When I was not allowed to board my flight from Amman to Dubai, I was very upset. I had planned to visit an old friend and enjoy the wild nightlife for a weekend in the city of excess. Because I had not arranged a Visa, the plan had to change. I franticly looked for a flight out of Amman to an interesting place. Thank God I had told the customs officer in Israel to forgo the stamp on my passport, I was heading for Beirut!
When I arrived, my passport was searched thoroughly for an Israeli stamp, not once, but twice by two separate people! Other than that, my entire time in Lebanon was fantastic! People were friendly and the city of Beirut was a gorgeous gem on the Mediterranean. It really is the Paris of the Middle East.
The first thing I did was get out and walk the city. As I walked through the different quarters, I noticed a few buildings still scarred and riddled with shell and bullet holes from the war. For the most part however, it was a beautiful, modern city. Roman ruins right between modern buildings added history to the city.
I enjoyed as many nice meals as I could here as it was my last real stop of the expedition. I ordered local favourites such as Babaganouj, Hummus and Tabouleh along with various flavours of “Argileh” (also known as Hookah or Shishe). I really got to experience the gastronomic culture of Beirut.
In 2009, Beirut was named the best city in the world to party by the New York Times. I could see why! The nightlife was incredible. Seeing as how I am traveling alone, I did not go clubbing, but I walked through the areas where the nightlife was burning the hottest and saw exactly why they won the honour in 2009.
I had booked a tour yesterday and it started at the Jeita Grotto, on the list of candidates for a natural wonder of the world. To my dismay, there were absolutely no photographs allowed in the grotto. It was a real shame as the caves and underwater river were the best caves I have ever seen! The main cave was over 80 metres in height and the underwater blue river would have been majestic to photograph. When I asked the reason why I could not take photos, they were very vague. When I was led by the gift shop, the reason became apparent to me as they were selling their images of the grotto!
From there it was off to Harissa, a hilltop church and lookout. May is the month of the Virgin Mary, so there were festivals and special sweets being sold. After indulging just a little bit, I was whisked off to a beach even further north where I was served a traditional Lebanese lunch right on the beach.
The last stop of the day was Byblos, the second oldest continuously inhabited city on earth (the oldest being Jericho). When I arrived at the old Crusade Era Church, there was a wedding in progress and I felt like the season had started already. I was tempted to pose the bride for the photographer, who obviously did not have “Boston Avenue” skills.
The city has over 7,000 years of history and was beautiful to photograph. The blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea provided a perfect backdrop and the warm sea air put a huge smile on my face.
I am writing to you now from my stopover in Dubai and sadly, this marks the end of the 2011 expedition. Stay tuned as I will not be traveling to a different city every day, but I will still be on the move and bringing you many more interesting images and stories!