BEIRUT – And That’s A Wrap! (This time) .. October 13th 2015

Beirut has far exceeded our expectations. We really had no idea it would be as warm, welcoming, and safe as it was. We went out of our way to start conversations with many people in an effort to get a more local outlook. No matter who they were, they all said the same thing. Beirut is safe to walk, low crime, and people are welcoming. The only true danger we felt was from the crazy drivers; and really, we are already conditioned by having Buenos Aires as our second home. We felt as comfortable here in the neighborhoods as many of the big cities we’ve traveled too ( Barcelona, London, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Paris to name a few). Aside from some animated car honking and a waving of the hands in good middle eastern manner, we didn’t see any form of aggression. Maybe it just was that way for our visit, but seems the people here agree.

Beirut is definitely a tale of two cities. It appears the majority of the high intensity security and armed soldiers is more about internal issues due to the current government crisis, then about the greater fear of more Syrian backed terrorism. The good thing about the current demonstrations is that it comes collectively from every cultural facet of Beirut life to force the existing government into new open elections. It’s not the same traditional breakdown of political factions against each other. Obviously we are no experts, but that was the consensus we got from everybody from our tennis pro, to taxi driver, to random people we met ( and the local media). There is an internal strife but hopefully this will peaceably bring change. Who knows what might happen, but at least the people aren’t just accepting the status quo. There is only this high security around government stuff and the downtown rebuild ( the “first city”)… The “other city” is almost every other section of Beirut ( maybe the southern suburbs could be rough). There wasn’t any armed soldier visibility in Hamra ( where we stayed) and other neighborhoods with normal working class people.

The only thing missing for us was any form of gay community. It’s not that we have to see other gay people around ( which we obviously did see), it’s just having the freedom to be more open in our conversations about being married and our life together. Yes we became “friends” again for some of the introductions. ( they might have noticed the matching wedding rings). Oh well, eventually this too will evolve, – it feels close. The regular bar and nightclub scene though is lively and very integrated. In the demonstration areas we went through ( during the day), there was wall graffiti talking about eliminating all forms of discrimination in Lebanon. That is what people are demonstrating for, and their fundamental right to enjoy a good life. Not sure all the development is good, but that’s for the people of Beirut to figure out. There is a lot more we want to do here so we plan to return.

So we hope you have enjoyed our little adventure through the streets of Beirut. We aren’t suggesting you run out and book a trip ( it’s not some tropical vacation paradise with fruity umbrella drinks), but perhaps the next time you see or hear news on Beirut, it might come across a little differently. So in the truest sense of Anthony Bourdain’s parts unknown, you have just finished the latest chapter of #KenAndTomDestinationUnknown!

(now we are heading to the real Paris for a little rest and relaxation!).

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