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Beirut - Day1 - 9/11/2002: Center of Town, Jounie, Telepherique, Harissa

Just got back from a fabulous and tiring day.  Started with a walk and breakfast pastry with Keith, Nada, and self.  Wandered around the old part of Beirut in early morning, visited the American University, fabulous grounds. 

From early morning temperatures,  people could tell day was to be a scorcher.  Had fabulous walk through old central area of town that is being rebuilt.  They are doing a fabulous job, but corruption and cost overruns are making a perennial scandal.  Buildings are gorgeous though.  When trying rebuild they keep finding layers and layers of prehistoric/roman/you-name-it ruins.  Without money, they are capping in concrete to protect, and building up.  There are ruins and columns in downtown streets with streets running right next to them.  The hard part to imagine is that the entire city is built on top of ruins.  Incredible!!  Had coffee in shop that was not even open for business yet.  We were tired and Nada just walked up and asked.  Amazing, just like Amsterdam, people are friendly and helpful.  You forget how seemingly cold and uncaring and busy we are with our day-to-day lives and how much bad service we put up with from folks. 

Went down to the waterfront which was mostly deserted.  Apparently people staying in due to 9/11 anniversary.  Was very pretty and Mediterranean was as gorgeous as it is supposed to be.  Boys and men fishing and swimming from the rocks. 

Due to tiredness and wanting to keep things short, we arranged a taxi through the hotel to take us Jouniah.  There is a Telepherique (cable car/pod) and a Funicular that takes you to the top of the mountains from Jouniah to Harissa.  Here is the white prominent statue of the Virgin Mary known as "Out Lady of Lebanon" or the "Virgin of Lebanon." Near the statue is the dramatic and modernistic Maronite cathedral.. The statue has been there since 1902 and is quite a landmark.  There were basilicas all over the place and we visited a few extra. 

Just below the "Virgin" & cathedral, we stopped for lunch and had a wonderful mezze platter.  Got to talking with the waiter and he was very excited that we were visiting, their business was also off that day.  Had a wonderful conversation and I was again impressed with the friendliness, openness, and conviviality of these Lebanese. 

Am back to hotel, staying at a very nice place in center of town.  Clean, amazingly helpful staff, internet cafe just down the block, stores and cafes all around, is tiny comfortable, very livable and pleasant city.  One can see why it was called the Paris of the Middle East, but I would also draw some similarities between it and SF.  Especially with it being along a gorgeous coastline (except this water is warm enough to swim in). 

More later ...

-Patrick (Dad is snoring)

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Excavated ruins in center of Beirut. One view of restored Beirut City Center. Keith & Nada on the water front. Another Beirut water front view.
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Not for the faint of heart - View from Telepherique of Jounieh & north Jounie Bay.


"Our Lady of Lebanon" statue center with Basilique on right


A fine spread of Lebanese food at the restaurant high above Jounie at the Telepherique terminus. (Did he spill something or is he checking his camera..?) More photos & info! We get our very friendly & helpful waiter to sit with Keith for this photo. The famous Casino du Liban can be seen in the distance between their two heads.


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