Today in Common Travel Itineraries

If simultaneously booking tickets to both Rwanda and Nebraska didn’t trigger a security freeze on my credit card, I can only assume I’ve finally beaten the international fraud-alert system that has hounded me for so long.

Starting Friday, the rest of my March looks like this:

  • Nairobi, Kenya - vacay!
  • Kigali, Rwanda - vacay!
  • Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda* - gorilla tracking / vacay!
  • Dubai, UAE - home for 12 hours to repack my bags
  • Nashville, Tennessee - jet-lag recuperation weekend with the parents
  • Omaha, Nebraska - week-long work training

I am so excite!!!

*Astute readers should note that the national park in question is located on Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, as the cool kids call it) - a.k.a. the country I’ve been obsessed with ever since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible in high school - a.k.a. there might be another destination added to the list above if I can get people tipsy enough in the bar at our mountaintop lodge to put good judgment aside and take a brief cross-border excursion.

(I mean, come on, I already had to refrain from booking an alternate flight itinerary for this trip that would have allowed us to spend a day in Burundi… HOW MUCH MORE RESTRAINT AND SELF-DISCIPLINE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!)

Are The Gorillas Okay With Pink?

March 11: Someone You Talked to Today

This is my friend A, of “our friends J+A” fame. (Names redacted, always redacted, in the interest of future political careers.)

I’ve spent much of today - and indeed, much of the past few weeks - talking to A as we’ve hashed out plans for our upcoming Rwanda adventure which is now, lo and behold, happening in less than a week!

Highlights of today’s travel-planning convo included the proposed itinerary for our Saturday-night bar crawl in Kigali, the importance of getting pre-departure gel manicures so we don’t have to worry about our nail game while tracking gorillas in the jungle, the relative merits of purchasing matching his-and-hers Columbia hiking pants for our respective partners, and the pros and cons of various pet-sitting options for J+A’s poodle Harley (pictured above) while we’re gone.

Obviously, we take our Serious Developing World Travel Adventures with a grain of salt. (Malaria meds, schmalaria meds… I mean, what?! - Mom, I’m on it, I promise!)

(March Photo A Day Challenge)

Travel and Inertia

Let me preface this post by admitting that I was never much of a physics student.

(True story: my mom lobbied for, and won, the right for me to stop taking math and science classes sometime around 10th grade because she was worried they would lower my GPA too much for me to get into a good college… in more recent years, I produced a GRE quantitative score that could be handily beaten by a trained gorilla using an abacus and sign language, so this was probably a good call.)

While I may not know much about physics, I do know a lot about travel, and I have come to realize that my particular brand of travel is characterized by that old physics chestnut, the law of inertia: the resistance of an object to change in its state of motion or rest. 

When I’m in motion - on a trip, on the road, on the move, as I have been for the past couple of weeks - I’m good to cruise. I can bop from place to place and flight to flight and timezone to timezone, accomodating 6 AM conference calls and 3 AM drinking nights and everything in between like it ain’t no thang.

But my god, once I stop moving and come to a state of rest… I have stopped moving and come to a state of rest. I got back to Dubai from my most recent trip to the US on Monday night, and for the past forty-eight hours the very demands of existence have made me cranky. Breathing? Ugh. Eating? So much work! Sleeping? IT’S TOO HARD I CAN’T DO IT! I spent about three hours of my work day today staring at an email that literally needed a yes / no response, wondering petulantly how anyone could expect me to do something so taxing as type two to three letters plus a punctuation mark. Honestly people, have you no respect for my fatigue?!

All of which is to explain why, given my travel schedule* as of late, my writing here has trickled to all but nonexistent. When I’m traveling, I’m like “GO GO GO, NO TIME FOR BLOGGING, IF YOU STOP MOVING YOU WILL BE SHOT!” and then when I’m home I’m like, “Yeeeeeeeeeah, let me just lay here idly for three ten days to fortify myself before I muster up the strength to read your BBM” - much less open the computer and type meaningful things.

But! I miss this space, and sharing all the things. So basically this has been a long-winded and circuitous way of saying… I’m here! Look at me! THINGS!

If I can get motivated to clear off my bedside table to a level of respectability befitting public display, I would love to be the last person on Tumblr to commit to doing the March Photo a Day challenge, so… stay tuned!

*As a consultant - a profession where people basically travel for a living, and as such have very few other things in life to validate their self-worth - one thing I have really grown to hate is ego-fueled pissing contests about who travels more… i.e. ”I AM THE MOST TRAVELIEST OF ALL JET-SETTING ELITE-STATUS HIGH-MILEAGE TRAVELERS IN ALL THE SKIES, LOOK AT ME!” So lest I sound like I’m going down that road, let me just simply say I have been traveling a lot for me - which basically means more than your average 400-lb. housebound geriatric in Mississippi and less than George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, and that is all, thankyouverymuch.

