It takes four hours to fly from Heathrow to Beirut, a stint that seemed longer due to a screening of the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, set to a choir of unhappy babies.
Stepping off the plane and collecting my bags, i then proceeded to the nearest taxi rank to engage in the inevitable monkey dance to get to your hotel without surrendering your entire budget to some sweaty opportunistic local wideboy. As if on perfect cue, he stormed off in a huff when i tried to ask for anything below $40, so we eventually settled for half that. On first impression you discover that its incredibly dense as a city, and with the mountains looming in the background giving the illusion of houses being piled on top of each other. There are 5 lanes on each road, extended to 6 if you count the pavement. I'm pretty sure the Lebanese DVLA consists of two guys in a smokey room screening an looped pirate copy of Die Hard 3. No one, quite honestly gives a shit. Horn honking starts before they start the car and will continue in an empty street. The entire process could be trivialized as a comical free for all if you weren't genuinely in danger of living the rest of your existence as a wonky legged cripple.
Speaking of the army, they are everywhere. You dont go far without seeing guys on the corner carrying assault rifles and cooking under the sun. As I was trying to get a shot of the waterfront, an angry soldier dragging an M-16 around like a petulant child called me over to see the footage, making sure I wasn't filming him. I'm not sure what the definition of "awake" is, but by the time he dismissed me with a wave of his hand, i felt pretty fresh.
If anyone has seen Robocop, they might remember a rundown Detroit being rebuilt by a corporate giant OCP. In Beirut,the downtown area is being rebuilt by a company called Solidere and as a result is being renamed as such. Many Lebanese are up in arms at the loss of culture and history in exchange for an unprecedented promotional corporate stamp, but on the upside, its a small price to pay for a sweet ass cyborg police officer.