Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Highlights of Lebanon: Days 3-4

Our third day--our last full day--we attempted to travel south, but encountered a few setbacks along the way.  First order of business was being stopped by some bribe-seeking policemen...They claimed we had made and illegal turn, that it was caught on camera, and if we gave them $40 they would erase the picture.  They didn't speak any English, by the way, and we only understood via sign language and a few key words we know.  Owen dealt with them and did a great job feigning ignorance and being bull-headed, so that eventually they gave up in frustration and let us go.
Sidon: Crusader castle
So, we raced off to promptly get lost in the middle of a madhouse-Beirut--crazy roads, crazy drivers, lack of signs, and rush hour.  Somehow, flustered and annoyed at the lost time, we finally made it out of the city and onto the southward-leading road.  The easy sailing only lasted so long, though, as we soon were involved in a car accident.  We are praising the Lord we all came out unscathed! 
Sidon: Crusader castle
Did I mention this was all on Owen's birthday? 

Sidon: looking at the modern city from the top of the castle
The car rental company brought us out a new car, and we moved on with our day.  Next stop: Sidon. For some reason, the region south of Beirut is significantly more underdeveloped than northern Lebanon; I mentioned before how it's easy in Lebanon to forget you're in the Middle East, but on the south side there are some poignant reminders.  It is less European, less developed for tourism, more run down, and has more of the typical shack-like shops that seems standard in poorer areas of the Arab world.
delicious hummus
Sidon was at least still touristy and nice on the main street.  We found a classy Lebanese restaurant right on the Mediterranean Sea and enjoyed a chance to relax and celebrate Owen's birthday (however somberly).  Then we toured the Crusader castle that jutted out into the sea, and went in search of the other archaeological remains.  They were all closed.  The kids had both passed out in the car by then, anyway, so it wasn't a huge loss.  As we left Sidon, we passed what looked like a large tell right on the water, but--so sadly--it turned out to be the city's trash dump!  Right on the beautiful Mediterranean shore!  I think a trash management program could be put to good use in this part of the world. 
the trash dump on the shore of the Mediterranean
Since the kids were sleeping and time was dwindling, we decided to skip the smaller sites on the agenda and head straight to Tyre.  On the way, traffic had been moving freely, then all of the sudden we hit a big traffic jam.  When we got to the source, we were shocked, and a little irritated, to find that a group of boy scouts had blocked off the road down to one lane so they could try to sell their goods to the constricted cars.  Only in the Middle East.  Further on our journey, the freeway just ended without warning--it was unclear if they had simply stopped building it at that point, or if they had blocked it for some reason, but we had to find a back way around. 
Hezbollah flags in Tyre
Tyre is in the heart of Hezbollah country, but really the only evidence of that is all the yellow flags flying from every lamp post, building, and car, along with the general feeling that the area is much more conservative than the rest of the country.  I felt it best to put on my long sleeve shirt, which I had brought in case of just such a situation.  The people were super friendly!  The man tending the ancient site was so happy to see us, especially because we had brought children, and let us in for free.  In this part of the world, children are like a golden ticket!  The locals use the hippodrome at the ancient site as a running track, which I think is pretty awesome.  Wouldn't I love to have a running track like that back home!
section of the hippodrome, pillar-bases on right side held up bleacher seating
Roman road, sidewalk, and triumphal arch
the Roman road leading West toward the sea
some tombs
It was another late night, so the next day we slept in, wandered around Souk Mikael where we had been staying, and took an extra hour or two getting to the airport (not on purpose--we were trying to get to the museum...oh well).  The kids fell asleep in the taxi on the way home from the airport in Amman and slept the rest of the night.  It was an exhausting, wonderful trip.
Souk Mikael
everyone loves having their picture taken!
Through the window of a restaurant--birds kept on a table...First reaction: cute birds! Second reaction: yuck.
just a taste of what the traffic can be like...no rules


  1. I'm slobbering all over my keyboard after that picture with the hummus! YUM!

    The traffic looks similar to what we saw in Egypt...INSANITY! Red lights were literally suggestions that nobody took. Just drive, fast, and never stop. Nutty. Glad you guys weren't hurt in your little smash-up.

  2. I know, the Mid East sure does know how to make tasty food!
    When were you in Egypt? What did you see? Yeah, the driving's about the same in all of these countries...it's funny that I get most scared with drivers who are cautious, because no one else is and so it's more dangerous!