Day 20 – Beirut

11 Apr

There are frequent power cuts in Lebanon. Twice I’ve been stuck in lifts, but the worst was in the cable car, the Teleferique, which came to a sudden stop and started swinging wildly over the biggest drop, setting my heart racing, leaving me wondering how good Lebanese safety standards are and whether they even have rescue teams…

It was even scarier than Bataara gorge waterfall, where the wet and slippery rocks slope down toward the edge, leaving you in no doubt that one slip would see you plummet into the abyss, and thankful that there are no other people there jostling for position on what tiny footholds there are.

Day 18 – Beirut

9 Apr

Beirut, Lebanon.

I can’t hear the word “Beirut” without also hearing the prefix “war-torn”, but although the building next door to the Intercontinental Phoenicia has suspicious looking damage:

the rest of Beirut that I’ve seen consists of car parks full of Ferraris next to marinas full of expensive power boats surrounded by hundreds of people enjoying the cafes and restaurants or walking along the corniche, which is what they call the seafront around here.

And then we have the Club Lounge at the Phoenicia:

Excellent canapes, superb local wines, impeccable service, and the personal attention of Mariam make this the best place to be in Beirut.

Mustn’t forget the hotel limo that collected me at the airport and was a slightly higher spec than the usual – a Bentley:

Day 17 – Kuwait City

8 Apr

Morning view from the hotel room:

But only if you open the window and poke your camera through the gap, precariously dangling from the 17th floor. Otherwise, the “spectacular sea views” offered by the hotel look like this:

Hotels out here have a hard time keeping the windows clean because of all the sand in the air, and this hotel seems to have simply given up trying.

To get anywhere in Kuwait City you have to keep running for your life across 6 lanes of SUVs doing 60mph:

Day 16 – Manama, Bahrain, and Kuwait City, Kuwait

7 Apr

I thought Bahrain would be crowded with tourists because of the Grand Prix. All the hotels are sold out, but the only people I’ve seen at mine is a handful in Ferrari team uniforms. (Just the plebs. The drivers stay somewhere private.) Maybe because it’s a night race everyone else was in bed while I explored Bahrain Fort for over an hour with nobody else there except a security guard at the gate. Not a particularly thrilling place but much more atmospheric with no people and no noise, and its rare to have a UNESCO world heritage site entirely to yourself.

The National Museum was also deserted.

Muharraq Souq was a different story, one of crowded chaos, but still without tourists.

Muscat felt a bit Mediterranean and the rest of Oman was old fashioned subsistence goat farming. Dubai is clean and rich and new and tall and wide and calm. Bahrain is old and small and crowded and noisy and hectic.

In Dubai, everyone you see out is Arab or white, and everyone working in the hotels, shops, and restaurants is Indian, or thereabouts. In Bahrain it seems like Indians make up at least two thirds of the population.

Then Kuwait. The airport is a chaotic shambles and its dusk by the time I get out. There’s so much dust and sand in the air that the darkening skies seem filled with smoke as if things are on fire. Traffic is heavy and absolutely everyone is driving like an utter maniac, seemingly all going the same way. It feels like a neighbouring power has invaded and people are fleeing for their lives. I haven’t watched the news lately….

But no, it’s just normal. Kuwait is just one of those places where the driving is so frenetic and the infrastructure so car-based and pedestrian-blind that you have to take a taxi if you want to cross the street without being killed.

The hotel is also a shambolic mess, and the executive lounge is very limited. The only people in there sound like American Sunday school missionary-type teachers, there to save the poor little a-rab children, and because Kuwait is a completely dry country the strongest option to take the edge off their fantastically annoying conversation is not going to be enough…