Almost everyone wants to travel and see the world. But there are people that actually do take a chance to see the world, forgetting everything and putting all their trust on instinct. While, others just stay back and travelling seems like a dream that can never be achieved because of many reasons, and these reasons may range from lack of financial capability to the lack of being confident enough to put one’s self out there. Some people that do end up taking a chance and travelling dread the actual journey because of the long plane rides and long walks through an unknown airport to catch a connecting flight. Some get lucky and arrive at their destination after 2 hours or even less but others may spend 22 hours trying to get to their destination. But that’s the purpose isn’t it? Everyone wants a destination, no matter how long the process may be, we all arrive at a destination and that makes everything worth it. Unfortunately, I fell among the crowd in the middle of the spectrum, because my journey to Beirut from Ottawa took about 15 hours (including two plane rides and wait times at the airport).
The city, The people: Beirut I heard is the city that never sleeps. And I was always told never to believe whatever I hear unless I see it for myself. This simple sentence proved to be true right from the moment I stepped out of the airport. I remember leaving the airport at 2am and noticing how this city felt so alive unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I saw cars zooming past ours, and I remember noticing this one car where they had about 8 people in a 5 passenger car, and the car was so full that the driver had to stand outside the car and was driving…believe me this is possible. It surprised me so much that I instantly became a fan of the city. Just that one action and just that feeling of living freely…made me smile and fall in love with the city right away. The rest of my week went as beautifully as it started. And I was instantly surprised every day and I was always happy with every new information I learned about Lebanese people and about their city.
Like most people I am very comfortable knowing only one language, and that is English, because it is the official language in so many countries, why bother learning a new one, right? I was wrong, in Beirut anyway. Most of the people speak both French and Arabic. Not so much English. I was so shocked but most of all I was unable to comprehend how French can haunt me for so long. It’s been my worst nightmare since High school, which is why I never understood it. It is the second official language in Ottawa, a city I call home but because English is the only other official language, I didn’t think I had a problem. But in Beirut, I really wanted to go back in time and wish that I had learned the language. Finding someone from the city that spoke English fluently was hard to find for me, so there was always a language barrier. Despite this, majority of the people still learned to say “hello”. Everywhere we went, someone from the city would stop us and say that beautiful word, “hello” with such a smile that you almost find it very hard not to fall in love with the whole city. Other people that were more advanced in English, didn’t even stop at Hello, they will go on to say “Hello, you are welcome to Lebanon”…This I found was very beautiful, no matter how simple those words may sound.
Another thing I noticed were the clothes and the outfits. Beirut should be a fashion central, if it already isn’t. The same stores you can find in America and the UK were all in Beirut, but the styles were different. I remember how content I always felt going into one of the stores and shopping so much because the styles were so different and the prices were a bit lower. Just like every girl, I like to shop. But walking down the street of Hamrah, till date, will be one of the happiest feelings I’ve ever felt in my life. That street has every store you want even if you aren’t aware of it. It is beautiful. I remember walking down that street for 4 consecutive days. It’s just one of those streets that you can never get tired of walking through.
Of course, because I am a big foodie, I like to try different food cuisines and Lebanese food of course goes straight to the top of my list. There are a lot of meat products in Lebanese food, this I noticed. They also have a lot of bread, which they appropriately call Lebanese bread a.k.a pita bread. Another thing I noticed was the non-stop coffee drinking. No matter where we went, we were always offered coffee. Now see, I am a big tea person, I rarely ever have coffee but wow the traditional coffee they make with ginger is the absolute best thing ever.
Places I recommend that you visit:
– Restaurants – Once again I am a big foodie, so it is only natural that restaurants will be the top recommendation. I noticed that a lot of Lebanese people loved to eat out, their reasons include that Lebanese meals are very tedious to make at home, so it is very convenient to just go out with your family or friends and have a meal. So, just like the Lebanese people, we went out to eat a lot and some of the restaurants stood out. They include;
i) Manuela Restaurant – This was right beside the ocean and the view is spectacular. It is one of the biggest restaurants I’ve ever seen and I’ve ever been to. The service was great and the chefs come up to your table to ask if you are satisfied. This I thought was very good.
ii) Mandarine Restaurant – This restaurant I remembered had one of the best salad bars I had seen and their chocolate fudge cake with pistachio and chocolate sauce was the absolute best dessert I’ve ever had.
iii) P.F. Chang’s China Bistro – This is no doubt the best Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to…and I’ve been to several Chinese restaurants. I’ll leave it at that.
– Malls – Are you noticing a pattern already? Once again I like to shop so Beirut was the perfect place to go to shop. It had everything a girl ever wanted, malls, outlet stores, etc. I recommend that you visit ABC mall in Achrafieh, City Centre Beirut, City Mall and of course Hamrah street because of all the outlet stores (a.k.a outdoor mall).
– Nature/tourist Centres – because Lebanon is very historic, we visited a few attraction sites that truly proved how remarkable mother earth is. So I recommend that you visit the Kfarhim grotto, Raouche rocks, Moussa Palace (the romantic story associated with this palace was beautiful and amazing), Mir a Mir Palace (one of the oldest hotels in Lebanon), and of course the Jeitta Grotto (This grotto was the most remarkable and amazing thing that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Walking up those ice caves, sailing through the almost miraculous yet beautiful water at the bottom of the cave, and for me, it was seeing God’s creation at it’s best. This grotto was filled with a world of wonder). I highly recommend visiting it.
– Cities – because every city is very close to Beirut, I suggest venturing out to other cities and exploring the culture and nature of every neighboring city if you ever wish to escape the Beirut city life. The cities I’ll recommend visiting are, Byblos (old Lebanon with its historic buildings and old-town feel) and the city of Minna. Very beautiful places.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
Here are some amazing photos from my trip: