The Maronite Cathedral of St. George and the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque sit next to each other..
Narghileh are ominpresent.
I have been in Beirut less than 48 hours as I write this. I have so many impressions and have already seen so many things that I don't think I could gather my thoughts into a cohesive post. I will just write a few quick notes for now:
There is much more on-going construction, reconstruction and redevelopment than I had imagined.
The Solidere area downtown, especially the pedestrian part, is super sleek and cosmopolitan. We had lunch there today at a great place called Karam where my companion had lamb tongue and lamb brains. I was more than happy with my hummus, though I tried the tongue and liked it. The brains, not so much.
I was not expecting to see Roman ruins on one side of the street and a TGI Friday's on the other side of the street. Right, a Friday's. Nor was I expecting there to be a Chili's next to our hotel.
The lebanese food I have had so far - creamy hummus, labneh, tabbouleh, grilled meats, super fresh fish, shrimp, calamari, spicy potatoes, beans (foul) and a wide variety of pastries - is so very good. We've eaten twice at a great place called Chase just around the corner from the hotel in Sassine Square.
I would describe the driving as free form, sort of like an interpretive dance at 50 mph. It seems like you can honk your horn all the time for almost any reason.
Lots of people smoke narghileh (hookahs), inside and outside.
Anyway, as this is my maiden voyage to the Middle East I'm sure I will form some deeper impressions in the next few days.
I'm not hyper linking today, so here are some links if you are interested:
About Soldiere: http://www.solidere.com/project/beirut.html
About labneh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strained_yoghurt