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Published: March 12th 2019
Tuesday March 12, 2019 – Today was a long day. I finally got out of bed at 7:30 and finished up some blogging. It usually takes much longer than I think it will. Add that to bad internet, and hey, you got work. I planned out my day and got out of the apartment around 9:15am. I started walking to the National Museum, which is about 30 minutes away, trying to use my map to be successful. Of course, Beirut has other ideas. I was generally in the right place when I stopped at a little place for a take-away breakfast. I got a pita rolled up with lebnah and vegetables. I couldn’t exactly remember what any of the food optons were, but I’m sure Johanna had mentioned lebnah so that’s what I got. It was a kind of cheese and it was delicious. I ate it while I walked, and I was sure I was heading in the right direction because a women there showed me the way on her phone. Then at some point it was clear I was not going the right way, so I finally asked an army guy – they are everywhere – for directions and
he said I was close and pointed me in the right direction. Phew.
Once I got to the museum, the woman at the front told me the museum was free today – a lovely surprise, and that she wanted to give me an ipad that I could use to scan the QR codes of different exhibits along the way. Very cool. Luckily I had some headphones with me or the whole place would have had to listen to my commentary. I had been a little hesitant about going to the museum today, because it was nice outside and I hated to spend that time indoors, but I’m so glad I went. It’s beautifully done, and I really enjoyed the exhibits. It’s mostly archaeological finds from Lebanon, and it was great to hear about different pieces. The museum closed for about 20 years with the civil war, and I watched a 15 minute video that detailed how they stored the large pieces in concrete to protect them, and how some works were damaged due to flooding waters and high humidity. It also showed some of the restoration process. The basement floor has an amazing sarcophagi gallery, and this was closed
for 40 years, until just a couple of years ago. I’m really glad I was here at the right time to see the whole museum.
My next destination was the American University of Beirut (AUB), the best university in the Middle East. It has a beautiful campus and there are students who give free tours. The problem was getting there. It looked easy on my map – easy for here, despite being about an hour walk. But nothing is ever easy here, as it is not a city designed for walking. I got to a certain place and went into a bank to ask for directions. This is my new go-to. Banks are everywhere and everyone inside speaks English. The woman I spoke to was very helpful and pretty clear that you can’t get there from here. By foot, anyway. I told her I’d like to try – thanks Mom for making me too cheap to take a taxi when I know my feet work – so she told me how to get to AUST (American University of Science and Technology) and that from there I should ask for the neighborhood Hamra, and from there UAB. I did make
it to AUST, all upill, then asked for Hamra and people kept pointing the way after they told me to take a taxi instead. I have no idea what street I was on, but luckily it was a long one that went all the way to Hamra. Amazing really. From there, I found the tourist office, which was much less help than I’d thought. But I could find myself on a map now, and make it to the university with ease. It probably took 90 minutes though, but I made it.
On the UAB campus, I gave my passport to enter the grounds, and went to the tour office to get a guide. They gave me some tea, and I met Maya, my third year civil engineering student guide. She was in remarkably good shape considering her boyfriend dumped her yesterday. She mentioned that at the end as we chatted. But she showed me around the upper and lower campus, and told me about the history of the place. She also explained why there are so many cats on campus. When people left during the civil war, a lot of them left their cats on campus, and they have
been cared for ever since. Maya said the money to care for them is included in her tuition. Along the way I stopped at the on-campus Tollhouse Cookie shop and bought a triple chocolate cookie. At the end of the tour, I filled out a survey, we took our picture together, and then she showed me to the free campus archaeology museum, where I spent some time looking around. By then, I had a bit of a headache, so I didn’t stay too long. It was probably due to all of the air pollution from the cars, all of the smoking from everyone, and a bit of dehydration.
I left at 4pm and set out to find my way to the Café I could not find on Sunday. This part of the map was easier to navigate, and most of it was familiar, but there was one road that was blocked and I had to go around, but it was an easy fix and put me somewhere I recognized – the mosque. I love seeing it. It’s beautiful and makes me feel like I know where I am. From there I took the same way as Sunday and arrived
in the spot where I thought the café should be, but it wasn’t there. This time I asked someone and he was like, yeah, just go down those stairs and turn left. And voila! There it was. That was not clear from the map at all, but I’m glad I asked. I ordered my food from the “Order here” guy, and he helped me choose something delicious, since I needed some help with what was what. It was yummy. Spinach cooked with ground beef and pine nuts and a yummy rice. I’m so glad I found it. I chose to eat near the order guy because it seemed the least smoky part of the place. There was some regular smoking and some water pipe type smoking, but neither is anywhere I want to be breathing, especially after my daily dose of toxins while walking. I feel this is how the US is going to be again soon, if they keep repealing the EPA and all it stands for. Great.
From dinner I walked home and stopped in at my favorite Wooden Bakery for a chocolate pastry, getting that fix of sweet before bed. Kat arrives tonight, and with any
luck I’ll get a couple of hours of sleep before she arrives. Then a bit disruption and chatting and hopefully some more sleep before we wake up early for our first daytrip with a guided tour, bright and early. I’m not much for tours, but I think this and the one on Friday will let us get to several places we couldn’t have done easily in one day on public transport. Plus, I guess it’s not bad to have someone explaining what it is you’re looking at. Looking forward to it.
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