On the way to Beirut, Lebanon and 1st night there

I was flying with Middle Easter Airlines, found the check in desk and left my bags. That day they were checking in hand luggage for free. Brilliant! After less than 10mins I was left with only a handbag and headed towards security which was uneventful. My next goal was to find some food as I hadn’t had anything to eat that day and it was already well past lunch time. I did a bit of shopping while looking for food, spoke to my dad, got some sushi and headed towards the gate.

The first indication of going to a war zone were the military staff and dogs guarding the gate. The Arab men in front of me got asked about the amount of money had on them and were let to go through after an apparently satisfactory answer. I lowered my bag, the dog sniffed it and let me through. A brief look at my passport and boarding pass, a confirmation that I didn’t need a visa and I was on the other side waiting to board the plane.

As usual I started looking around me, familiarizing myself with my surroundings. Most of the people were Arab and those who weren’t stuck out painfully. The men were tall and dark with shiny, wavy hairs. The women were feminine and wore a lot of make up.

Next I got on the plane and was excited to find out a big, transcontinental machine. I was so excited to be on one after years of Ryanair and EasyJet flights. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, they serve their purpose extremely well – they take you from A to B. A transcontinental plane on the other hand not only takes you from A to B but also provides an experience from it.

The flight was very comfortable, I spent most of it watching films and drinking water. The fun part was the landing. After 4.5h we approached Beirut from the Mediterranean and were greeted by a golden sunset over the sea. A spectacular view! There was no land in sight. I was wondering when will we see the landing strip but there was none in sight. Only the glistening water and the sun. I only saw the strip when the plane was about 20m above it. I’ve never had a landing like it, it was amazing!

Passport checks took a bit of time, but luckily I had some company to keep me entertained. I met Drew while queuing and we struck up a conversation. He was one of not so many foreigners around and it wasn’t difficult to recognize him given his reddish hair.

The passport guy seemed to fiddle with my passport and stare at the computer screen for quite some time while cheerfully chatting to his colleague and exchanging magazines. All good.

Picked up my luggage and headed out where the hotel shuttle was supposedly waiting for me with a name board. It wasn’t hard to find it – as soon as I came out there was a big, bright screen with my name clearly written  on it – Ms.Katerina Ruseva. The lady behind the desk was extremely polite and quickly sorted the driver for me. We came out of the airport and the hot, moist air hit me straight away. I was in the Middle East.

The driver loaded my suitcases, opened the door for me and we were on our way. It was dark when I arrived and I couldn’t see much.

My next pleasant surprise was the hotel. I could immediately tell that it was a nice place and my room only added to it. I had expected a bog standard Holiday Inn Express or something of the sorts – business like and completely characterless. Imagine my surprise and delight when I was led to a 4* hotel just around the corner from the sea.

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My favourite bit was the shower. It is more like a wet room than a shower, it is lovely!

After that I went downstairs to the restaurant to get something to eat before it was too late. I sat at a table, ordered some food and started playing with my phone. I noticed that a man who clearly wasn’t local walked in. Judging by his outfit he was definitely English speaking – either from the UK or American. It turned out to be the latter.  He sat at the table in front of me and I could see him glancing at me from time to time. I figure we foreigners should support each other so I invited him to share dinner with me. My companion’s name is Bill but more about him later. He deserves his own post.

After that it was shower and bed for me. Work was starting the next day.

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