Showing posts from January, 2019

Lebanon, Part I: The Country

I like to take a winter week away, especially while living in France.  Last year it was the Maltese Islands, this  year Lebanon .  I've been fascinated by the Middle East (and North Africa) for several years, and go wherever and whenever I can.  Lebanon is easy and affordable to get to from France; they speak English and French there (in addition to Arabic, of course); and although this would be my 55th country visited, I still didn't have an "L" for my alphabetical repertoire. Lebanon is impossible to explain.  It is, to say the least, daunting to try to explain a country that really was always meant to be part of Syria, with 7,000 years of history during which it was ruled by 19 civilizations and empires (e.g., Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantium, Crusaders, Ottomans/ Arabs, French...) and is now run by religious sects that are always at odds with each other. Daunting, yes -- but fascinating! There aren't a lot of photos in this "chapter&quo

Lebanon, Part II: Beirut

Once known as "the Paris of the Middle East", the capital city of Beirut 29 years post-civil war is anything but that now.  Today it is an overbuilt and crowded conglomeration of  bombed-out, crumbling and renovated buildings abutting new construction, with an overwhelming landscape of high-rises, lacking in both greenery or even beauty.  Stores, restaurants, banks, mosques and churches, high-rise residential and business towers -- all have been built or inserted helter-skelter without plan or infrastructure, connected by an automobile-clogged network of streets and roads devoid of public transportation. On the plus side, it exudes life and diversity. I was staying at the excellent Hotel Cavalier in the lively section of town called Hamra. I spent the first part of my first day (a Sunday) walking the main street, Hamra Street, starting with a "petit déjeuner" (breakfast) that I could never again replicate and from the next day on, ate breakfast at th