Sojourn in Lebanon

“Beirut?” he enquired… looking at me questioningly. I nodded, affirming that I was indeed at the right gate at the airport. I passed through the gates and stepped into a land where I was the only brown-skinned person to be seen. And this trend did not change till I returned to Dubai 3 days later. It was a bit weird, cos I know a lot of Indians go to Beirut for work, but during my time there, not only was I the only Indian around, I was also stared at like I was the only Indian to ever set foot in the country! Other than the disconcerting feeling that I’m probably walking around with toilet-paper stuck to my shoes… the trip was excellent!

It was an internal team meeting, so technically I was traveling for work. But it really was more like a vacation! I finally got to meet the rest of the members of our team who are scattered around different parts of the GCC. Surprisingly, they are a lot of fun! And even our meetings were held under such lovely surroundings that I could barely believe that I was “working”.

How can you take anything too seriously when you’re sitting under a pavilion by the beach sipping coffee and have to compete against the sound of the waves smashing onto the rocks beneath you to be heard?

It got a bit too cold after a while, so after lunch, we decided to shift the meeting to more sunny surroundings.

Lebanon is a beautiful country! The mountains, the beaches… it’s all really lovely! But what blew me away was the food! UAE has a lot of lebanese people and a lot of lebanese restaurants as well. I’ve eaten the cuisine too many times for it to even be considered firangi food. Or so I thought!

Lebanon used to be a french colony, so the main languages spoken there are Arabic and French. Both of which I don’t speak! So at restaurants, we left it to the arabic-speaking part of the team to order for everyone, and they ordered enough food to feed an army!

The first night, I foolishly filled myself up on hummous and freshly baked arabic bread, fatoush, tabouleh, freshly caught and fried calamari rings( I actually saw the woman fishing for it!), stuffed vine leaves, grilled halloumi … the usual arabic spreadI was feeling full and sleepy when the waiter whisked off my plate and cutlery and returned with fresh ones! I looked around, a bit confused… when a couple of other waiters came in carrying platters full of tiny fried sardines. After that they came carrying a massive dish of sea bass. Then we just shifted to another table… for dessert!

It was on this trip that I tried a Lebanese specialty that I’d heard of, but never encountered in Dubai-  raw meat.

It was… strange. My boss, who is Lebanese, said it melts in the mouth, like chocolate. It does not! It crumbles. I had one bite, and discarded the rest. I did happily try the cooked stuff though… octupus, squid in black inky sauce and the likes. I just wanted to try the local cuisine. You what what they say… when in Rome… eat Roman food! ;P

While we’re on the subject of food (and with me, you’re never far away from it! ;P)… if ever you go to Lebanon, do not miss out on this one restaurant- Casino Mhanna.

It’s not really a casino, just a restaurant. Not sure why they call it casino.They have two, one downtown and one out in Byblos. You must go to the one in Byblos! The views are just magical, and the food divine!

Usually, after business trips, I ache to just get home and relax. This was the first time I was on a trip from work where I actually felt bad about leaving! I’d go back in an instant!  I need to anyway… since I didn’t get to explore Beirut as much as I’d have liked to!  Hell!  I’d just go back for another bowl of their fresh green almonds! :P

If you’re going and need a guide, you know whom to ask! :D

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