Beirut

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My time in Lebanon was much too short. We only had time to spent a few days in the capital, missing the cedars and the hills to the north, and the Bekaa valley to the south. I’d read of the huge camps of Palestinians crouched throughout the south, but we saw none of that.

Instead, Beirut surprised me with stark contrasts, a pleasant seaside walkway called the Corniche and delicious cuisine. Let’s start there, shall we? They’ll tell you the Lebanese are the best cooks in the middle east, and I’m going to go ahead and declare “them” all right.

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The various cultures each have their own traditions; we met a Druze family who shared a tea ritual with us. It’s a ritual my brother in law from Argentina will find familiar:

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I couldn’t find any differences between this and the Mate those in the cold southern South American countries enjoy. They adopted the custom sometime in their history, and continue to practice it today in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

As for the rest of the food, mostly I was way too busy eating to snap photos of food, so this is all you get.

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We spent the first night up on the hillsides overlooking the city in Aley, a totally different microclimate. The air is cooler there, and the wealthy built their homes up there, away from the heat and smog of Beirut proper.

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From the hills we descended to the Corniche, for a little boat ride along the coast.

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Back up top, the usual vendors set up shop across the street from Starbucks.

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The global economy hadn’t seemed to hit anyone sitting the packed coffee shops.

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It did seem to be more on the mind of these men, though.

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Back at near our hotel near Hamra, we saw more of the Lebanese contrasts:

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These women, and these women, walking the same streets together.

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Both equally Lebanese.

And there were reminders of this everywhere. There was the evidence of today:

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With the traces Lebanon’s history as the only Christian majority nation in the middle east.

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Stop by tomorrow for a few more images of our walk around Ashrafieh and later in the week for a few pictures from… Boise.

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