The Arab playground, Paris of the Middle East, but a name synonymous with war and death.
Walking through my local DIY store I received a call from a number I didn’t know. It was the offer of a job in Beirut. My mind was immediately focused on the images I remembered from the telly, street to street fighting, a city in ruins and the very recent assassination of Rafic Hariri, the former Prime Minister.
I took the job and a few days later found myself arriving at Rafic Hariri international airport. A disorderly queue for a visa negotiated I wandered out into the warm November sunshine.
Whilst the first views were of disorder and untidiness, there was no sign of the ravages wreaked by many years of fighting, so I hopped into a taxi and gave him the address of my hotel in Achrafieh. Ah, this is more what I expected to see:
but in the city centre itself this is the only real in your face reminder of the recent brutal past.
During my year in Lebanon I saw the whole country (its not very big) and fell in love with it, but Beirut is an exceptional place. The city centre, completely rebuilt after the long civil war, is akin to Milan or Paris, but warmer.
The nightlife is incredible, the food fantastic and random bits of archeological history keep popping up as you discover more of the area.
Skiing in the morning and swimming in the afternoon is possible here, I know as I’ve done it, from a frisky snow covered mountain to a warm sandy beach, where giant turtles aren’t uncommon, in around 90 minutes.
Evening strolls along the Corniche were times that I still remember fondly, ice cream in hand looking discretely at the most beautiful women ever put on this earth, Lebanese women truly are stunning and they helped make my year away from home pass a lot quicker than it perhaps could have.
From seeing the Cedars to taking tea with Walid Jumblatt, my year in Lebanon and specifically Beirut enriched me more than I could ever have imagined it would.
More from the letter B at: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/