Lebanon – Paradise lost !!

Once upon a time… there was  Lebanon which was called “Paris of Middle East”…and then something happened and the  Paris and Pearl of the  Middle East.. changed from heaven to hell….  Let us have a look and see what Lebanon has to offer now for Ghumakkars !

It was 2004 and I boarded Air India flight from New Delhi to Dubai for my journey to Lebanon.

I had reached Dubai early Morning. My next flight for Beirut was on next day and I had full day and a night in Dubai. My employer had booked me in hotel Intercontinental, a good hotel… but away from traditional markets. My room was rather a suite with a huge bathroom with luxurious bath tub. I thought of going to the Market and went out with patniji, but even in September it was so hot as if we have come near a furnace.

Hotel continental - Dubai

 

Dubai is just like any Indian city, if you add cleanliness, discipline, law & order and lot of Malyalis to it. People had been dying to shop in Dubai, but I found it really useless. The Gold was just 900 Rs. less than in India…. so adding 250 Rs. custom duty it is not a wise bargain.

Souk - a traditional market in Dubai

Most of the ornaments were imported from India. Ladies dresses also were mostly imported from India…. The mobile phone I purchased for 7,500 Rs. from Karol Bagh was Rs. 7000 here… not impressed !!!! So a person coming 3 hours ago from New Delhi may find no interest in it.

 

kithe hai sasta sona ji ??

So after making some useless purchases, I decided to come back to hotel and have an Arabic Sheikh type luxury in the huge bath tub !…sipping a glass full of foam, in foamed Jacuzzi, and listening to songs of Haifa Wehebe….

Next day we reached the airport. All counters had long lines except one… and that was our counter for taking flight to Beirut. I got my favorite window seat and was soon drowned into thoughts about my next place…BEIRUT !!!

How this country would be ??? where you have to be a Christian to become a President… a Sunni Muslim to become a Prime Minister and a Shia Muslim to become a Home Minister ? I never found anywhere in the world such an interesting situation.

In Dubai, I had searched the internet and from various sources,  found some historical facts about Lebanon.  I present them just to give you an idea about the ancient history of Lebanon.

The coastal plain of Lebanon is the historic home of a string of coastal trading cities of Semitic culture, which the Greeks termed Phoenicia, whose maritime culture flourished there for more than 5000 years. Ancient ruins in Byblos, Berytus (Beirut), Sidon, Sarepta(Sarafand), and Tyre show a civilized nation, with urban centres and sophisticated arts. Present-day Lebanon was a cosmopolitan centre for many nations and cultures. Its people roamed the Mediterranean seas, skilled in trade and in art, and founded trading colonies. They were also the creators of the oldest known 24-letter alphabet, a shortening of earlier 30-letter alphabets such as Proto-Sinaitic and Ugaritic.

The ancient Lebanese set for sail and colonized overseas. Their most famous colonies were Cadiz in today’s Spain and Carthage in today’s Tunisia.

Phoenicia maintained an uneasy tributary relationship with the Mosaic from Baalbek, Roman Empire period.
Neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian empires; it was conquered outright by the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia, which organized it as a satrapy. It was added to the empire of Alexander the Great, who notably conquered Tyre (332 BC) by extending a still-extant causeway from the mainland in a seven-month effort. It fell to the Seleucid Empire after Alexander’s death. The area was conquered by the Roman Empire in the first century and remained Roman until the advent of the Caliphate. Christianity was introduced to Phoenicia from neighboring Galilee soon after the time of Jesus of Nazareth; the Arab advances brought Islam soon after the death of Muhammad. Muslim influence increased greatly in the seventh century when the Umayyad capital was established at nearby Damascus.

Beirut is the capital of Lebanon, which borders Israel to the north. The Mediterranean Sea borders both countries to the west. In the late 1970s Lebanon was torn by a civil war among rival religious groups, sects within such groups, and gangster families. We will need to know that in Lebanon there were camps of Palestinian refugees expelled from Israel. And to complete our thumbnail sketch, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, claiming to represent all such Palestinians, had military bases in Lebanon.

But that was all theoretical knowledge.  Seeing Lebanon now was altogether different from texts on Lebanon… a place which had so rich ancient culture, but reduced to a mere civil-war torn country now.

Now Lebanon is a fortress of Hizbullah the dreaded militant group…who caused severe damage to the American and French forces when 250 navy seals & 60 Frenchmen were killed in a suicide attack by Hizbollahs. Israel was/is continuously irritated by them but hasn’t been able to control their movements so far.

