Although wonder has always peppered my travels, rarely did I come across the unexpected. When you go to Rome, for example, you may marvel at the sights, you may gawk at the buildings, but that is what you expect of Rome. You’ve probably seen numerous pictures beforehand, and bought the city guide.
But my visit to Beirut in Lebanon was unexpected in every way.
For one, it was far from Southeast Asia,
where I currently was. Visiting Beirut was a spur of the moment decision. And two, much like Byblos City, it went against the grain of what I envisioned it would look like. This was the Middle East. I expected the Middle East. Instead, I was received by a city which dwelled on dichotomies. I can’t remember ever visiting a place where I could go snow skiing at a nearby mountain in the morning, then hit up the beaches in the early afternoon–especially in the Middle East.
For the most part, the central part of Beirut defies its Arabic roots and leans towards a more European allure.
Its newly-paved roads, modern buildings, and ornamented lampposts suffuse romance into the soul of a city built with a purpose: to seduce. Here, patrons and tourists of faraway origins sit at Parisian-style bistros, savoring meals over drinks or coffee, as the sea-breeze shyly approaches, plants a kiss on their cheek, and quickly fades.
The best vantage point I found
was the peak of nearby Brumana. It displayed a city kissing the edge of a Mediterranean whose satin sheen is sure to capture a tranquil poem on your face.
And although the scars of a twenty year civil-war remain–with buildings riddled with bullet holes and rocket fire–the overhaul of the downtown area is especially astounding.
The new architecture resembles a coastal Italian city.
A city which broke off from Europe and beached ashore here, commanding the best real estate on this side of the Mediterranean. It is a definite mark of artful modernism amidst its Arabian neighborhoods.
But when I say it resembles Italy,
or even France, I don’t imply that it copies either one. It’s skyline, just like its culture, is unique in every way. Nothing can replace the light-heartedness of its citizens either, a people without worry and who live for the moment with a joie de vivre hardly found anywhere else.
This joviality pollinates the atmosphere of Beirut, but is quick to dissipate beyond the country’s borders.
As many Lebanese revolts,
or bombings, or faction wars as there have been, the city pulses with the electric ambiance of Arabian youth co-mingled with a Western element. I’ve included a picture to show you the spirit of my words. I chose not to show you the beautiful skyline, but instead a picture on a typical day, at a pool, of a joyful world which goes on despite the bombed-out hotel in the background.
For even in the depths of murky oceans,
nature has learned to adapt and fashion beauty from danger.
Just as the Lebanese have learned to fashion hardships into this pearl.