Friday, 8 March 2019
I’m not sure when I got into the habit of taking a five hour flight just for a weekend, but here we are again.
This time to Lebanon.
I left London at 3pm. And five hours later, coming into land in Beirut. It was now 10pm.
The passport queue was long and very slow. It took about 45 minutes just to get through. No visa needed here, but they do stamp your passport! (and take their time about it…)
I was picked up by taxi and we headed off into the city. I’m staying in the city centre, for the next few days.
Saturday 9 March 2019
I had set my alarm for 9:30am, which despite being quite late, it’s actually 7:30am UK time. A bit of a struggle after a late night last night.
I got an Uber across to the eastern side of the city. The Gemmayzeh district. I’m joining a walking tour for the morning, which starts at the top of the Saint Nicolas stairs.
From here we walked around the neighbourhood. Our first stop was the Sursock Palace. This house was not destroyed during the Civil War because the lady who owns the house sold her underground supplies of water to her would-be attackers, which saw her and her house protected and it was left untouched.
Then we made our way through several winding staircases and small streets, back onto the main road.
We were shown various sights – graffiti, cafes, old buildings, new buildings (no one in them, just for money laundering), ruins of Roman baths and old markets.
We stopped for lunch at an Armenian bakery. They make flat bread, covered in vegetables (tomatoes and mushrooms), then wrap it up. It was really delicious.
The last street we went down was full of old derelict buildings, covered in overgrown trees and bullet holes. During the civil war, many people left the city and never returned. They never came back to claim their properties, so some have no known owners.
We finished at a mansion house, which was been covered into an open house. Which is free for anyone to come and use. They run yoga classes and have hot desking. Random!
After the tour ended, I walked back through the fancy flats, to the souq area. The actual souqs were destroyed during the civil war. In their place is a fancy shopping centre. Full of western brands. I may as well have been at home!
From the mosque I caught another Uber. This time, across to the western edge of the city. The coastline by the Raoche (pigeon rocks). A couple of rocks, in the ocean, nearby to the land.
They were fine. Not sure why they are such a big attraction. Restaurants and cafes lined the cliff edge. And the walkway was full of locals hanging about.
There is a vegan cafe nearby to here, I tried to find it, but failed. I ended up walking through a housing area. I did find a very colourful block of flats though!
I was back at Hamra street. The street I’m staying on. It’s full of shops and restaurants. And a bit run down.
For dinner I found a local restaurant opposite my hotel. And finally, time for hummus. There wasn’t a lot of vegetarian options, failed on falafels, so got some vine leaves instead. It was good.