The First Ever

Do you ever type a sentence and then think, “Geez, I am probably the first person to have ever typed that exact combination of words in the entire history of the English language?”

I just wrote the following note to my friend Amy, a fellow transplanted Southerner in Dubai, on Gchat:

"Okay, so we’ll plan to meet y’all in Kigali on March 18th?"

And then looked back at what I had typed and was like, “Yep - definitely the first person ever to have used y’all in a sentence detailing plans to go gorilla-trekking in Rwanda.”

(Also, gorilla-trekking in Rwanda… SQUEE!)

Doha Diaries

Hi internets!

After one whole week at home in Dubai following my whirlwind trip to the US, I found out I needed to hit the road again this past Monday for four days of client meetings.

Intimidating business travel face is intimidating.

All was not lost, however, because this trip involved something y’all know I love… adding a new country to my list!

[THE CROWD GOES WILD!!! Kristen Bell sloth response!!!!!]

Yes that’s right - after five years in the region, and after visiting every other stinkin’ state in the GCC (that’s the Gulf Cooperation Council for you non-Middle East nerds… think of it as, like, the college football conference for rich oil-producing countries bordering the Arabian Gulf) multiple times - I finally made the 38-minute flight northwest to Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Let’s hear it for country #72!

I would also like to take a moment to point out the randomness of the fact that my Qatari visa grants me bonus access to the Sultanate of Oman, which is sort of akin to a US visa allowing you to enter, say, Costa Rica. Like, yes, they’re vaguely part of the same landmass, and no, they don’t hate each other, but… who came up with the two-for-one value proposition? And why?

Speaking of passport stamps and visas, I had a heartwarming exchange with the Emirati immigration officer who stamped my passport upon leaving Dubai this week. He - like every immigration officer everywhere - happened to open it to the first page, which contains my much-coveted, semi-illegal (young unmarried non-Muslim women aren’t technically permitted access to the Kingdom) Saudi Arabian visa. Anyhow, my Saudi visa page kind of makes me look like a lunatic, because I spent a year commuting there for work and the Saudi immigration guys were always so flustered by the novelty of letting a blonde unveiled American girl into the country that they couldn’t manage to flip to a new page, so it ended up like this:

ANYHOW, the immigration guy in Dubai was like, “Miskeena! Too much time Saudia, too much!” [“Poor thing! You’ve had to go to Saudi Arabia too many times!”] and I was like, “Wallah, kitir Saudia, kitir!” [“I know, right? I’ve had to go to Saudi WAY too many times!”] and then I felt very warm and fuzzy that we had both used our pidgin understanding of the other’s language to express our shared disdain for Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes it’s the small things, right?

So, Qatar! I guess it’s kind of awkard for me to announce at this late point in the post that I don’t actually have much to report upon because I’ve spent the past 72 hours shuffling from hotel room to client meeting to hotel room.

That said, this is the view from my hotel room:

A city under construction and (more importantly?) a lush array of swimming pools… would that I had brought my bathing suit.

One thing I would like to talk about, though, is the pronounciation of "Qatar," because it is something of a thorn in my paw. When I was a wee young naive thing in Tennessee, looking up maps of the Middle East in my family’s encyclopedia, I always used to pronounce it "KWAY-tar" in my head; this, unsurprisingly, is not correct. However, neither is "CAT-tah," favored by the Brits, nor "Cutter," which has gained vogue in America as of late.

"Well Gubbi, you self-professed cultural interpreter, you" you’re asking, "How DO I pronounce the name of this tiny-yet-powerful titan, host of both USCENTCOM and the 2022 World Cup?”

And my answer is a mean one: “HA! You can’t!” - because believe me, I’ve spent the better part of a decade trying. In a decidedly regrettable PR move (hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20), the nation’s founders gave it a name featuring two Arabic letters - ق and ط - that are virtually unpronounceable to anyone born west of, say, Morocco.

(Although this guy gives it a pretty good go.)

So, sorry about that.

In other news, one thing Qatar is really good at is dreaming up giant phallus-like buildings:

I mean, I know the women are covered, but can you really tell me a culture that erects (teehee!) giant buildings in the shape of prophylactics isn’t sexually liberated?!

Given it’s one of the richest countries in the world, though, there are plenty of other ways to waste your money beyond the willy-nilly (HA!) construction of sky-penises. The restaurant where we have lunch at my client’s office overlooks a BMW showroom (go figure) which proudly displays this dreamily customised purple 7-series:

I mean, I know my allegiance is to pink cars, but I think I’d make an exception for this beaut.

