Summer in Abu Dhabi & Beirut

After somewhat of a hiatus from posting to this site, I thought it was due time for another update.  The summer has gone by quite leisurely, I must say, having finished classes in early May and not starting up again until September 19th.  I got get back to the states for about 3 weeks, enjoyed some time with some great old friends in Ft. Lauderdale, partied for the 4th of July in the Hamptons, celebrated my friend from high school’s wedding (the first of our group to take the plunge) and have been back in the Dhabs since mid-July working on my research.

Quick Masdar updates: Due to conditions (apparently) out of Masdar’s control, we still have not moved into our permanent campus in Masdar City.  The consolation is that we are thoroughly enjoying life at the Trader’s Hotel in Abu Dhabi (http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/abudhabi/traders), where we’ve been for nearly a month now.  Masdar City is nearing its completion:

Masdar City Site 1A, the Masdar Institute, Summer 2010

More importantly, after spring classes were over about a dozen of us decided to take a little break. We took advantage of Fly Dubai’s ridiculously cheap flight deals and went to Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, and apparently one of the Middle East’s best party cities.  Upon arrival our first order of business was, of course, to take advantage of Beirut’s European style drinking laws, which are, needless to say, quite liberal.  Beirut is so liberal a city that they don’t even really enforce traffic laws. Driving there is absolutely insane.  Traffic lanes are a waste of time and stopping fully at stop signs is a sin.  Even red lights are purposefully ignored.  We met a friend of ours from Masdar who is from Beirut and he drove us around a bit, thankfully.  We rented a few cars and our German ex-Autobahner classmate took the wheel of one while our Mexican classmate took the other (apparently after driving in Mexico City, Beirut wasn’t so bad).  So we peeled ourselves away from ‘the bottle’ for the day and drove to Byblos, supposedly the oldest continually inhabited city in the world (founded in ~5000 BC).  It was a beautiful spot where we grabbed a nice little meal and had some wine overlooking the port and did a bit of walking around.

Byblos Ruins

Panorama of Byblos Port

We left Byblos in the afternoon and ventured to the Jeita Grotto, a set of amazing caves with some of the most incredible stalagmites and stalactites (including the world’s largest stalactite) I’ve ever seen (not that I’m too avid a spelunker). No pictures allowed inside though.  I was surprised and disappointed, for a site vying to be one of the new 7 wonders of the world, there wasn’t much in terms of information provided about the cave. You essentially just walk through and “ooh” and “aaah” when you feel it is appropriate, but there are almost no plaques or boards indicating the origin of the cave, how it formed, when it was discovered, and the like.  No audio tours, almost nothing.  I guess I’m used to the American style of pointing out every little detail of every item just so that the site can claim the world first/best/most/largest/smallest insignificant title for something completely irrelevant and uninteresting.  Just drive across the USA (or read Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” to save time) to get my meaning.  Though I did thoroughly enjoy the quick boat ride that’s part of the tour, one part which you have to actually duck down to avoid decapitation by stalactite. Definitely worth seeing.

Jeita Grotto

The next day we did some city touring. It’s a city of contrast.  There are the most insane drivers, beautiful new hotels, churches, mosques, and downtown shops, contrasted side by side with battle-torn buildings and memories of past conflicts.

Old Church, New Mosque

Our hotel, though a bargain, may be one of the few places in Beirut that many would agree should be targeted in the next air raid.

The fabulous Versailles Grand Hotel

It’s also a surprisingly safe feeling city, probably thanks to the countless military men posted on nearly every street corner, armed with automatic weapons. They sure don’t scare the taxi drivers away from trying to rip you off though.  But with the US dollar worth about 1,500 Lebanese pounds, you feel rich almost all the time, though paying 6,000 of any currency for a beer never feels good.

Beirut Military Men Just Chilling

Some of our group went on some other extra-city trips over the next few days while the rest of us focused on the other thing Beirut is famous for, nightlife.  We went out to this street with just nothing but bars called Gemaizy (check my spelling) and bounced around a bit. We then thought it prudent to go to an after hours spot called B 018 (http://www.b018.com/main.html), a club famous for its retractable roof that is opened, you guessed it, when the sun rises the next day.  Needless to say, I don’t remember this supposed sunrise. I also apparently forgot to use my free drink ticket, so I’ll be sure to make a return trip there to get my money’s worth.  Almost equally cool was our cab drive over there from the bars, complete with strobe lights and pumping bass, something we hadn’t expected but surely appreciated at around 2:30 am.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Brian,
    found your blog looking through photos for a presentation I’m giving at work.
    Good photo of MI, sorry to hear you still have not moved in there.

    Hope all is going well in AD. You should be nearing completion of your work there. What plans do you have next.

    I returned in March 0f 2010 back to LA and now work for Sharepoint360 deploying solution to the construction industry.
    Keeps me home which is good for now.

    Reply

  2. wishing you had much fun in this great country 🙂

    Reply

  3. seems like an adventurous trip.. i have always wanted to go out to some adventure tour with friends.. but in the past 18 years… never had a chance.. 😦 someday i might go out alone..

    Reply

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