Lebanon which was seeing a bomb attack every week, killing important politicians and VIPs…. was it the same Beirut which I saw in movie Ankhen ? (old Dharmendar wali film). How will  Beirut look like now, which was once called the Paris of the Middle East or Pearl of the Middle East.

How will Beirut be as my next place of long stay… capital of Lebanon… the only country in Middle East which has no desert and no oil. Lebanon which has double the numbers of expatriates than the population… which is humming ground of almost all the terrorist organisations and all the intelligence agencies of the world including CIA, KGB, Mossad, MI6 and a playground of PSD !

I looked down from the window… the ugly and boring desert view was being replaced by green mountains and I knew it was time to disembark. The plane slowly reached the terminal and I took my first full breath of this wonderful, dangerous and mysterious land.

The first impression was not very encouraging. I was driven straight to my apartment an outer wall of which was perforated with bullet marks and a big hole made by a rocket propelled grenade in it. I was lodged into a Sunni area. Surprisingly Beirut is the only city I have seen with separate areas for Sunnis, Shiyas, Druze and Christians.

In Muslim areas, you find burqas and beards… hukka & coffee shops. …mosques all around that reminded me of Kabir’s doha :

 कंकड़ पत्थर जोड़ के मस्जिद लयी बनाय

उस पर मुल्ला बांग दे.. क्या बहरा हुआ खुदाय

Mosque with bullet marks -खुदा के बन्दे खुदा के घर को भी नहीं छोड़ते

 

I continued living in my  ashiyana and one day i crossed over to the Christian area… just a few kilometers of travel brought me into Europe. Big shining showrooms of all cars, all electronics. Glittering sign boards indicating pubs, bars, night clubs and casinos…. girls in minis and boys with beer bottle in hands. I could not believe my eyes. I have seen many countries and cities … but such a sudden change in environs was not there in any country and in any city. This side of Beirut was looking like Paris or any other European city.

 

Muslim side of Beirut

Christian side of Beirut

Slowly I explored Lebanon and visited every nook and corner of it and found the best term for this – A heaven on fire!!!.. In this series I will take you to some very good tourist places of Lebanon, which make it a heaven for all ghumakkars.

There are Indians in Lebanon but almost all of them are either chowkidars of buildings, or farm / factory workers. In my 3 years stay I did not find even one Indian who was an Engineer or a doctor or a rich businessman. Our dear Mumtaz (oldie bollywood heroine) had a big glass bottle manufacturing plant in Lebanon, but it was destroyed during Israel bombing in 2006.

Beirut - sea line

My house was at a stone’s throw from sea shore and I  always dreamed of living near the sea shore.

In aankhen film, Beirut was quite different from now. Even after +20 years of civil war and still going on bomb blastings Lebanese are so hard working and positive in attitude that they never stopped their constructions of sky-scrappers, malls and other buildings in Beirut.  I was so happy to see the stone gate in the sea and remembered Ankhen where Dharmender chased the villain in a motor boat through this gate.

Dharmender Chased the villain through this stone gate

 

A view of Beirut city from my balcony

 

Walkway on sea - Beirut

Hariri Mosque of Beirut

 

Down-Town

Meanwhile one football team from India, came to Beirut to play a friendly football match with Lebanese team. The Lebanese side of gallery was full of public and to encourage the Indian team only this much were the viewers plus me shooting their photo.

A big Indian crowd for football match

Lebanese were very happy when their team was hitting goals and since it was a friendly match, their team deliberately slowed down to give Indians some chances. The moment number of goals became equal, some one from gallery started shooting in the air. Police came in, declared the match finished and escorted the crowd out of the stadium. At least half of the crowd was having pistols or guns hidden under their clothes.
“Lebanese are modern friendly and warm, but in our area it was a little different. They would start expolding fire-crackers even in the mid of night on any small pretext, be it some court case won, or their leader arrived at airport or a baby is born. Many times, we woke up from our sleep, thinking it is a bomb blast but found they were exploding crackers on some idiotic pretext.

With Ms Lynn a good Lebanese christian

But when on Diwali, some Indian children were exploding small fire crackers outside, many Lebanese gathered and started fighting with the parents to stop the fire-works. This arrogance, intolerance and Badtamizi was not found in other areas where some Lebanese, mostly christians, took part in Diwali festival and danced with Indians.

Lebanese Dancing on Diwali function

But outside Beirut.. Nature has blessed Lebanon with all her beauty. Snow clad mountains, meadows, historical ruins, beautiful rivers and what not. Tourism is the only industry in Lebanon which has a major chunk in its national economy. From May to October, Lebanon is thronged by tourists mainly from Europe, Japan, China and Gulf countries. Tourists are not normally harmed and are kept safe by Lebanese.

