A Little Bit of Lebanon

I sped through Lebanon in only five days. It is a small country and I just passed through the northern bit to Beirut, and from there east back into Syria. The south, near the Israeli border, is not very safe. As usual I did not do the country justice blah blah blah. I have to return some day blah blah blah.

The coastal road from Tripoli to Beirut was very scenic. Almost all the traffic uses the new superhighway, leaving the old coastal road perfect for biking.

Here are some views from that road.


A ship waiting for cargo.

I arrived in Beirut in late afternoon just as a storm was brewing.

I never thought I would find myself in Beirut. For as long as I could remember I had been seeing and hearing about the war in Lebanon. I remember the reports of bombs and bullets destroying the city. Like everyone, I was horrified by the 1983 suicide bombing of the US army barracks that killed 283 marines. About 100,000 people were killed during the civil war which lasted between 1975 and 1990.

So it was strange to walk around this former battle zone. Now there is a huge amount of construction going on. But many decrepit bullet-ridden buildings still lurk around downtown. The juxtaposition is bizarre.

Here is the old Holiday Inn. It was a strategic point and a favorite for snipers so it was attacked regularly. They have not torn it down yet. It stands as a grim reminder of the war.

A man walking past a wall pockmarked with bullet holes.

A couple other destroyed buildings.

But the city is moving ahead quickly. At one point I stood and counted 25 big construction cranes at work.

Boom times?

I wanted to go out clubbing on Saturday night. But take a look at this poster. Doors open at 2:00 AM? Are you serious? I guess I am too old to party like that anymore.

Some kids swimming on the waterfront.

All in all Beirut is a fascinating place. You really don’t feel like you are in the Middle East. Almost everyone speaks good English or French as well as Arabic. They use the US dollar as much as Lebanese lira. They even have a Hardees Hamburger joint.

And I got my picture in the newspaper.

I had stopped at an intersection trying to figure out where I was when this guy pulls up on a scooter and says he is a photographer and could he take some pictures of me. I said no problem. Then he said he knew a reporter who might want to interview me for their newspaper. Who can resist that? Sure enough, the next day I get interviewed for Al Balad. Here is the article and one photo they took of me. Not sure what the article says exactly since it is in Arabic.