town of Baalbek deep in the heart of Hezbollah territory passing through many police and military check points before arriving at the town which is only a few kilometres from war torn Syria. The guide told me that the wonderful crusader castle the Crac de Chavalier had been destroyed in the ongoing fighting in Syria, very upsetting.

Baalbek is just incredible, it was built on massive scale with temples larger and grander than Rome itself, remaining columns of Jupiter's Temple are colossal and the small temple is far from the small. Just superb the whole day was an adventure. Lunch was mezze, kebabs and fresh fruit at a huge outdoor restaurant at Zahle, followed by a visit to a winery at Ksara.

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Beqaa Valley

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