BootsnAll Travel Network

Beirut, Lebanon: Detour to Syria

Okay, plan B is in effect. So, with no possibility of entering via Jordan, I took a risk and flew to Lebanon in hopes that I can enter Syria via Lebanon. Supposedly, because there is no Syrian Embassy or Consulate in Lebanon, all visas are handled at the border, including the unwanted US type. So that is what I am riding my hopes on. What is the negative outcome possibility? Well, Lebanon is pretty much the most expensive country in the Middle East, bar the Gulf states, and they seem to pride themselves on charging Western prices on everything (dollars are used as much as the Lebanese pound.) So, to get out of Lebanon (with a $35US exit fee on top of it,) I would have to spend a few hundred dollars to fly to Turkey which would probably entail another flight to India. So, in an approximate 12 hours worth of driving, I will have spent close to $400US dollars. Not good for the old budget, and then add another god knows how much for the flight to India and blahhhhhhhhhhhh.

So, here I am, actually not in Lebanon as I am doing a quick trip over to Baalbak to visit some more Roman sites. Plus, the valley surrounding it is home to the Hezbollah, which just adds to the excitement. (Hezbollah- Gods warriors for Islam, funded by good old Iran, to get the Israelis out, you get the picture.)

It was pretty icky doing the capital city to the airport thing in Amman, Jordan. In the airport doing the cattle drive through immigration with all the other tourists, and then sitting in the generic airport surrounded by duty-free shops and people with laptops. I ended up paying $130JD ($1JD= $1.47US) for the 45 minute flight which included a cheese sandwich, fruit cake, and OJ. As fast as that, I was in Beirut, Lebanon.

I do have to say that I do not remember much about Lebanon or Beirut, but I did have flashes of a lot of destruction and bombings and such.

History of Lebanon off the top of my head- Lebanon was an offshoot of Syria which gained liberation in around 1947 after WWII. They were surprisingly a French, not-British, I guess pseudo colony. During that time, they were the pearl of the Middle East, fashioned with the style of France. Even then it was a very moneyed place. Then turmoil came and internal rife. There were huge problems with Israel (who would have guessed), where Israel ended up invading a few times on the basis of fighting the PLO. Then there was internal rifts as Lebanon had been a Christian dominated state. Soon though, the Muslim/Christian conflicts arose and there were bouts of Civil wars. On the verge of folding to the Islamists, the then President called upon Syria to intercede and stop the overthrow of the Government. The Syrians came and succeeded, but they also stayed which caused even more turmoil. Since all these problems occurred repeatedly, there was a long stretch of the whole place being turned to rubble. The US and the UN, also did their part of coming in, stirring the pot and then leaving (we never learn.) Currently, the Israelis are out but with tension, the Syrians are out, but with tensions, so Lebanon is left with conflict between the Christian groups, the Muslim groups (the Muslim groups have their own internal rifts between the Shiites and Sunnis) and then there is also of course the Durze who live up in the mountains and scare the shit out of all three of the other groups.

The positive is that that was then and this is now. Now, with the exception of 1 out of 10 buildings, Lebanon is a gorgeous city with modern stream lined architecture, westernized ways of life (most people have or strive to have a car (not just a car car, but a car like BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, etc. I hve seen three Ferraris so far.)), and of course the most beautiful women in the Middle East (I rank it as a tie between Israel and Lebanon with Israel having a plus of the Russian/Ukraine women, and Lebanon has Glamour magazine prototypes wrapped in Convertible Porsches.) The downtown area which was the most devastated area has totally been re-done on its first wave with pristine skyscrapers and modern colonialized government buildings, all with Rodeo drive type shops running the whole pedestrian only streets. I can’t even afford the starters in the restaurants there not to mention some of the clubs that have door charges of $50US. I had said previously first wave, as they are now in the process of filling up all the rest of the space with even newer buildings. The city runs along the Mediterranean sea, so there is also a nice peaceful walkway that runs the shore line which is a nice walk in the evening. The National Museum there is one of the nicest that I have been to with an incredible video of what the museum was like when it was built, what it looked like after the war, and then after the re-building. It was incredible how trashed it got and the condition it is not. I guess it reflects the city.

Beirut National Museum link.

I ended up staying for about four nights in Beirut just wandering throughout the city mesmerized by how shot up the building had gotten (the 1 in 10 that are still standing.) It is very disheartening seeing the buildings more so than pretty much that I have ever seen as you can tell where someone was standing on some rooftop as there is a concentration of bullet marks surrounding the area. This you have to understand is throughout the city. Beirut got tore up is the only way that I can describe it. Perhaps if all the old buildings get torn down and new ones ressurrected, the cities scars might go away, but for now, you are not far from seeing how bad things were on any given corner. One other shocking war sight was on the drive from Beirut to Baalbak. There is a pretty big concrete span bridge running over a sort of canyon. It’s pretty big and long. Well, halfway across a whole section was blown apart. You can see the shrapnel marks in the pylons next to the big gap (about 25 yards across), so you can tell that the bridge was either bombed or a bomb planted. Pretty impressive.

At the moment, it is probably not the best time to be visiting Lebanon as they are about to enter their Presidential elections. Right now there is a pro-western government in power, but the Iranian and Syrian backed Hizbollah party are pushing for a Hizbollah run government. What that means on the home front is that people are buying guns, lots of them. Now, a big part of ignorance and possibly the cause of a lot of violence is the media. An example. A couple of news agencies interviewed a gun dealer in Beirut. He tells them that business is booming so much that he can’t keep weapons in stock. Were not talking about militaries buying weapons, but just local people who know about civil war and what might happen. He tells them at the moment that he is buying weapons from arms dealers who really don’t have a side but are just in the business for money. He also states that it is both sides just loading up on weapons as they do not believe that there will be a peaceful solution. The reporters also claim that there are more and more civilians walking around the streets armed even though it is illegal, and when the police are asked about this, they are told that there is nothing that can be done. In the mountains, it has turned into a firing range as people are dusting off there old weapons and taking them up there to get some practice. The gun dealer stated that for an old Ak-47 he was selling them for around $400US, but now they are going as high as $900 with the price only increasing as demand increases. Now, sure it is an informative piece although very one sided, but shit, think about what this type of report creates. Hell, I wanted to go out and get my weapon because it sounds like it is going to turn into the OK corral soon. People will start getting scared, and fall into just what these people are reporting, even if it is not entirely true. Now, you have a bunch of armed people waiting for an election. Brilliant. The elections are not for another week or so, but I think I just might be out of here be then.

So thats Lebanon, Best looking women, Best food, most modern, most expensive, most explosive.

Some other photos of Beirut.
Beirut (1).JPG Beirut (6).JPG Beirut (10).JPG Beirut (11).JPG

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