After a few days of group planning, I booked my ticket through Expedia and was all set to go. I flew to Paris on the initial part of the journey and landed in Beirut at sunset the following day. As the plane made final descent into the Beirut Rafic-Hariri International airport, I glanced a peek through another person’s window seat in the same row. The sun was low in the sky, its blood orange color casting the skyline in pink glow. The Mediterranean Sea shimmered below me like a silver platter. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen and I cursed myself for not having a window seat and being able to snap some photos. To this day I cannot believe I missed a shot like that.
I was still a little nervous about being in Beirut during the cab ride to my hotel, but thankfully meeting up with Monika who was already waiting for me in my room and having a delicious Lebanese dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants helped ease me into the days ahead. We had the first day to ourselves exploring some of the streets and sights in the city and we quickly realized that it did, in fact, feel very safe. There were army men and police stationed throughout the city and everyone was willing to help us and guide us wherever we wanted to go. The police helped us safely cross some very busy streets, we got extra food free of charge in a cozy lunch café we stopped by at to eat and we had lovely conversations with strangers about anything and everything. We visited the National Museum and the largest mosque in the city. It was a solid and very pleasant introduction to the place.
If anything, Beirut struck me as a very interesting city. There is a mixture of cultures and styles there that seems to co-exist peacefully. Muslims and Christians share the close living space and there is not one uniform dress code that permeates the streets. As a female, if you want to wear a head scarf, you may very well do so. However, if you want to wear shorts and a tank top, you are also free to do so and no one will bat an eye at you. You can pray at a mosque and a church within the same hour as they are likely to be located close to each other. For dinner, you can have a traditional Lebanese dinner or a great sushi on the same street. And if you want to grab drinks with your friends, you can head to one of the bars in the hippest part of town that stay open late and busy into the night, blasting a mixture of Arabic and Western pop to dance to. For a more relaxed atmosphere, you can chill in one of the lounges and smoke shisha or sip a glass of one of the delicious local wines. There is a plethora of things to keep you busy in this very cosmopolitan city.
I want to make a disclaimer here though. I have not really become a travel expert on Beirut or Lebanon or anything of that sort. I was only able to spend a few days in the city and my knowledge of it, and the photography of the place, is very limited. I can only share what I’ve personally experienced in the short time visiting the city and show you the few images I’ve captured and consider worth sharing. They are definitely not adequate at this point. Perhaps I can return to Beirut again and immerse myself more completely in its culture and sightings, but this time around, the main purpose of my trip was to visit and photograph in the refugee camps, story of which I will share with all of you very soon.
So here are a few images of Beirut and its surrounding areas as seen through my eyes and my lens…They may not fully reflect the sense of place, but hopefully they can give you a glimpse of what I saw and experienced in those few days I visited Lebanon.
Next post I will take you guys to the camps…