November 13. 2015
MAP – click here!
Anybody ever noticed our letters are just not ment to write arabic? However this should mean I love Lebanon! But lets start in the morning. I sleep only a little because of my cold and finally wake up for the first morning prayer at 4? No problem usually but today my neighbour starts to shower and I swear he didn’t stop until the second prayer at 6 for sunrise. And he showers noisy!
However I have to stand up at 6 anyway, taxi to the airport will be here at 7. I pack, and then go down to check out. The Taxi driver is ten minutes early(!) so I drink my tea on the way. Today is Friday 13. and after 10 minutes I believe this taxi ride with the 70 years old driver in his unlicensed taxi will 100% be the by far scariest thing today. (I am wrong of course). He drives between the lanes as a matter of principle and talks all the time while looking at me. I become a true Muslim before we arrive at the airport and mashallah survive the ride.
On the airport all is smooth, quickly and very kind – very friendly, always smiling security checks everybody very well. Even though there has been a suicide attack in Beirut yesterday with more than 40 people killed and over 200 injured everything seems to be business as usual. I am surprised! (and everybody who travels will probably share this surprise.)
After the take of I leave my gps turned on as I want to know how we will pass the war zone of Syria. But we don’t pass it – we cross it, which is kind of a strange feeling after Daesh had obviously bomb or shot down a civil airplane above Sinai maybe 10 days ago. Welcome to the middle east! At least we fly along the border until we fully ascent to 10000m above and start descending not before we cross the border of Lebanon while passing about 100km north of Damaskus.
I already mentioned I got a cold and while ascending was no problem descending is a pain in the earse! And my ears remain blocked for several hours. I hear the guy at the border police like far away, point out to my ears and he smiles kindly. He asks me very roundly why I am here what I plan to do, where I plan to stay, examines my hotel reservation. Looks at all the visas in my passport very closely – “Why you travel all these countries?”, he asks. “I like Muslim countries”, I reply, “the hospitality, kindness and honesty is best” (and I mean what I say). “But we are the bad.”, he grins back and puts the stamp in my passport. Two more jokes and I leave the border formalities smilingly again. I could get used to this approach!
After getting the luggage and doing the formalities at the car rental I leave the airport to go to the parking lot. Before I arrive there I hear gun shots and they continue for several minutes. Nobody gives a shit. The scariest moment today? (not yet!)
After leaving the parking lot I stop in between to other cars at the side of the road for a second to check my GPS for the way to a money changer. Seconds later I hear a Sirene and police is standing right behind me talking on a speaker to me in Arabic. I turn off the car and get out, they smile at me and tell me I cant Park here. Checking map? No Problem! And they disappear again.
I drive into Beirut to find a Bank and damnholyshit – that’s scary! I have been driving in quite a few countries by now like you can read in the Tags but MADDERDSCHOD! Everybody drivers anywhere all the time! There are nor even lanes on 3 lane highways here and downtown Beirut is the scariest city I have ever driven! Even though it looks sometimes more than Switzerland than middle east as I see several fancy cars one KTM SuperDuke, Harley Davidson and so on. Its just crazy!
The first bank send me to the office on the other side of the street where a lady explains me she cant change money unless I have an account. After the traffic I am a little desperate and tell her I need money to eat and drink. She offers water and takes me with her. While I empty the cup in one sip she asks if I want more and answers herself yes you want. She offers me another one but I am totally satisfied by her explaining me the way to an area where I could change money. After 15 more minutes of driving I am a wreck and stop seconds before having a nervous breakdown in front of another bank. The lady at the entrance again tells me no changing here but takes me 200 meter down the street to a changing office. I get a fair rate without any negotiation and am happy to be able to leave the city.
I don’t know exactly where to go yet but I want to see the Bekan Valley and maybe the roman sites in Balbeek so I take the way there. On the roadside I notice a lot of mililitary and at the hilltop between the coast and and Bekan valley my ears unblock a little before the first military checkpoint. Many of them are to come. It is a beautiful wide valley with a red soil, the border to Syria being somewhere on the top of the hills between 15 and 50km to my right. I don’t really see an inviting place so I turn direction Bcharre in Balbeek. Bcharre is supposed to be a beautiful mountain place, great for paragliding and I expect a friend to come Sunday evening to fly here together. I could be there before sunset and it would be good to find a place to meet to email him. Actually I promised to pick him up from the airport but I will by no chance drive this hell one more time. People out here still drive crazy but at least there are way less of them which makes it a lot easier.
Short after turning to Bcharre I see a little shop at the right side of the street. I have been driving several hours by now even though it was less than 70km and I really need a coffee. I stop, get out of the car and ask a guy who has a nice jacket which reminds me of mine from india and looks very likeable for coffee.
What can I tell you… it is half past ten at night and while writing this I sit in the living room of his brothers farmhouse writing this. Less than 20km to the east of us we face the Syrian border at the hill tops. We eat, drink and have fun together – even though we hardly speak a word of the same language we understand everything, it just takes twice as long and is way more funny. It seems like Ali and me are kind of connected souls. I seriously start learning Arabic (as you have seen in the title) and started a notebook with vocabulary and phrases again. I am kind of adopted by Alis family and where can it be easier and joyfuller to learn a language. Finish now – written enough, I want to enjoy the time with Ali before going to bed!
If you like this article please link it – share it on facebook, publish and twitter it and send the link to your friends by email, pm, sms and whatsapp!
There are too many stories of the bad things that happen here, lets tell one about the good people who live here!
Bekan Valley – Syrian Border is not far away in the hills
Sunset near Balbeek