Snow clad mountains in Lebanon

A beautiful waterfall in Lebanon

 

And yes… within one year of my stay there, my secretary and my driver both were singing hindi songs… (thanks to my  patriotism & my efforts..LOL)…see the proof :

 

Beirut is a small city and there is not much to do… but to make it a base and see around Lebanon.  the whole Lebanon can be seen in 2/3 days. The main activities in Beirut are scuba diving, fishing, yachting, exploring under-sea caves or spent evenings in pubs and casinos.

 

..next I will take you to Baalbeck, Cedars and  some other tourist attractions in my forthcoming posts…

bye till then

36 Comments

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    • SilentSoul says:

      ??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? 3 ???? ?? ???? ???? ???? ?? (??????? ??????????) ?? ????? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ?? 8 ??? ???? ??… ?? ???? ?? ?? ???…

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  • Nandan Jha says:

    SS, It is a FOG.

    Thank you taking us Ghumakkars to Lebanon. I do not think there are a lot of Indians visiting Beirut so I would think that the information and experience would be a novelty for most of us.

    The video in the end was a super bonus. She sings really well.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks Nandan !!!!

      I think except Badri Nath, all my other posts were FOG. So when u declare FOG awards, remember me LOL :)

  • subodhkyadav says:

    Good Start, Silent Soul sir … I guess Lebanon is also famous for its food, mainly non-veg. It will be good if you can give some insight on the food streets of Lebanon. I remember have seen many documentaries on Discovery or TLC regarding the Non Veg food delicacies.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Yadav ji, yes Lebanese food is very famous. I am a veggie so I dont know about the taste of non-veg of Lebanon, but my friends had all the appreciations for Lebanese Food.

      I like Falafel of Lebanon, the most. But the best preparations there are of sweets. Full of nuts and less of sugar and saturated fats. I have tasted sweets of Kuwait, Syria, Dubai etc… but Lebanese were on top.

      Ashoka Hotel Delhi have opened a Lebanese Restaurant, which have Lebanese cooks… I heard their delicacies, specially in non-veg are unique. If you are around Delhi, try it once. I tasted their Falafel and jibni, and I remembered Beirut..in Delhi

      Thanks for your comments

      • subodhkyadav says:

        Thanks a lot for the pointer about Ashoka Hotel , will try the Lebanese food for a Ghumakkari Trip made to Delhi in Future. I am based out of Mumbai and here they claim to sell Lebanese food but I have not yet tried once , not sure how authentic it will be …

  • Great SS,

    I liked each and every part of it. First to start with Dubai. I was in Dubai from 1999- 2001 and yaa city is OK . Much hype is been created about everything which is unnecessary…………..

    I found Lebanon very beautiful mixed vairities of culture. Also I found how much fascinating and terrifying it would be when you hear bullets shoot.

    And How did you manage to click Ladies in burkha ?????????

    Very good waterfalls , snow clad mountains and good sea view. A perfect mixture of sceneries.

    Also the song in the video was excellent. She sings well………………………….

    Keep posting……….

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks vishal… First song was difficult to teach… i had to give translations in French and then phonetics… and she learnt it well.

      Later she learnt some 10 hindi songs and stole many shows.

      some of the photos are taken out of video clips, so quality is inferior.

  • ???? ????? ??? ?? ?? ?? …………???? ???? ???? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? ??? ?? ???? ……….?? ???????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ????????? ???? ……………???? ???? ?? ???? ?? ??
    ?????????? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ???? ?…………..?? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ??? ??? ???? ??? ?? ???? ,?? ?????? ?? ?? ???? ………….???? ?? ?????? ???? ???? ??? ???? ??????? ?? ?? ???? ?? ? …….??????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ?? ????? ??? ??? ………?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ????????? ?????? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ???? ???? ????? ?? ??????? ??? ?? ????

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Dear SS ji,
    The post was very interesting. Both article and pictures were nice. It was an interesting virtual tour of Dubai through your eyes. Excellent…………………..

    Thanks.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    SS ji,
    Aapki yah post bhi hamesha ki tarah badi rochak thi. Photo tatha lekh dono hi lazawab the. Dubai ke baare men badi achchhi jaankari prapt hui.

    Khatti-meethi ki agli kisht kab aa rahi hai, hamen besabri se intezaar hai.

    Thanks.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Thanks Bhalse ji… hope your tiredness has gone. .. I am eagerly waiting for your posts on your recent trip with Vishal

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    SS jee,

    As usual, a very interesting post written in your inimitable style. Thanks for showcasing the charms of Beirut to us here. It is great to see you spreading awareness of Indian culture wherever you go be it Hindi songs in Lebanon or Holi in Iceland.