I’m off to dinner at the W Doha with my colleague for now, but it seems I’ll be hanging around the big Q a fair bit in the coming months, so you can expect, uh… you know, some actual commentary on something meaninful about Qatar at some point in the near future.

Until then… PURPLE BEAMERS!

A Word From Middle America

Broadcasting live from Chicago Midway airport - IT’S GUBBI!!!

(The crowd goes wild… oh wait, that’s just everyone around me watching the Packers-Giants game at the Terminal B sports bar… same same, right?)

Yep, back in America again - I know, right? Before I even had time to recap New Year’s Eve in Dubai (in a word: fireworks) or the awesome Palestinian wedding I attended the first weekend of January (in a word: bling), I headed back across the ponds last Saturday for two weeks of work meetings in DC and Nebraska (plus a bonus Family Fun Weekend in Tennessee) and have not had a second to catch my breath since.

So while I will inevitably post super-belated recaps of the aforementioned fun exotic international events at some point in the future, some bullets in the interim:

  • Oh my gosh, America. So here’s one of the things I find most crazy about being home in the US: you can have a conversation with anyone about anything at any time. Spending time stateside makes me feel like I must be absolutely starved for social interaction at in Dubai, because wow, talking to random people is a thing here. It’s not something I actively miss when I’m overseas, since 90% of the people I deal with on a daily basis in Dubai are either (a) not native English speakers, or (b) from cultures where idle small talk between strangers is frowned upon (I’m looking at you, subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). So it strikes me as absolutely hilarious that I am permitted, nay encouraged, to talk to ALL THE PEOPLE about ALL THE THINGS here. Think the security line at the airport is too long? Gripe to me about it! Want to know where I’m traveling and why? Ask away! Have a comment about the way I’m getting my nails done at the salon? Go ahead, share! Like my purse? Compliment me and I’ll be happy to tell you where I got it, how much it was on sale, and my views on its pros and cons. It is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting to be this involved with everyone around me… but I’m not complaining.
  • I seem to have been away from the US for long enough at this point that I’m woefully, embarassingly behind on the norms of American technology. My mom and I picked something up from the Apple store in Nashville last night and I was totally slack-jawed in amazement when the guy scanned the bar code of the product on his iPhone, swiped my mom’s credit card on his iPhone, emailed the receipt to my mom on his iPhone, and then sent us on our way with nary a line or cashier in sight. I got all overstimulated by the experience and was like, "OMG THE FUTURE IS NOW - IT’S MAAAAAAGIC!" which then required my mom to explain to him that I live in the Middle East where we don’t have technology, which then necessitated a round of small talk (see Bullet #1) on why I live in Dubai.
  • I have roughly the same level of apprehension about flying into Omaha at 10 PM as I have had about landing in random cities in Nigeria in the middle of the night. Let me be clear, I’m from Tennessee, so I am not in any way trying to be high falutin’, but I mean, this is the proper midwest… what adventures await me in Nebraska?! Will there be cows slaughtered upon my arrival for the provision of unlimited USDA Grade A steaks? Will everyone possess a BMI indicative of morbid obesity? Will the tropically conditioned blood in my sensitive expat veins freeze immediately upon stepping outside into the harsh prairie winter? Is Nebraska on the prairie? WHAT IS A PRAIRIE, ANYWAY?!

Okay, boarding now… more hijinx later!

Gubbi’s Guide to Surviving Long-Haul Flights

Me ’n’ my baggages, triumphantly arriving back home after our 30-hour flight odyssey from South Carolina to Dubai last summer.

Since the holiday travel season is upon us and I am now in my fifth straight year of traveling 24 hours each way to get home for Christmas - and also since I am currently scheduled to be on no less than eight 15-hour flights in the next four months - I feel imminently qualified at this moment in time to unleash my travel wisdom upon the interwebs.

So brace yourselves for Gubbi’s Guide to Surviving Long-Haul Flights:

1) Build up a sleep deficit before you go. This isn’t usually a problem for me, as I inevitably find myself either (a) on a flight that leaves at 3 AM, or (b) up until 3 AM packing / doing my nails / downloading TV the night before a flight, but for those of you who are more plan-in-advancey than me, I genuinely believe that going into a long trip a bit sleep-deprived improves the experience. Not only are you better able to sleep on the flight (True story: I once fell asleep around 11 PM on a flight from Dubai to Atlanta. When I woke up, checked my watch, and saw that it was only 11:30, I was really confused because I felt like I had been asleep for much longer than thirty minutes… then I realized it was 11:30 AM and I had, in fact, slept for over 12 hours) but I think your body also adjusts better to new time zones and “goes with the flow” a bit more when you’re tired to begin with.

