Tripoli – Special day alert

Yes folks I have just had one of those magic days.

It started last night at about 23:00 when I was asked by the brother of the B&B owner whether I would like towatch some card playing by 4 local brothers. I said yes of course. What I did not realise was that the eldest brother is 90 years old and a pretty good card player mentally and physically dextrous indeed. A small smoke-filled room with one poor light in it, lots of animated Arabic staccato conversations and arguments after each game as it is played in pairs and you are supposed to help your partner out … or not as the case may be. Needless to say there were numerous raised voices, hand gesticulations, shrugs of shoulders,barely perceptible nods and face movements to explain away why you lost the last game. Fascinating to watch. the 80-year-old’s brother won by the way. And they play these card games every day and have done for many years.

Tripoli has been superb. Far from the modern downtown feel of Beirut. A very earthy, gritty feel to it (some would say dirty). The Souqs and the old town were so vibrant and full of life. The sound of merchants selling their goods at the top of their voices with their usual short phrase to entice you in, fruit, veg, fish, meat, tea, coffee, herbs, spices, juices, you name it, it was there, the smell of the spices and fish, the herbs and the soap makers all mingled with the smoke and essences from the tea, coffee, bread, sandwich and kebab stalls. The metallic rumble of the sack trucks moving goods here and there. Intermittently accompanied by the sound of the Islamic call to prayer from every minaret in the city that all seem to start their call at different times give or take 30 seconds. I hope you get the picture.

The welcome has been so open and friendly. The parking attendant who let me park in his car park for the day even though I was not supposed to ( a nice tip helped). Whilst finding my bearings in a city square I heard the chant that I would here many times today ”welcome to Lebanon”. I looked up and started to speak to the gentleman who had greeted me. We spoke in English a little and he immediately got me a chair and a coffee from one of the nearby vendors. He gave me a gift of his beads and pointed me in the direction of the historic centre. It was not prompted, just a friendly gesture from a total stranger … a welcome. More coffee from another vendor before I was welcomed once again by an elderly gentleman who is mentioned in Lonely Planet and is a well-known local guide. He then took me on a whirlwind tour of the main sites in the Souqs including access to parts of shops and soap factories that I would never have found, also pointing out various buildings, mosques, hammams, stones and symbols. He even got me in to the great central mosque. All done with a smile and pride in his city. I wandered around for many more hours after bidding him a gleeful farewell. I then tried the food and drinks here and there from either cafes or street vendors on the tricycle trolleys. Freshly squeezed orange and carrot juice, fresh-baked cheese sandwich and hummus, picked veg and bread. Along the way I greeted and was greeted by many people, they all welcomed me to Lebanon, even getting me more free coffee on more than one occasion.

Tomorrow I intend to relax a bit on the beach in Enfeh with the occasional saunter amongst the churches and castle ruins

BTW. No Diesel cards at all. They are banned.

Definition of “fresh orange juice”, Go to garden and pick orange. Sqeeze into glass and drink. Anything else is not fresh. Yes the climate out here allows you to grow what you like. Oranges, bananas, olives etc …