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Friday, 03 February 2012

Nothing Short of Exquisite: Lebanon at its Worst and Finest - Page 2

Written by Vana Kouyoumji
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Lebanese%20nightlife%20skybarIn Beirut, night life is the way of life. Every visit, I find myself in Jemeyze, a stretch of inviting Irish pubs, dive bars, and restaurants, crammed underneath apartments, compete to provide its patrons with the utmost possible service.  You must be able to hang with the Lebanese by taking back countless “Doodoo” shots, peppered tequila and Tabasco, and outlasting the sunrise. Among all, beach parties, blurring lines of age and status, are where locals congregate to dance on table tops to some of the hottest international DJs.

For a change of pace, Jbeil, or Byblos, should be taken in slow motion. Located in the Mount Lebanon region, the Phoenician port has stood still in time possessing a medieval charm uncommon in other fisherman towns. Colorful boats with Lebanese flags swaying in the breeze are parked along the grimy docks as trails of cobble stones branch out to quaint storefronts selling souvenirs stamped with a cedar tree, the national symbol. The freshest seafood can be eaten here. The preparation of assorted marine delicacies and hospitality prove to be nothing short of exquisite. A more indigenous version of Jbeil is Tripoli. It is what is imagined in tales as an exotic Arab marketplace. Located in the Northern tip of Lebanon, the old city contains Turkish baths, mosques and depleted citadels and though it not as restored, wealthy, or touristic, Tripoli is a sensory kaleidoscope.


Bourj%20hammoudEach district in Lebanon has its own personality with traces of congeniality among its inhabitants. Bourj Hammoud is possibly the most vibrant and happens to be where I grew up. As a former refugee camp, Armenians escaping genocide in 1915 have planted their remnants in the thick suburb. Residents carry on their ancestors’ legacies, occupations, and traits since their initial settlements and are given nicknames to be easily identified. “Photographer Carol” will print your pictures, “Soujoukh Bedros” will have the best cuts of soujoukh, or dried spiced sausages, ready before you walk in, and “Barber Tony” will give your hair style while discussing the latest news all for a few liras. Think of it and you will find it in Bourj Hammoud, and then some. It is considered one of the most underdeveloped parts of Lebanon, but is easily the most welcoming. Just be sure to stay away from “Jackass Kevork”.

Harissa%20daytimeFor spiritual restoration, I seek Harissa located near the quaint beach front of Jounieh.  The colossal statue of the Virgin Mary, preferably accessible by Teleferique or air lift cable car, is placed on top of this pedestal of a mountain taking peoples breaths away with its stretching panorama of Beirut’s worst and finest. It can be compared to the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janero, Brazil. By no means am I religious, however a visit to the impressive pilgrimage site is guaranteed when I find myself in Lebanon. Jeita Grotto, stored among the jagged cliffs in Nahr-al-Kelb valley is also a divine encounter. Limestone and water droplets have crystallized in hollow caves to form a natural wonder. Only accessible by boat on a tour, it is like entering something out of Indiana Jones movies, completely suspenseful.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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