Welcome to Dubai:
No, wait. Welcome to Istanbul:
Just kidding - Welcome to Beirut.
Beirut is the capital of Lebanon, a third world country in denial of its status. When I left Lebanon five years ago, I thought it was bad - now it's worse.
Politics, religion, traffic jam, plastic surgery, show-off, people, prices, pollution, greed, corruption, Dubaiification, etc. everything has worsen, but there still is one small part of this country that is authentic, and I wanted to experience it again.
It was Adha, a muslim holiday, and the country was (supposed to be) off. In my mind, when it's a holiday, people stay at home with their families, relax from the weekly chaos of the city and take it easy. Some go out to the few open shops and restaurant in a quiet atmosphere, kind of like (but certainly not as bad as) Geneva on a day off:
But I seem to have forgotten what Beirut is like, this is trying to get to the city on a day off:
After surviving traffic, the day starts in a hip Bistrot Libanais called Basma in Ashrafieh serving delicious Lebanese mezza in a traditional urban ambiance.
The hummus melts in your mouth as you mix it with the gently cooked delicatessen such as Samboussek or Kebbeh. The fruity smell of the narguilé emanating from the nearby tables and floating in the air without ruining the taste of the food you're delicately chewing, unlike cigarette, but instead taking you back in time when Lebanese were simpler people enjoying a meal without iPhone's What's App and Blackberry's BBM.
When you're having an urban day, you can't have dessert in the same place you had lunch, because you have to experience new places and discover new sensations.
Since the BUN (Beirut Underground Network) is still under construction since 1873, we were forced to take the car through the city and live typical Beirut street scenes like this one.
We then made our way to a newly opened bakery in Hamra who's name suggests a rather sexually funded behaviour. Besides displaying an overweight and unattractive salesperson who's judgmental looks made me feel uncomfortable, Sugar Daddy's bakery offers quality cupcakes that will give you a culinary orgasm.
In order to enjoy these fine sweets, we made our way to the beach at Raml el Bayda (literally translated: white sand), a beach I wasn't much aware of, right in the city nearby the popular corniche.
It's a proper beach. Unlike the typical Lebanese beach - which consists of a swimming pool, a VIP section, 5 overpriced restaurants, 3 bars and a dirty sea access, all this for about 20 US$ - this beach has a big strip of sand, a bar / restaurant, chairs and umbrellas - all this for free (unless you want to rent the chairs and umbrellas, but that's pretty normal).
The beach is extremely clean, it is impossible to find a piece of rubbish anywhere because the city hired two darker skinned people who constantly clean the area because dumping things inside the bins is still a hard task for people.
If it weren't for the "ya Mhammad jib el talifone ta sawwer el baba", the ladies swimming with their clothes on and the men dressed with a manually cut pair of cheap denim, you could almost feel somewhere in the Caribbean.
It was very unusual to be at the beach in the middle of November while biting on a delicious Oreo flavoured cupcake and humming its deliciousness out loud. The sunset is among the nicest I've seen as the sun is perfectly perpendicular to the Lebanese coast and the sky was crystal clear.