    Excuse me for pointing out a small factual error. The Home Ministry of Lebanon is always allotted to the Sunnis, and the Sunni Prime Minister also holds this important post. The post of the Speaker is reserved for the Shias. Amongst the Christians, while the majority are Maronite Christians, there is a significant Greek Orthodox Christian community for whom the Deputy Speaker’s post is reserved. Almost all important political posts are distributed on communal basis. In the Parliament, half the seats (64) are allotted to Muslims (Shia, Sunni, Alawi and Druze) and the rest go to Christians (Maronite, Greek, Armenian, etc). Each sect gets a fixed quota of seat.

    For such a tiny country, there are 17 religious groups and this unique power sharing arrangement is enshrined in the Constitution in order to ensure that the interests of all sections of the population are protected.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks Narayanji… yes it was an error perhaps made in hurry and forgetting DL would be reading my post and finding it out LOL…

      despite many religious groups, the power is actually in the hands of Shiyas… they control the country in real terms. Sunnis are very rich and use money as influence, Christians are backed by USA & Israel… this is a very interesting country… it took me over 2 years to understand the matrix of power there

  • Kavita Bhalse says:

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    ???? ??? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ?? ??? ???????. ???? ??? ???? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ????????? ??? ??? ??? ???, ????? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?????? ?????? ?? ??? ??????? ??????? ???.

    ???? ???? ????? ?? ??????? ???.

    ???????.

    • SilentSoul says:

      ????? ??…????? ?? ???? ???????… ?? ??????? ????? ?? ?? ???????? ???? ?? ???? ?????? ?? ???? video chat ???? ??… ?? ?? ???? ?????? ????? ??. ??? ?? ??????? ???? ??, ???? ???????? ????? ???? ?????, ?? ??? ??? ?? ????? ???? ?? ????…

      ???? ? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ? ???? ????? ????…. ??????? ??????? ? ???? ????? ??

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    SS jee, hearty congratulations for breaking into the list of top 20 contributors on ghumakkar. I have just noticed it. I think that it is only a matter of time before you make it to the top 10.

    • SilentSoul says:

      tks Narayanji.. kya farak padta hai.. top 20 se ?? Friends like you and their appreciation is more important than any such tops…

      still tks for your good wishes.

    • SilentSoul says:

      within a few hours after you congratulated me for top 20, my name was removed and another name put,…. I think someone didnt like my name :)

      • Nandan says:

        AI (artificial intelligence) at play. Lol. The s/w picks any name if there are many. After one more post, it won’t happen.

  • Vibha says:

    Lovely post SS and congratulations for this being FOG.

    You manage to spread the Indian influence wherever you go. Kudos to that!

    It was shocking to hear about the weilding of guns during the match. This does justify the amount of frisking spectators are subjected to during the matches in India. At least there are no gunfires.

    Your candid write-up is interesting, informative and entertaining. A very difficult balance to attain. Looking forward to the next part soon.

    • SilentSoul says:

      vibhaji, thank you for your time to read the post and for other things. When we live outside India, we love it more… I felt it like this always.

  • Neeraj Jat says:

    ?????? ??? ?? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???, ??? ??????? ?? ??? ??? ???
    ?? ??????? ???? ??? ?? ??? ????? ???? ????? ???? ????

    • SilentSoul says:

      ???? ??? ?? ???? ???? ????? ????…. ?? ???-2 ???????? ??? ?? ????? ? ????? ??????… ?? ???? ??????? ???? ??…???? ???? ?????? ???? ?? ???????? ???? ? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ???? ?????-???? ????? ???.

      ????? ?? ??? ??? ???… ?? ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ????? ???. ???? ???????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    S.S. Ji… _(”)_

    Very excellent and informative post …..?

    Thanks for tell us more about there culture, living, religion in details about Dubai & Beirut-Labnan………?

    I read your whole post very interestingly. Such a good and very nice post along with excellent pictures…………..?

    In video, She sung a Hindi song perfectly In rhythm (This songs from Bunty and Bubly).????

    In waiting your next post……?

    Thanks S.S.ji………….?

    Ritesh…………… ?

  • Manish Kumar says:

    Quite informative article. So much difference between Christian & Muslim part explains the fact that different ethnic group love to stay in their own ghettos . Lastly the video with song from Bunty & Bubli added to the entertainment value of the post.

  • Patrick says:

    excellent Post. I remember when I was young I used to listen to the Voice of America on radio to the bombing of Beirut. It used to happen on a daily basis. Guess the place has moved on then….

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Great Job !

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