Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pilgrimage from Beirut (City Mall) to Beirut (City Center) 12/08/08

We all sleep in again and by the time we leave the house it's after 10am. Ryan and Jen offer me a lift down to the main road, deciding on the way they can't let me leave without trying the "best (something) in the world". Driving down to their local take-away they shout me breakfast...

I have tried a lot of toasted sandwich looking things in my life and this one definitely rates up there! Absolutely awesome!!! A perfect way to start the day, cheers guys :)

Finding a service taxi going to City mall is a bit of a mission but finally I succeed. It's always a good feeling to start walking knowing I only have 5-10kms for the day. The highway is busy, making for a noisy smelly morning and spotting a big road turning off, I head West.

My hotel is located on the northern coastline of the peninsular, which I thought would be extremely easy to find but before I know it I've lost the coast and have highways going everywhere. Time to ask for directions...

The good news is my hotel is only 3kms away so it isn't long before I'm at their doorstep. One of my friends use to live in the apartments, owned by the hotel, across the road so I ask if they have a room free there. I'm in luck and with a big room and wireless internet $20 a night is a bargain :)

Setting myself up, I have a quick shower before heading out to explore my area. Beirut is an extremely beautiful city with a wide variety of architecture. The military presence is quite strong though and the main restaurant district is completely cordoned off. No cars allowed inside and armed soldiers search every bag before entry.

And the best thing is I get sushi for lunch. Wonderful!!!

Heading back to the apartment Ken, my flatmate makes an appearance and invites my to a movie showing in the evening. Sounds great :)

And it is! The movie is Korean and is being shown in Club 43, a cool little place located in Gemayze dedicated to promoting religious tolerance throughout Lebanon. They have regular meetings discussing the problems facing their country and the Christian members often attend prayers with their Muslim friends while the Muslim members attend prayers with their Christian friends. Sounds like such a simple thing to do but it's amazing how radical this idea is to many people. It reminds me of a time in Nicaragua when I was spending time with some young Israelis...

I had been hanging out with these guys for a couple of days, they were great fun to be around and appeared to be extremely open minded. Coming home one day from wandering the town one of the guys looks incredibly distraught...

"What's wrong?"

"I've been crucified!!!"

Laughing "What?"

"I've been crucified!!! A woman down the street just crucified me!"

I look to his friends trying to get some help but they just laugh and shrug. He calms down and I find out he had just been blessed by an old woman in the street, which involved her tracing a cross on him with her hands. This simple act left him in a state of despair. How does it come to pass that a person feels so horrified from being blessed???

And it's this same distress I don't understand from a family whose children decide to attend prayers of a different religion. What are they all so afraid of???

On the way home Ken and I decide to go for one last beer and finding a nice little bar down a side street we grab a drink. It ends up being a good choice, before I'm chatting to this wonderful young woman by the name of Ladile. A complete nutcase but incredibly fun to talk to :)

She gets off the phone not looking so happy...

"Whats wrong?"

"My lift home just called and can't pick me up. I'm going to have to taxi home which is expensive"

"That's alright. I was planning on kidnapping you anyway" :)

Laughing "I am a Lebanese girl. You will NEVER find a Lebanese girl who will go home with you on the first night you meet"

"No seriously, my room does actually have two beds so if you do want to stay you are more than welcome"

"We'll see, but you know I have a boyfriend and nothing will happen"

"If you don't mind me trying I don't mind you saying no" :)

Shooting me a look like she doesn't quite know what to make of me she once again replies with "We'll see..."

Finishing my beer I let Ladile know I'm leaving and if she wants a place to stay she's more than welcome. Checking with her friend she must decide I'm harmless and takes me up on the offer...

"But you can't think badly of me for doing this. Lebanese girls never do this!"

It must be hard for young people in conservative cultures where simple things can be extremely damaging to their reputation. She is coming over to sleep in a separate bed and is still worried about what I will think of her. The Lebanese appear top be very open in many ways but the idea of sex before marriage is still a BIG no no...

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