Everything written about the capital, Beirut, like “Paris of the Middle East”, actually for the most part turned out to be true – it’s expensive, shopping, good nightlife, and good food. Outside of Beirut, heading up the mountains toward Syria, is where Lebanon gets really nice. Byblos was hotter than f%^@ the day I went, but still nice to be in the Mediterranean again. 2 things I didn’t know before coming to Lebanon: very … very good wine here. Bekaa Valley produces an excellent product; and finding cheap hostels is near impossible. (only Talal Hotel for $10/night)
Rumors about the 6 to 10 hour waits at the border for visas didn’t happen. I waited on average, going there and coming back, for about 2 hours at the Syrian land border. Devuldging this information, you’re all screwed and wait times inevitably will increase. Damascus, very authentic. The mosque, for my money, is a much better visit then the Blue Mosque. Walking around the Old City, and the Christian section, still had an older, more genuine feel, as opposed to Istanbul. Cheap hotels all over the place, but for $18 a night, the Damascus Room was worth it. 1 thing I didn’t know before coming to Syria: excellent train from Aleppo to Damascus. With how crowded and loud the cities are, this beautiful and cheapest way to head between cities, was a nice surprise after going by bus from Amman to Aleppo the day prior. Probably wouldn’t have known this if it hadn’t been for the guy at Al Gawaher hostel in Aleppo, also $10/night. The guy running it is from Kuwait and hilarious. He kicks people out of his place just for not liking guests when arriving.
Ahh, the Bedouin. Jordan – other than Petra – I didn’t know a whole lot about this place, though my good friends in DC, lived here and were born here. So, of course, I crashed with their family. Amman was a complete surprise, again cause I knew hardly anything prior. Petra, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, etc. all lived up and surpassed expectations. It was also good to see our Jordanian participant from IOC camp here in Armenia. 2 thing I didn’t know before coming to Jordan: the restaurants and bars are as good, if not, better than in Beirut; and the whole floating-thing in the Dead Sea is a trip.
Additional photos from the trip are on the Flickr photostream to the right.