That's me in the Mediterranean, a couple stone's throws from Beirut's famous Pigeon Rocks. I made my debut in the sea by jumping off a small cliff, accessed by a badly kept path from the scenic lookout above. (We reached the path by ducking through an open space in the guard rail—there was no formal way down, typical of Beirut's lax safety standards.) Didn't even have a bathing suit on; my friend Kit pointed out the swimmers below and suggested I join them. So I did. I hadn't yet set foot in the Mediterranean (aside from the salt-water pools of the St. Georges beach club), I was hot from walking, the water looked inviting. It was.
After I emerged, I sat on the algae-covered rocks for a bit to dry off. A teenager came down and asked me where I was from. He introduced himself as Mustafa and shook my hand. He said he was from Jordan but his family was Algerian. He pronounced it was a hard "g"—there's no soft version in North African Arabic, as I've learned. Then he wished me a nice time and clambered back up the cliff.
Following are more photos of the experience, starting with the Pigeon Rocks themselves (off the west coast of the city) and ending at the water's edge.
Walking from the Gemmayzeh neighborhood west to downtown yesterday, we came across the memorial to former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, assassinated at this location near Martyrs Square on February 14th, 2005.
The memorial site also commemorates some of the men who were slain with Hariri.
Next door is the enormous Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque. A tour bus had just let out dozens of men.
Rue Gouraud, Gemmayze's main drag and (following) a passageway between streets.
View from the rooftop bar at the Hotel Albergo, in Achrafiye, the neighborhood south of Gemmayze.
Many of the balconies in Beirut are covered in drapes.
A Gemmayze bar called Gauche Caviar. It doesn't serve food.
This morning (Saturday), we visited Beirut's first farmers market, in the parking lot of the upscale Saifi Village development.
I had a spanakopita-like treat for 2,000 Lebanese pounds (about $1.50).
Then we hit the St. Georges beach club. Beirutis love their outdoor pools.
Me smoking a grape-flavored water pipe. When in Rome...
The view from our room at the Sofitel Le Gabriel in Beirut's Achrafiye neighborhood, on the other side of downtown from the American University and the famous Corniche seaside promenade. Technically Achrafiye is a hip area of east Beirut, but there's only a couple of streets with anything on them aside from houses and apartment buildings. I have no idea if the wreckage above is related to Lebanon's civil war, which ended in 1990, but this city seems to be constantly rebuilding; construction cranes are everywhere.