Growing up I often heard of the elusive ‘Beirut’ as it was a phrase often said when describing a particularly violent/horrific place “ooh I wouldn’t go there it’s just like Beirut that is”. At that time I had no idea what Beirut was or where it was, I actually assumed it was one of New York’s dodgier neighbourhoods filled with gun crime and drug addicts.
Later I encountered it again in the amazing book An Evil Cradling, a brilliant, well written account of a teacher kidnapped and held hostage in the very city of Beirut in the 1980s. His detailed descriptions of survival in a prison cell are inspiring, it’s an absolutely fascinating read, but again, it didn’t exactly showcase Beirut as a safe destination, and I certainly had no desire to visit. Although I now had the geography right- in the Middle East rather than North America, I still had it down as a place where you certainly wouldn’t walk down the street alone!
Yet here I am a decade or two later, long after the civil war, walking down the streets of Beirut, and indeed walking them alone! Why? Well we were given a long weekend and I wanted to get away from Dubai. I want a place I can walk, I want to be out of the oppressive heat and I want something different. The flights to Beirut were four hours away so I booked it before I could change my mind. After some research I started to feel nervous. Was I being crazy?! It does border Syria after all. People acted like I was crazy when I said was coming here. Almost like I am asking for trouble.
But I arrived last night and instantly fell in love. Any concerns I had (brought about by other people) about safety or anything else instantly dissipated. It’s so easy to just focus on the negatives of a place- in the western world there is such fear mongering about the Middle East. Yet mainly by people who have never been. Yes there’s risks but there are risks in London, in New York, in Berlin.. yet we aren’t told to stay away from those places.
Back to Beirut- It has such character, the buildings are quirky and interesting, the people are friendly… I spent last night enjoying shisha, drinks and great conversation with some people I met.
Today my plan is .. well I don’t have a plan, just to wander, see the city, soak up the atmosphere. I’m so thankful I decided to come. Some words of wisdom, don’t listen to people who criticise without actually having any insight or knowledge, listen to people from that place or who have been there, not people who sit at home read the tabloids and barely leave their home town. You are limiting yourself so much by doing that. Open your mind, open your world and go and see it for yourself.
Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.