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By Inka from Glamour Granny Travels
“You are going where? “Have you packed your tin hat and your bullet proof vest?” These are just a few of the comments I heard last week when I told people that I was going to Beirut – and not only for a short visit but for an extended stay of three months.
It all started in May when I visited the country for the first time and decided there and then, that I had to return for much longer. I only scratched the surface of Beirut and rushed to see the Jeita Grotto, Harissa, Byblos and Baalbek, all in three days. I freely admit, I had come loaded down with much of the same preconceived ideas my friends expressed: the Lebanon and Beirut in particular is a mess, a war torn country in ruins, dangerous, dirty and just generally a place best left alone. But me being me, I had to go and see for myself.
All I can say is: did I get a surprise. The first thing that caught my eye when I was sitting in a taxi leaving the airport were huge billboards along the highway reading: The World Is Beirut-ing Again! As I found out very quickly, this is true. In the lobby of my hotel alone I heard five different languages and everybody was excitedly talking about the trips and excursions they had made or were about to make.
This time around I am concentrating more on Beirut and looking at all the other wonderful sites later. The term joie de vivre could have been invented by or for the Lebanese people. They are friendly and welcoming to every visitor who finds his way to their country. They are rebuilding the city at breakneck speed and they are full of optimism. More than once did I hear: they invade and destroy our country? Ok, we dust ourselves off and just start all over again.
Of course there are still traces of the destruction, but new and beautiful buildings are going up everywhere. The famous corniche which is the sea side promenade is lined with 5star hotels and luxury apartments and the downtown area has been completely renovated. There isn’t an international designer who isn’t represented in the Beirut souks, a new shopping mall which was constructed around the mosaic tiled Intabli pool, one of the few places which has survived the bombing. Place de l’etoile is nearby with the clock tower in the middle and tree lined streets full of chic cafes and boutiques. And it’s all bustling with life.
Go to the Roman Bath of a weekend. It’s an archaeological site but also a terraced public park where Beirutis take the air, sit, talk, socialize and just have a great time.
Hamra street is less up scale and more traditional but the restaurants to be found there serve Lebanese food to die for. And then there is the nightlife. Beirutis start to go out late, nothing really gets moving before midnight, but lasts until the sun comes up again. Music and theatre festivals take place and this weekend it’s the Beirut Marathon with participants from all over the world.
Relax in the old fashioned and extremely’ in’ Sporting Club in Rawsheh where you can swim and snorkel and explore the underwater caves below Pigeon Rock. Have your morning run along the corniche as every self respecting Beiruti does and be prepared to take your life into your hands every time you have to cross a road, because the Lebanese are fierce and ruthless drivers.
I just love it.
Inka is the Glamour Granny. After a lifetime as an international attorney Inka is now a freelance writer and novelist sharing her experiences traveling the world and encouraging other Glamour Grannies around the world to do the same. You can read all about her inspiring life at Glamour Granny Travels