Saturday, February 27, 2010

Act II: Beirut

"Advance, and never halt, for advancing is perfection. "

-Khalil Gibran

I flew into Beirut on Jan. 23 to visit my friend Tyler who is doing graduate school at the American University of Beirut. Fortuitously, he had break at the same time, but it didn't start until a few days after I arrived. It gave me time to get over the jet lag and explore a bit on my own though. We left for Damascus soon after he finished his exams, but not before seeing some sights around the town.

Beirut is an amazing city. It was engulfed in a civil war as recently as 1990, in addition to the war in 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah, but the city has bounced back to become a bustling, cosmopolitan city and all-together wonderful place to visit. Great restaurants, shopping, and beautiful sights to see. And incredibly fashionable people! I felt like such a bum there. Lebanese people seem to dress up to the nines just to go out for coffee.

Even now, as the city thrives in many ways, one can see bullet holes and shelled out buildings around the city. There are also policy check points on many roads, and occasional tanks maintaining a presence in the city, as a preventative measure. It doesn't faze anyone in Beirut, much like the frequent power outages. Having much more to do with Lebanese politics than a direct result of the civil war, power outages are extremely common. There are rolling blackouts, three hours every day at a shifting time, so most people have generators.

The gorgeous Pigeon Rocks (above) are within walking distance of Tyler's apartment - lucky!

They're even more beautiful at sunset.

The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque (pictured below) was built by the late Lebanese Prime Minster Rafik Hariri. Haririr was assassinated in 2005, before the mosque opened. It's a beautiful building, and its striking blue dome was the first thing I saw as we drove through the city center the first time.

For more information on Lebanon's civil war, I recommend Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation. I managed to read a little more than half while I was visiting Tyler, and it was well worth the effort.

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