It is 5pm and I am sitting in a modern, trendy coffee shop across the road from the American University of Beirut. It is easy to think that I am anywhere in the world but the noisy, crazy traffic outside and the Arabic language being spoken around me is a definite reminder that I am in Beirut. It is winter and already dark but I am still dressed in shorts. The weather has been fantastic, beautiful days spent in this vibrant city on the shores of the Mediterranean.
For a change I am not thinking about dinner. Lunch was yet again a Lebanese feast of utterly delicious dishes with exotic sounding names like Mjadara, Sojok and Shakshoukeh and the more familiar Hommos and Labneh drenched in local olive oil and I am happily satisfied at the moment. But at some point my mind will wander to what to have for dinner before the evening’s plans kick off.
You see we have been invited for drinks at a bar in the Gemmayzeh area of the city to celebrate the birthday of a friend of a new Beirut friend. And I am sure after that it will be another bar and so on. And that encapsulates the experience with the people of this city. Friendships are instantly made and you are then included in invitations for dinners and drinks as if you have always been part of the circle. And expect that text message in the morning to check if everything is still fine and if you need anything.
The food has been spectacular. The service exceptional. The local wine and beer fantastic. We have been sampling Lebanese food at every opportunity. We were told that we have to try Armenian food and we did with great satisfaction. Places like Tawlet and Chez Maguy have delighted. And we are rather proud of discovering Bakkar, the hole in the wall falafel shop with the insanely bright fluorescent lighting but lip smacking falafel. Which of course I have to go back to for another fix before coming home but is more closed than open for business.
We’ve managed to escape the city too and made it to the top of Mount Lebanon, discovered Batroun and walked around ancient Byblos. I am not quite ready to think of the reality of coming home tomorrow.
But armed with notes and memory cards filled with photos I have many hours of writing about the city and what we’ve discovered to look forward to. It definitely has been a case of “Live Love Beirut”. Something I hope I can do in the future again.