I’m now writing from Damascus, Syria, using a proxy connection, once their government bloks sites such as YouTube, Facebook etc.
Definitely Lebanon has strong influences from the West. Beirut used to be called the “Paris of the East”. I’ve never seen a city where people like showing off so much. Not even in Geneva, the heaven for bankers and multimillionaires, I’ve seen so many Porches, Ferraris, Maserattis, Aston Martins, huge BMWs, Mercedez, and so on.
Beirutis like to party hard indeed. And I didn’t do differently: out of the 9 nights or so, I went out 8 times. Drinking Arak, an alcoholic transparent drink that when mixed with water turns white, plus drinking Long Islands was a regular thing every night, mainly at Torino pub, in famous Gemmayze.
Walking around Beirut we see almost all old buildings hit by several bullet shots: this is quite amazing for someone coming from such a peaceful country as Brazil. Actually, talking about Brazil, we see literally almost everywhere huge posters advertising Super Brasil, a coffee brand quite famous in Lebanon.
For breakfast I used to eat manaiche: those on the picture are of jebneh (cheese) and zatar.
On the streets, we see almost on every corner policemen carrying rifles. The army is also everywhere, with machine guns and rifles. We are not supposed to take pictures of them, but I managed to take this one from the bus.
Heading north on a minibus mainly with people from the army, to famous Baalbek, where we can find Roman ruins dating back from the 2nd century B.C., and with the highest columns in the world — that was really impressive — we could see a bridge under construction, after Israel bombed it in 2006. From the bus I could take a quick picture of workers on this truck, plus the mountains still with snow on the top, although being late Spring.
I wish I could have twitted around half a dozen times each day. There are lots of stories to tell: some are very hillarious, others sad, others interesting.
While in Baalbek, two teenagers came to talk to me. Then the typical questions: where are you from? What is your name? Brazil? Ronaldinho!!! Kaka!! “Me for Germany, him for England”, one of them told me. Then the guy says: “I’m Palestinian, do you like to go to a Palestinian camp?” Well, he asked the wrong person: of course I wanted to go. And so we did…
On the entrance, a youngmen carying a somewhat old rifle starred at me with a not very friendly look, but soon the guy told I was with him. No one is supposed to enter a camp without authorization. There I could see 2 schools built by the United Nations, besides lots of posters with photos of Yasser Arafat, and also Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s President. I was going to take a picture of some Arabic sayings on a wall, but the guy said: “no, not that one, you will be killed”. Well, I chose to follow his suggestion… But they were really kind, showing me around, putting me on a bus for my return to Beirut etc. Unfortunately the (other) pictures I took are on my Canon, reason why you’ll have to wait untill I return to upload them.
On my last day in Lebanon I went to Jbeil (or Byblos), one of the most ancient and continuously ihabited cities in the world, with more than 7,000 years old. The name of the Bible came from this very town…
On the way back we drove up from Jounieh to Harissa, where we ate great Lebanese food with a spetacular view to the Mediterranean, as you can see on the photo — and no, I did not digitally modify the picture, it was really like that.
More to follow on a way much more Eastern Damascus: this city has more than 10,000 years old, and we can still see very ancient narrow streets, passageways, besides very religious people. More to come…