This past Eid holiday I decided very impulsively to go to Beirut. Everyone knows that Beirut is the playground of the Middle East, or should I say the night club of the Middle East? I have made numerous trips in which to partake in the bustling night life of a city that truly doesn’t sleep. But this time it was different, very different.
This time it was a trip into the mountains, a trip to the sea, north, south and east we went. Meeting friends and their families, I got to see Lebanon from a whole other perspective. In Alay I played with statues and sculptures, constructed and created there during sculpting symposiums since 2000. It was a lot of fun walking around them, touching them, sitting on them, contemplating them, and of course photographing them. Ending the day looking at the sun set over the Mediterranean from an old family home.
In the south we walked through old costal cities with citadels and old towns still in use with people living among ruins or in old ancient homes. Walkways, arches, and old stones spoke of a rich history that needs to be visited and explored again and again. And in between Saidah and Sour we detoured to a stream that was nestled near a hill. It was so inviting that I waded in and just stood there in clear refreshing water. We also went further south to land that was occupied and now free, we went to Qana and visited the sites of massacres (I will write later about this experience).
And after visiting the south, we went north the next day. Up into the hills where we hiked down stairs that snaked down the side of a mountain. We stopped numerous times to look down at the beautiful Mediterranean cost, shimmering below us. At the bottom of the stairs lay a small monastery in honor of The Virgin that appeared in light to two wandering souls. The men lived there where they saw her and worshipped in a cave. The view was phenomenal and all we could think of was driving down and diving into the sea; and so we followed the road down to where it met the coast and though we couldn’t dive in we swam in clear deep waters.
It was a short trip and what time we spent in Beirut was spent by the sea or walking on foot. The city is a concrete jungle of many identities. It is a beautiful old lady. The obsession of the Lebanese with cosmetic surgery extends to their capital. The city is tired and old but it has been reconstructed, botoxed and made up in places, while others were being prepped for surgery; but throughout it all you can find pockets of authenticity and original beauty, still untouched. Beirut is a testament to its history even though there are no historical places to visit. You can find the beautiful old facades of colonial times and you can find the bombed out craters of a time past, new plazas and modern buildings are dispersed throughout the city, alongside preservation efforts. Beirut is a place you walk through aimlessly rather than with purpose.
Aimlessly, I went to Lebanon and I had a marvelous time. Lebanon and not just Beirut is a playground with something to offer every traveler. Next time you are in Lebanon try to go away from the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs and enjoy the country. Walk through its varied places. Enjoy it as it can be a very relaxing place with out all the night stimuli.