Don’t get me wrong.
I love Beirut. I’m from here, I’ve lived here almost my whole life and there’s nowhere else in the world I want to be other than Beirut. You know how much Beirut means to us? Ahmad left a job in Kuwait to come back and live here.
But sometimes, Beirut can get too overwhelming, even for those who are most used to it, and you find yourself needing a break.
Today, we did just that. It was also the one year anniversary to our engagement date and we wanted to do something special. So the fiance suggested we take a road trip towards the Chouf. He had done the trip last week on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle but I didn’t join him.
So we drove south of Beirut and took the exit that leads you to the region. One turn and it felt like a whole different country.
It always astounded me that a tiny country like Lebanon holds so much under-appreciated beauty. People like me, who are very used to a specific setting, don’t get to enjoy these places unless it’s a pre-scheduled trip.
We drove on. All the way up Deir El Qamar. I hadn’t been there in years. I traveled to so many places around the world to learn about their history and culture and spent hours in their museums, but have nearly forgotten everything about my own.
On the way, we got to see where one of our potential wedding venues is (because everything right now ties back to the wedding) and we are actually really glad we didn’t end up shortlisting the place because our guests would have killed us.
Our trip took us past many more beautiful villages. We took another exit and found ourselves heading towards Barouk and the Cedar reserve there. And along the way, the temperature kept dropping, all down to the single digits.
At some point, we stopped at a mini-market, a dekkene, to get some water and a snack- and it all completed the whole charm of the place.
At this point, Ahmad thought it would be funny to lower ALL the windows in the car to take in the fresh air. Only problem? I was wearing a short skirt and tights (because I was dressed up for our lunch and not expecting a road trip). He got yelled at. Lovingly.
Then, we started to make our return back to the city. But of course, we had to cross the Mdayrej area and found ourselves in Hammana, in the middle of a fog. It was also four degrees (and he once again lowered the windows because I don’t know why).
Downwards, downwards, downwards, we saw a sign for Cherry Blossom Boutique Hotel and our curiosity got the best of us and we said, surely they must offer coffee. So we gave the car to valet and headed inside.
And the moment we stepped in? It started pouring, raining cats and dogs., It was unbelievable. Like the sky was waiting for us to just get in a take a seat by a window before it could unleash the mayhem.
I want to say we enjoyed our coffee, but we didn’t because we were the only ones there and the waiter kept thinking he was included in our conversation, coming over every two minutes or so. It was so awkward, he was almost breathing down our necks.
It was time to head back to Beirut, under the rain no less. Taking the Kahale road is challenging enough on a clear day, so when it’s raining and the glass is all foggy?
So in a matter of minutes, with the radio blasting Alphaville’s Big in Japan, we found ourselves back in ugly Beirut. Beirut with all its construction and chaos and people and buildings that obscure our view and leave us no chance to breathe.
But then, just as we were heading home, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunset, the kind that comes after a major storm. And I felt like, you know, maybe Beirut isn’t so ugly after all.