Day 11: Beirut
Beirut Travel Blog› entry 19 of 54 › view all entries
Today we had been invited for a Sunday lunch barbecue at Gilbert and Rhanda - the couple we'd met on the trip from Latakia to Beirut. Gilbert and his daughter Joy picked us up at 12:30 and we drove to their country house in the mountains, some 40 kilometres from Beirut.
Well, country house... country mansion would be more appropriate, as it was a pretty big place with a really big garden and an even bigger orchard.
That orchard was the domain of Zhousou, Rhanda's brother (or uncle, I am not entirely sure) who has been growing apples, pears, apricots, plums, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, beans, olives, dates and whatever more since his retirement.
Furthermore the sisters of Rhanda and Gilbert were also there, along with a collection of kids - in total there were 14 of us.
And we were the guests of honour, so to speak, so we were absolutely stuffed with food. Zhousou kept throwing new meat on our plates; Kofte (Lebanese hamburgers so to speak), Shish Kebab, drumsticks, lamb chops... and all the while we also had to sample all the stuff that was laid out on the table, the two salads and the hummus and the french fries and the bread. And all this food was rinsed down with some Arak, the Lebanese national drink. Arak is quite similar to Ouzo or Raki, an aniseed distillation.
And everything was home-made, up to and including the Arak, which Zhousou distils in his basement “and”, he assured us, “mine is triple distilled, instead of the normal which is only distilled twice, so this one won't give you a hangover!” and he poured us another one.
Zhousou was a great character. Retired and fully enjoying his life. When he asked us what kind of work we do I told him the usual vague story of 'something with selling computers' (I can barely explain my line of work to people back home, let alone to someone in this country).
So I asked him what kind of work he did before his retirement. He told me had worked for a company called Sita for 28 years, had I ever heard of them by any chance?
I nearly fell to the floor laughing. To explain, I work for a company called Orange Business Services, formerly known as Equant. And Equant is a split off of a company called... Exactly! Sita!
As Lebanon is a relatively small company for telecom business, Sita and Equant were never fully separated, so in a way Zhousou had worked for Equant as well.
It's a small world!
The afternoon just flew by and around 5:30 everybody went back home and we returned to the hotel. Today is without a doubt one of the most special days I have ever experienced while travelling. It was really, genuinely pleasant company, these people are just so hospitable and friendly and sincere. They simply invited a couple of total strangers to come over for lunch because they enjoy having guests, asking nothing in return, only a smile and a handshake.
Still overwhelmed of the day, and completely stuffed, we decided to go for another stroll along the Corniche, ending up at the Bay Rock café again for a cup of tea and a sheesha. Tomorrow we're heading back to Syria, but I will definitely miss Lebanon.
This really is a country to return to some day, for a proper visit. These three days were no more than a little teaser. It was like a 'holiday within our holiday', and it really felt like that. It really felt like taking a weekend break, you know, just go relaxing in Beirut before continuing the hard work of travel...