Saturday, November 20, 2010
Just returned from a week in Lebanon. Honestly I will have a hard time verbalizing the experience. A lot of what I found there was both surprising and somehow eerily familiar. The country is beautiful, and yes the rumors are completely true- the people are equally gorgeous. The food is phenomenal, really impressively good. (Had the best hummos I've ever had in Baalbek and the best backlava courtesy of Tripoli.) It occurred to me a couple days in to the trip that Lebanon is what I pictured the "Middle East" to be like before I really knew what it was. Starring at the late-afternoon moon above the citadel in Tripoli, I was reminded of this very early childhood impression. Perhaps it's hard to sum up my impressions because of the many juxtapositions or in some cases contradictions swirling around in one small country. Beirut, as it's reputation describes, is very cosmopolitan. The city was full of girls wearing short skirts and spaghetti strap tank tops. Coming from Egypt this was surprising. As I navigated my way through the perfectly groomed, cosmopolitan youth, it was hard to get a sense that this city was the site of much and recent conflict. The bullet holes still visible in many buildings however provided adequate proof. Furthermore, thanks to the myriad construction projects downtown, all prophetizing grand apartments, and the designer shops lining the downtown corridors, there is an intentional feeling of luxury in Beirut. This bubble however, was popped when speaking to some Lebanese friends about job opportunities there. They assured me that the wages in the country are not what you would expect them to be. The new luxury apartments are only being built because international investment groups could afford them, not because of any measured demand. So it was nice to get outside the city as well and see more of the country. One day we ventured to Baalbek (where the above photo was taken) to see the famous ruins, and another couple of days were spent in Tripoli. The most rewarding experience I had though will have to be saved for another blog post.