It's Beittedine, not Betadine
Beirut Travel Blog› entry 9 of 32 › view all entries
I woke at about 4:30am due to my body clock being on Colombo time (2.5 hours earlier). I messed around until about 7am and took a sustaining breakfast of fuul at a nearby cafe ... the Lebanese version here is different from the Yemeni. For a start, the broadbeans are mixed with chickpeas ... and it is more flavourful due to the spices, lemon and lots of garlic. Also the beans are whole rather than mashed.
Beittedine and its Festival
I took a bus to Beittedine about an hour south-east in the Chouf Mountains. Using public transport gave me a better taste of Lebanon because the last two times (with two and four people respectively), we had the economy of scale of using a taxi everywhere.
Beittedine is a castle built by an Ottoman-appointed governor about 200 years ago. It was an impressive residence but disappointment set in when I realised that I’d miss the Beittedine Festival ... and it was also its 25th anniversary.
The Beittedine Festival brings together an eclectic mix of musical performances over July/August each year ... both Arab (eg. Fairuz and Om Kalthum) and non-Arab (eg. Elton John, Kiri Te Kanawa, Placido Domingo). As for Shakira ... she’s both!
Actually I could go to a performance by Pink Martini tonight but I had never heard of them before. The only performance that I knew was Il Divo, but I should be in Hama, Syria on the day of their performance.
I made a brief stop at the picturesque village of Deir al Qamr on the way back. How? Err ... I hitched. A van of army guys picked me up but they were moonlighting as a shared-taxi service at the same time, so there was a small payment due at the end of the short ride.
Mass Poisoning by Carbon Monoxide
From Deir al Qamr, I took a shared taxi back to Beirut. All was uneventful until when we approached Beirut. The traffic on the southern motorway was chocka! I don’t know why!? It was like someone had spread a vicious rumour that the southern neighbour was having a bad hair day and it was best to evacuate to the north!
It got worse when we got into a long tunnel underneath Beirut International Airport.
Soccer Fever Knows No Bounds!
I hopped off the taxi in the Beirut Central District re-development area to find that it has expanded substantially since my previous visit. There’s now a souk-style mall in addition to the reconstructed shops and cafes. Very impressive!
Once it had cooled down in the the evening (it is about 32 degC and a bit humid), I took a 1.5 hour walk (each way) to Manara Lighthouse where there is a an outdoor restaurant by the sea. One can watch the waves lapping against the rocks or big jets doing their final approach into the airport.
It became apparent that Germany had defeated Argentina in the World Cup. Cars and bikes with people hanging off them were waving the German flag and chanting "Allemania" (Arabic for Germany). It wasn't just an excuse to party ... soccer-fever knows no boundaries ... there was a woman all dressed in black with a black headscarf with two German flags painted on her cheeks!
Toilet Hygiene 101 for Men
While at Manara Palace I needed to use the loo ... the urinal ... it was interesting to note that each one was equipped with a hand held mini-shower nozzle (called a hand bidet in some countries when installed next to a toilet bowl). I believe it is to enable people to wash afterwards as it is a religious requirement!