Our first day in Lebanon

At 4.45am, January 1st, 2015, Tom and I set off bleary eyed and still possibly a bit drunk, to Beirut, Lebanon, on one of our signature wacky trips.  This time, the trip is provoked by the wedding of one of my oldest and best friends, Lidija.  I can’t wait.

After a quick flight, we disembarked in Rome, Italy, for a 6 hour layover, prompting a bewildering rush to the centre of beautiful Rome.  My first time in the city, it is dazzling and confusing in its endless grandeur and pomp.  I didn’t know cities exist in the world which heave with such spectacular architecture everywhere you look.  Where to even point the camera? After a quick walk around the streets surrounding the forum and the Colosseum, it was back to the airport to get on our connecting flight to Beirut.

Following a flight during which we categorically awarded Alitalia the “rudest staff in the air” prize, we landed in Beirut.  A very merry man was waiting to wring our hands, welcome us, and march off to the car (which we eventually found in the carpark, through a team effort of “spot the flashing car lights”!).

Arriving in the Hamra district of Beirut, my heart sunk as, from the car window, I spotted our hotel, over the piles of rubble, down a dauntingly dark alleyway.  Oh-oh.

Nonetheless, a very friendly man ushered us inside to the hostel, which seems to be the only building in the street to survive intact and lived-in.  Squeezed into the lift on the way up to our room, our friend, explained to us that we’re very welcome in his Syrian hostel, which is usually for local Syrians, the owner being Syrian.  I’ve never been more terrified.

Our room was a throw-back to backpackers Kenya, with a 1 metre squared balcony allowing us to take in the view… of, well, rubble.

We quickly decided to venture out for dinner, so queue the first Beirut lesson: when crossing a road, just close your eyes and run.  Crossing a road in Beirut, is easily one of the most death-defying stunts I have ever performed.

We found a lovely little local cafe in a side street, where we plonked ourselves down and realised we don’t understand anything on the menu.  We ordered two local beers, and pointed at two pieces of “mezze” to take.  “That’s not a meal”, our waiter told us, in rusty English.  So we pointed at something else, “No”, he said.

“We don’t understand the menu,” I told him. “Can you help?”

“Take everything,” he said…

Finally, we arrived at a selection of foods (not everything), and enjoyed a very tasty Lebanese meal, before bravely venturing back to our hotel for a well-earned sleep.

In the morning, we spent over an hour wandering the streets for breakfast, being told that breakfast is only served from 11am onwards.  Maybe a lesson that breakfast isn’t eaten over here? (We’re still not sure).  We packed up, and jumped in a taxi to a new hotel (we had high hopes).

10 minutes into the drive, the taxi driver thrust a mobile at Tom, saying “my boss”… to which Tom was explained we must get out of the car and walk the rest of the way, as the streets are closed on Fridays.  Bewildered, we got out, and took out my free map of Beirut.

After 30 mins or so of wandering hopelessly around the streets of Hamra with our suitcases, a girl walked up to us: “Can I help you?” We went on to try and figure out where we needed to go, before another 2 young men walked over: “Do you need more help?” In the end, our 3 new friends helped us off in the right direction.  Apparently Lebanese students are unbelievably friendly!

Another few blocks down the road (and a bit lost again), a young couple stopped us: “What are you looking for, can we help?” (Again!!!) This time they were able to give us directions which got us straight to our new hotel, which MUCH to our relief is lovely!

We spent the afternoon wandering the streets of Hamra, trying to take it all in.

Now to get ready for the wedding of the year… 🙂




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