Arriving at Terminal 2 at Dubai Airport on Thursday afternoon after work.
Grabbing some carrot cake air side for afternoon tea.
This evenings flight was a simple non-stop to BEY (Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport) on flydubai. It cost a very reasonable $180 return during one of their sales back in January.
Boarding through the rear cabin door for the 6:45pm departure.
Turkey & Cheese sandwich combo for 25 AED (~$8).
After immigration at BEY with my 30 day visa on arrival. After hearing all the stories about checking every page on your passport for any signs of Hebrew / prior visit to Israel, I was still amused when they actually inspect every single page with exacting detail. Luckily no questions though apart from one visa which wasn't too legible (DR Congo).
Outside my hotel for the next three nights, the Mayflower, after meeting up with my pre-arranged driver for the ride into town.
The Mayflower Hotel was in the middle of Hamra, and described by the Lonelyplanet as an "old-fashioned Beirut institution". Only $55 a night and although it was just me, I got 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a big lounge to spread out in.
Turkey & Cheese baguette with an expresso to fuel me through until lunch.
Snacks. After breakfast I went exploring the streets of Beirut.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, built between 2002 and 2007 by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hariri, killed by a truck bomb purported by Hezbollah in 2005, is now buried beside it.
The bullet ridden Martyrs' Square.
Nijmeh Square. There was heavy security and all traffic was blocked off which gave it an eerie, empty feeling.
I then had lunch at Café Hamra and had some tasty Lebanese Makanek (sausage).
I then walked down to Raouché to see Pigeons Rock.
Southern Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah, with the airport middle-right.
After resting at my hotel for a bit, I then walked down to the American University in Beirut and grabbed a double cheese burger and fries at Urbanista.
And couldn't resist a piece of their mouth watering chocolate cake for dessert.
Breakfast at the hotel on the morning of day 2.
After a bit of a false start (I forgot my passport for the police/army checkpoints), I headed off with my driver, Khalid, for a day trip to the Beqaa Valley.
The plan for today was to take the main road to Damascus, before heading north to visit the Roman ruins at Baalbeck and the vineyards and winery at Ksara.
The Beqaa valley on a cool morning. The temperature got down to 12C with an elevation of ~1200 meters. The hills in the distance are the border of Syria.
On the road to Baalbek.
The Beqaa valley is where Hezbollah originated from and enjoys wide support. There was numerous posters and billboards of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and I even spotted a couple of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran and of Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria.
About 2 hours after we left Beirut, we arrived at Baalbek.
Baalbek, known as Heliopolis during the period of Roman rule, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Roman empire and contains some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon.
The Temple Of Jupiter, with the highest (~20m) Roman pillars in the world, with 6 out of an original 128 remaining.
The well preserved Temple of Bacchus, built in 150 AD and is now a world heritage site.
The on-site museum which had some magnificent Greek sculptures.
After a dose of ancient history it was time for lunch. Chicken escalope, drink and salad for only 11,500 LBP (~$7).
After lunch we then drove down to Château Ksara.
Château Ksara is a winery in the Beqaa Valley founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests.
The winery has ~2 kilometers of underground caves to store and mature their wines.
Getting to taste a very nice red.
Blanc De Blancs, made from a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay.
Sampling a very tasty sweet Moscatel. "The nose is floral with citrus aromas, ripe melon and honey. It goes perfectly with foie gras, Roquefort and puddings". I also got to sample some Arak, a spirit made from grape alcohol and aniseeds.
In the wine shop, where I picked up a bottle of the Moscatel to take home for a very reasonable 8250 LBP ($5.50).
A view of Beirut from the hills on our way back.
After having a rest back at my hotel, I went out to dinner to a Lebanese restaurant recommended by the Lonelyplanet, Walimat Wardeh, and had the Chicken Msakhan.
I then went for a evening walk on Al Hamra Street.
I was still a bit hungry so went to Gustav's, a recommended Beirut Pâtisserie.
And had some heavenly white chocolate cake.
After checking out of the hotel on my third and final day in Beirut, I headed off again with my driver Khalid for the drive north to Byblos and Tripoli.
We arrived at Byblos at about 10am, and teamed up with a British couple and a local guide to see the ruins of Byblos, a Mediterranean city first occupied between 8800 and 7000 BC.
A small amphitheatre.
Looking south towards Beirut.
After another good dose of ancient history, I grabbed an espresso at the old souk, complete with a big piece of cinnamon as a stirrer which was a new thing to me.
Saint John-Marc Church.
The small and picturesque marina.
After meeting up with my driver again, we headed further north to the city of Tripoli, Lebanons second biggest city with a population of ~0.5 million.
At the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles.
There is sporadic fighting between various militia in Tripoli, and then was a heavy army presence around and in the Citadel (note the APC bottom-left).
Soldiers were also set up inside the Citadel, with an array of mortars set up.
Looking to the west of Tripoli from the Citadel. In contrast to the south, the large majority of people of Tripoli are Sunni Muslims. Lebanon's small Alawite community also mainly inhabits Tripoli.
We then walked down into the city to see Hamman Ezzedine, an Ottoman-era bath house.
Next was a walk through the old city.
Made in Syria.
As in the Beqaa Valley, posters of various politicians were very prominent.
The gates of the 700 year old Al Mansouri Al Kabir Mosque, which was unfortunately closed for prayer.
Stopping at the Tripoli restaurant, Abdul Rahman Hallab, at 2:30pm for a late lunch.
And had some tasty Pistachio Rosto with potatoes and vegetables.
On the way back for the ~1 hour drive back to Beirut.
We arrived back in the capital just after 4pm, and I got my driver to drop me off at the Corniche so I could have a stroll.
Walking the dog.
Taking a dip.
Relaxing on a Sunday afternoon.
I then walked up to Al Hamra Street, which had been blocked off for a street festival.
Up on the roof-top Sama Café, which had a great view of the festivities below.
And had some dinner of Beef Fajita's.
And an ample serving of 'Oreo Madness'.
Back at Beirut Airport for my 22:55 flight back home after farewelling my driver Khalid and thanking him for the great trip.
And back in Dubai after a great few days in Lebanon.