ARRIVING IN LEBANON

At roughly twenty two minutes past the hour of ten, our flight from Dubai touched base at Rafic Hariri International Airport. I’ve always been a window seater and on this particular day, it really helped to pull in the coast of Lebanon as we slowly descended through the thick layer of clouds shrouding the city. Landing in Beirut is very much like doing a rubber heel in San Francisco. Both airports are coastal and both of them don’t give the city away at all. The short walk to the customs was immediately halted by the insanely long queues. Averaging at roughly 3 minutes per person, that put the wait time ahead of us at over forty minutes which is what it took until we realized we were in the wrong queue all the time. Doofus. And so after forty minutes of dilly dallying in the wrong queue we finally made it to the baggage carousel where our bags were already waiting for us. Check that for future reference in not waiting at the carousel. And then I began my hurried and excited walk out.

The doors parted. And Lebanon opened itself to us. The heat was prickly and the breeze was none. But there was an air. It was an air of activity. The place was abuzz and I felt like I was transported to India.

 

WOW, THIS FEELS EXACTLY LIKE INDIA.
HAVE I COME HOME?

After the short walk to the car park, we were enroute to Batroun. The city unraveled before our eyes. Tarnished buildings spoke of years of civil turmoil. The roads were bumpy but wide. The buildings peppered across the mountain side and the roads frantic with drivers whizzing in and out of lanes. Beyrouth was a sight to behold. For the first time, I realized what people who enjoy the hustle bustle and commotion of India must see when they first land in Delhi or Mumbai. This was it. The madness was not infuriating but rather a pleasant reminder that this place had seen it all. It had been shaped by years and years of change. The buildings had learned to adapt. The people had learned to deviate. Nobody stopped. Nobody thought. It was all just moving.

ALL HAIL JOUNIEH

The first thing you will realize as you make your way up to Batroun is that there is a massive chunk in the middle called Jounieh. The very same morning, we’d bumped into another colleague at the airport who hailed from the city. And he’d warned me – “keep a book ready or have plenty of things to talk about when you get to Jounieh.” His words stung loud and clear and we learned soon enough. The traffic screeches to a halt at Jounieh. The wide open six lanes give way to three lanes with cars of all eras and dispositions clamoring for space. Nobody gets through. You just have to find you way. For the queasy law abiders amongst our entourage, the zig zag driving was beginning to get a bit nauseating but to me, it was perfect. Traffic in Dubai can be bad but it’s never this bad and it’s almost always too monotonous. Perhaps, it was my holiday mood or it was just that Delhi roads had tamed me but I was enjoying every minute of it.

HELLO BATROUN

Batrounwood

As you finally make your way past the madness of Jounieh, make sure to sit on the right side of the car and keep your eyes peeled for the “Batroun” Hollywood sign. It’s pretty big that you shouldn’t really miss it. And immediately after you’ve seen it, switch over to the left. And watch the sea scroll by. You will be coming here tomorrow. And probably the day after and in the evening and then again at sunrise.

 

At roughly 3pm, we finally touched base in the quaint little seaside paradise of Batroun. After dropping our bags and getting into shorts, we perched ourselves in the balcony and didn’t leave it until much after sunset. That was Batroun. The most beautiful waters (see cover) stretched out before us, the children played footie and folks sauntered down the beach. The breeze here was cool and soft. The clouds here were wispy.

We’d finally made it to Batroun. After talking about it for over 5 months, the moment had finally arrived and boy did it live up to the promise.