Apparently there are people who are reluctant to come visit Beirut. I probably wouldn’t have come here had it not been to work on a project but coming here was something I was certainly looking forward to. In Ireland we laughed at people in the USA who were afraid to come to Ireland because of the terrorism, largely associate with Northern Ireland. Yet today we’re exactly the same in our views towards travel to places like Beirut. So here it is, my attempt to convince people that they’re missing out by not coming here.
We all know security can be a worry and Beirut has had plenty of turmoil with explosions to go with that. Yes, it can go to the brink of chaos and descend into the horror of conflict that only deep historical loathings and hatred can give being to. Just as easily it can go back to normal. Normal for Beirut is something special, more about that later. This brink-and-back situation is not unlike parts of Northern Ireland during the marching season when a handful of controversial marches light the tinder. Most people genuinely care about their fellow person here, a good example was relayed by one of our Canadian colleagues who told of a driver stopping to help them cross the very busy and ever flowing road. Violence is the exception and makes for good news. Normality doesn’t. Don’t define a place by its exceptions.
People in Lebanon surprise you, be it with their cheerful spirit and the pleasure they take from seeing a visitor enjoy themselves. You get that from the attendant in the hypermarket at the gas/petrol station to the people you’re working for/with. They smile when you tell them that you quite like being back in Beirut and have been enjoying visiting some of the historical sites like Baalbeck and Byblos. They’re happy to see you enjoy eating the great Lebanese food and fall in love with the strong coffee you’ll get here as in other parts of the region. They ask you to tell other people what they’re like and that they have a proud and long history of civilisation. Colleagues who are no longer on the project are remembered at restaurants, bars, barbershops, all over the place and their little habits or personality traits remembered. The nightlife here is just amazing and has a sense of vibrancy and fraternity that you don’t find in many places. Wandering around the nightspots of Beirut there are wonderful places to eat, drink, smoke, etc. No one passes any heed on you so you can be the ‘grey man’ if you want.
The historical sites here are just amazing, I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere else that I’ve been wowed so many times. For these alone, I’d say it’s essential to visit here if you have an interest in history.
I’m glad to be here and looking forward to being here again after my next trip home to Ireland. Do yourself a favour and consider a visit.