Beirut is not your average destination for a long week-end, but having just returned from 4 amazing days I could not recommend it more highly. After 15 years of civil war, ongoing tensions with Israel and the tragic civil war in neighbouring Syria, the city is unsurprisingly tarnished by the brush of war.
Flying into Beirut I was slightly apprehensive. However, I was put at ease by stories of the city’s famous parties and the knowledge that we would be looked after by my sister Collette who has been living there for 2 years working for the International Rescue Committee.
The trip went by in a flash as we darted around the city on scooters taking in everything around us. There was a definite buzz and a creative energy in the air, as people spilled out of bars on to the streets. The abandoned buildings and interesting spaces often caught my eye. In many ways it is what I imagine Berlin to have been like after the fall of the wall. It is a city bursting with potential and I left with a sense that creatively, it is on the brink of something very exciting.
The city lies on the Mediterranean so one afternoon we headed north to a picturesque spot on the coast where we swam of the rock and into beautiful caves. The basic beach shack served delicious fresh fish with a selection of traditional Lebanese dishes. Despite the urge to head straight home, we were led straight into town to a club where a Glaswegian DJ played disco into the early hours.
We were also keen to learn as much as possible about the history and ongoing politics of the country - which I found hugely fascinating! But I can't say I any nearer understanding it! My sister, who speaks Arabic almost fluently, took us into one of the Palestinian camps just south of Beirut where she had lived for over a year. It is easy to get caught up in the hedonism of Beirut and forget that 1 in 3 people in Lebanon are refugees, a number that has sharply risen in recent years with the civil war in Syria. The camp we visited was fascinating as we tried to comprehend what it must be like to live away from your home for so long. We met an amazing old couple who had fled Palestine in 1948. They were some of the first to arrive in Beruit and their stories will stay with me for the rest of my life. Their honesty and positivity was truly inspiring. Let us hope that Lebanon’s growing economy will see life for those in the camp improve.
We also went north to see the dramatic ruins of Baalbeck - an ancient town that has been built on for thousands of years. On our way we stopped off at a vineyard where we drank some of the best rose I have had in years. So good that we left with a case.
After four short days we left hugely inspired by the people’s huge generosity and the countries natural beauty and really could not recommend it more highly.
As a country of strong faith I was careful as to what I wore - but luckily all my Gather&See garms were perfect and I ended up leaving a few with my sister!
I also had my Gather&See eye out and found a beautiful shop called Zawal that works with local artisans in Lebanon - I fell in love with the hand blown glassware........Coming to G&S soon.
Restaurants & Bars
Massaya - http://www.massaya.com
Things to do
Soap Musuem and souks in Sidon
Joining Beach, North Beirut