|Beirut||Lebanon - victim of religious hatred and Israel||Byblos|
I spent one day and a half in Beirut just a few months before the stupid war broke out. Arriving by taxi from Damascus in the afternoon I was shocked by the difference between the two countries. Syria (though a corner of my heart) was practically a desert, Lebanon a flourishing garden. Syria had a strictly controlled monetary system, Lebanon was absolutely free not only from this point of view. It was Switzerland and Paris at the same time: free women, luxury hotels and beach, one of the best casinos in the world, skiing a few kms from Beirut.
The hotel I stayed at was a four stars one, excellent, but not for my wallet. I went through the room-service list and closed it quickly. One egg would have cost one USD. So I had my breakfast outside in a snack-bar. Then, before going to the office of the forwarding agent, I had a walk in the modern, bright, clean, rich city and was charmed by the beauty and western splendour of it. At the forwarders I was met by a young man, the deputy of the general manager. The first question he asked me was: which language would I prefer: English, French or German? Three foreign languages at the age of around 30? English and French are understandable, both are generally used in Lebanon, but how comes German? He explained that he had spent two years in Germany, studying at a university. It was too much for me! We solved our problem in half an hour, the exhibit I was searching for was found in the meantime and I was promised to get it next day at the pavilion in Damascus. To compensate me for the delay he offered me to spend the evening in the Casino of Lebanon, some 10 kms to the north of Beirut.
Going back to the hotel I could guess how elegant and bustling the life of Beirut was, how rich the shops were. The most surprising was the way women were dressed: their light, colourful cloths, low necklines, open sandals looked like a fashion show of Paris. I stopped at a street-corner, waiting for green light and a deep-red sport-coupé, driven by a beauty stopped in front of me. The young lady was one of the best I had ever seen, light-brown skin, long black hair, deep décolletage not covering half of her bursting with health breasts, pulled up skirt.... a small piece of the seven heavens. I could also have a glance at the beach where the life had just started. Almost exclusively ladies enjoyed the sun and all of them in bikinis! A completely different, modern island in the orthodox Arab sea.
I had a free afternoon, took a sightseeing bus and went to Byblos, the only place outside Beirut worth to see that could be fit in in a few hours gap. It proved to be of little interest as a building-complex, the remnants are not very impressive, but the historical importance of the site is tremendous. It was explained that the harbour is the most ancient known one, it was built by Phoenicians. The fort is also more of historical monument than scenic spot. This was the place where the Catholic bible got its final shape. I think it is better if you go through the sites about Byblos if you are interested in the place and the subject.
I have also difficulties in describing the fantastic hours I spent in the Casino of Lebanon. The place was simply exciting. The building itself was enormous and modern, half of it was occupied by the gaming casino itself (I was not invited there, certainly), the other half by a theatre-cum-restaurant, the program of which simply cannot be described. You enter the hall (auditorium) of the size of a half football-stadium at the upper edge. The floor of the hall goes down to the scene and hundreds of dining tables are spread between corridors and lanes, wide enough for elephants to go down from the top to the scene, which was one of the attractions of the program. The size of the scene is good enough for a glass pool of 5-6 dolphins swimming in the tune of music and playing with girls in diving suits or for Cossacks, riding their horses in wild tempo, performing fantastic manoeuvres on the horses, hanging from them, jumping on and off them. The breaks in between these attractions are very short, the master of ceremonies appears, tells a joke and the scene behind the curtains is changed from Indians sitting in front of their tents, dealing with their camp-fires, then attacked and fighting, to the pool of dolphins during this minute or so. The technical equipment of the scene must have been absolutely modern. The last attraction was probably the most impressive: brass chandeliers with 4-5 nude men and women painted into brass colour were sliding above our heads towards the scene. If it still exists, go and see for yourself. The whole program lasted around two hours, non-stop. The quality of dishes, drinks had no meaning, I was so much occupied with the program. (According to a leaflet in my hotel, the whole event cost - in 1969 - as little as USD 31, taxi to and fro and dinner + one drink included.)
My mistake again: I was too disciplined to spend one more day in Lebanon, that would be needed to visit Baalbek instead of Byblos. Have a look at the difference: Baalbek.
|Link to my Syria||Links to Lebanon||Baalbek (links)|