April started with Easter. We had our close friends over for a traditional meal of ham, Bev’s scalloped potatoes, and JeriLynne’s famous carrots.
That weekend, we were invited by one of our AD Wine Club friends to go boating around AD’s small islands. We met at Marina Mall and set out on the water to Bahraini Island. A real fun bunch of people.
On Friday, April 13th Bec and I headed for AUH airport. We were off to Beirut, Lebanon for a 3 day weekend. We were informed on the aircraft that one of us could be upgraded. Before I could turn around, Bec had grabbed her things and was headed for the front of the plane.
We arrived in Beirut just 4 hours later and it was a pleasant spring day on the Mediterranean. We grabbed a cab and headed for our hotel in central Beirut. We were soon out exploring the city and made our way down to Zaitunay Bay, the city’s marina. We had a nice Lebanese lunch of a flat kibbeh, purslane salad, and a pile of olives (still can’t get enough Uncle Dale!). We back tracked a bit and walked down the famous shopping street of Hamra. We caught a great view from the 20th floor of the Crowne Plaza and visited the first ever Patchi chocolate shop, a favorite of ours in AD. That night, we did a little bar hopping in the Hamra district. First stop was the Main Street Cocktail Bar which was overflowing with people, but we still managed to get a seat and sample a cocktail or two. Later, we stopped in at La Prague for a cheese plate accompanied by some terrific Lebanese wine. On our way home, we found a true Beirut gem, the Salon Beyrouth near our hotel.
On Saturday morning, we visited the weekly market at Souq El Tayeb. We had a fabulous breakfast as we watched the interaction between shoppers and stall keepers. We did a little shopping ourselves picking up some dried fruit and fresh blackberries. The shopping continued nearby and we found a silver serving tray that we thought would be a nice addition to the home bar. Bec took care of the bill as a gift to me for reaching my 50th country visited. A real milestone on our travel journey!
We walked through downtown Beirut that is home to a dense concentration of edifices of varying faiths. The Al Omari Mosque, Mansour Assaf Mosque, Saint George Maronite Cathedral, Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, and the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral to name a few. We continued through Martyrs’ Square and checked out the funky neighborhood of Saifi Village. We moved east down Gourard Armenia Street and stopped in at a few art galleries along the way. We got a good tip from a local artist to visit the nearby Nicolas Sursock Museum, so we went, but it was closed for a private function. We stayed for a traditional Lebanese drink of sharab el toot with zanjibayl which translates as mulberry syrup and ginger. Delicious! We continued down to the famous nightlife district of Mar Mikhail, but it was a little early to get a real feel for it. So, we turned tail and headed back to Beirut Souks mall. We stopped for a beer and grilled calamari and did a little more shopping before heading back to the hotel.
That night, we went for a walk down the Corniche Ain Mreisse and had dinner on the water. We couldn’t resist and headed back to our local, Salon Beyrouth, to end the night. They had a band playing and we had just as much fun as the first night.
With just a half day left in the city, we wanted to see Pigeons’ Rock. So, back down to the Corniche we went and walked along the promenade with our coffees. There was some sort of race going on and the traffic had been blocked off at both ends (which I’m sure made for a more enjoyable walk). People were out fishing and swimming along the jagged shore. We finally made it to the Raouche district and caught our first glimpse of the impressive rocks. We came across a restaurant that had been recommended to us, Al Falamanki, a local chain that, in this case, is built on top of the seaside cliffs. We had a great breakfast overlooking the sea and famous rocks. Maybe a bit reminicent of our time in Albania? From there, it was back to the hotel and on to Abu Dhabi. Very impressed Beirut, next time we’d like to see a little countryside!