As my last touristy act in the country of Lebanon, I took a ride on Jounieh’s Teleferique ride up to the tiny mountain village of Harissa, the home of Our Lady of Lebanon. Though it was a bit of a cloudy day, the coasts were still clear enough to see all of Jounieh piled up around the Sea while we were cruising over a rich bit of forest below us. The 9-minute ride was peaceful and once we were at the top the cool, fresh air and breeze were perfect.
After the teleferique, a funicular takes you to Our Lady of Lebanon, a huge white statue of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Lebanon, with her arms stretched out to the bay of Jounieh. There’s also a small chapel underneath and a large church in construction behind it.
Dealing with the annoyance and frustration of having to be quick to avoid a guy who had clearly been following us the entire time since we got on the Teleferique got me to thinking about everything I would be happy to be done with once I left this country and also the things I would miss after living here for so long. So here’s my list:
What I won’t miss:
- It would be so much prettier without a brown cloud of smog hanging over the whole city.
- Trash. Everywhere.
- The air just feels dirty and heavy in Beirut, it’s so gross.
- The awful congestion and traffic. Why are main roads (Gemmayze) only one lane and people are constantly stopping for stupid reasons in the middle of the road for no reason??
- Tiny, tiny sidewalks that are so worn down.
- Along the same lines, how Beirut is very unfriendly and unwelcoming to pedestrians.
- Beirut was just ranked the number #1 expensive city in the Middle East. And it really is. Some things here cost the same, if not more, than they do in Boston.
- Constantly having the same conversation with anyone I meet: who am I, why am I here, what do I do, where do I work, where do I live, how do I like it, where am I from, where are my parents from, etc, etc. After the first few questions I just cut people off because a stranger has no business knowing exactly where I work or my family history. Plus it’s so annoying always getting the same confused and exaggerated response from a Lebanese if they find out none of my family is Lebanese and I just came here all by myself.
- Sleazy guys making comments or noises at you from the street or their car/scooter/shop (does not matter how much or how little you are wearing, if you’re remotely female-looking you will get this), including:
- Making kissy noises
- Whispering “oh my god” or “beautiful” under their breath
- Blatantly staring with no attempt to hide it
- And much, more
- Awful infrastructure
- Internet is worse than some 3rd world countries
- Regular and irregular electricity blackouts
- No clean tap water
- Evil cab drivers that try to:
- Rip me off. Um, I’m not stupid, I know it doesn’t cost $10 to get to Hamra from Gemmayze.
- Get me to marry them
- Get me to go fishing with their family
- Find out every detail of my life
- Get me to ride in their cab by beeping at me incessantly on the road. Because obviously who would ever want to walk anywhere and I must be deaf or blind to not just see them and hear the first 20 beeps.
It’s not all bad though! There were things that I really loved.
What I will miss:
- Beautiful landscapes
- The Qadisha Valley
- The Chouf Cedar Reserve
- The Bekaa Valley
- Being on the Mediterranean
- The views driving along the highway, with glittering blue water along one side and mountains covered in villages on the other.
- Even though the beaches aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, there’s definitely an abundance of them and people to go there with.
- Really amazingly preserved, and sometimes mysterious, historical sites. Even for someone who isn’t a history buff like me, just being at these places is something else.
- Baalbek has to be one of the most amazing places in the country, along with one of my favorites
- The Obelisk at Hermel
- The Hippodrome in Tyre, the best preserved in the world
- Beaufort Castle
- Random places in the middle of Beirut. You’ll be walking along and suddenly “oh here’s a Crusader Castle” or “look at these old Roman baths in the middle of Downtown.”
- The abundance of roof-top hangouts
- All the things I got to climb while I was here. There are far fewer people yelling at me to get down here than anywhere in the US.
- How getting anywhere in this country is an adventure. Sometimes I just want to be there already, but for the most part the journey is half the fun.
- Skiing at night. That was way too cool.
- The huge diversity and range of people here, in terms of religion, culture, lifestyles, everything.
- Cheap transportation. A two-hour bus ride to the end of the country costs $2. Plus the drivers are crazy, in a grabbing-the-edge-of-your-seat-with-white-knuckles-because-this-van-may-flip-at-any-moment sort of way.
- Mini-shops everywhere. If you ever run out of something essential at home you can easily walk half a block to a store that has all the basics you need.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are incredibly cheap – $5-8 bought me tons of fresh produce for a week
- Lebanese food is so delicious – koussa, my favorite example
- The labneh and hummus here cannot be beat
- Fruit cocktails! Seriously, what could possibly be better than a huge, colorful bowl of all sorts of fruit (banana, melons, strawberries, kiwi, ashta, and more) and strawberry and avocado purees, artfully arranged and topped honey, sweet cheesy fluffy, and a wafer cookie or some sliced almonds? I’m going to have to start making my own.
- Meeting other foreigners who aren’t just sheep blindly accepting everything the news, media, and governments tell us. Just because Lebanon is in the Middle East doesn’t mean there’s a suicide bomber waiting around the corner to kill you.
- All the opportunities I got to travel to new and exciting places and everyone I met along the way.