Some insights from my recent trip to Beirut.
# Corniches are the same everywhere… Long, winding and beautiful! The only difference in Beirut is the fashion factor. Even old ladies were jogging in colour-coordinated sportswear and make-up at 7 in the morning!
# A bowl of fattoush (Arabic salad) is manna when you are a vegetarian and surrounded by people tucking heartily into the choicest of seafood. I was even game to take a bowl for the road! And yes, one had to explain every time… being a vegetarian meant you do NOT eat even fish!
# We Indians have the herd mentality wherever we go… Tried in vain to spot an Indian in Beirut. The closest we came to was a young Nepali girl called Kumari in a souvenir shop at the old city of Biblyos. She was happy to see a couple of Indians and animatedly spoke to us in Hindi. You rock, Kumari! Towards the fag end of the trip, we discovered we had another Indian journo in our midst, from Kuwait 🙂
# Officers at passport control took a long time in scanning my passport both times… flipping through both the new and the old one attached. I presume they wanted to know whether I was a globe-trotter!
# New-age journalism meant that you tell the whole world… where you are and what you are doing even before the event is over! Journos were busy with their Blackberries and Thinkpads, blogging, Facebooking and Tweeting!
# The forthright person at a Biblyos souvenir shop when asked whether he stocked traditional stuff. “Why would I have traditional stuff? There have been no tourists because of the war! I try to be creative and make my own stuff.” He showed us a small frame that said, ‘Bass!!’ Was surprised to learn that it meant the same as we know it, ‘That’s enough!’
# Sign-language helps everywhere… especially when all you know in Arabic is ‘maafi Arabic’. The housekeeping lady at the Gefinor Rotana was in splits when I ‘showed’ her I wanted a toothpaste and toothbrush. Well…