2) Drink copious amounts of alcohol. Anyone who tells you not to drink on a long-haul flight hates you, hates freedom, and probably wants to kick your puppy in the face. The only way I survive any flight longer than 7 hours is to spend as much of it as possible in a dream-like, twilight haze of prolonged semi-awareness, and obviously alcohol facilitates this process. (The same goes for any prescription / non-prescription pharmaceuticals you may have at your disposal, but you didn’t hear that from me.) Sure, drink lots of water, too, and drink caffeine upon arrival if you touch down in the morning - but mostly, drink booze. Remember: on a long enough flight, it’s always five o’clock somewhere on your flight path.

3) When it comes to entertainment, set your intellectual pretenses aside. If I had a dollar for every issue of The Economist I had purchased in an airport bookstore and never read, I would probably be able to cover the cost of a business class upgrade for my 15-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Chicago this coming Tuesday, and that shit ain’t cheap. Same goes for New York Times best-selling non-fiction, NPR podcasts, and any critically acclaimed Oscar-winning documentaries or foreign films that may be available for viewing on the plane. Acquaint yourself with the fact that in your drooling, ambient, in-flight stupor, you are the lowest common denominator, and select your media accordingly. US Weekly, reality TV, and young adult fiction are all great choices. On an 8-hour flight from Dubai to Hong Kong last summer, I watched Justin Bieber: Never Say Never after a couple mini-bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and literally wept because I was so inspired by this compelling story of a humble young Canadian with a big dream. Truth be told, it was one of my most enjoyable flights in recent memory.

4) Dress comfortably. Let’s face it, the days of being upgraded because you’re a ”sharp dresser” (or whatever the old wisdom used to be) have long since passed. Nowadays you get upgraded because either (a) you have status with the airline, or more rarely, (b) the airline grievously wrongs you and you rage so explosively that they have no choice but to bump you into the fancy cabin to shut you up. Neither of these have anything to do with wearing heels or a blazer, or even real pants - and as far as I’m concerned, leggings become acceptable as pants on any flight that involves crossing an ocean. I think I stopped wearing actual clothes on long-haul flights about a decade ago - my standard uniform is yoga pants, running shoes, a cute t-shirt, a sweatshirt or pashmina, plus makeup and all my nicest jewelry - and I have yet to be laughed out of a business class lounge. (And ladies, don’t forget that the worst pain in our lives besides childbirth is underwire digging into your ribs as you try to nod off sometime around hour thirteen. Sports bras, always.)

5) Don’t talk to strangers… Ohmygosh, nothing strikes terror in my heart (ehrm… except turbulence) like hunkering down for a transcontinental hop and discovering my seatmate is a Chatty Cathy. Sartre and I don’t often see eye to eye, but I firmly believe that when you’re a captive audience hurtling through the sky in a metal tube, hell is other people, and I can’t tell you how many miserable hours I’ve spent listening to fellow travelers ramble on about their volunteer trip to Uganda / secret missionary work in Qatar / pharmaceuticals conference in Saudi Arabia when all I’ve wanted to do is zone the eff out. So do as you would have others do unto you - with one exception, below.

5 & 1/2) … but be kind when strangers really need to talk to you. Flying halfway (or even a quarter or a third of the way) around the world can be a daunting thing whether it’s your first time or your umpteenth, and sometimes the person next to you is the only source of comfort you have. On my last trip back from the US I was in a particularly angsty flying place (in general, I range between “mildly uneasy” and “bat-shit crazily terrified” as a flyer, and during this period I was trending towards the latter) and United - because they treat passengers as cattle rather than as human beings - was unable to sit Alex and I next to each other for our 14-hour flight from DC to Dubai. No one would switch with either of us because we were both stuck in middle seats, and I was suuuuuuuper stressy about the flight ahead, so I started peppering my neighbor - a big burly retired Dallas cop working in Afghanistan as a defense contractor - with really inane conversation (“What airline are you flying from Dubai to Kabul? Did you know that there are four different airlines that do the route because there’s so much demand? When I went to Kabul, I flew Pamir there and Kam Air back! Did you know that Emirates really wants to add Kabul as a destination, but the price of insuring their planes there overnight between flights makes it cost-prohibitive? Did you also know that Air Arabia used to do the route, but had to cancel it due to a security scare back in 2008?”) to keep myself distracted. He put up with me until we safely reached cruising altitude, then answered a final question - “So, what exactly will you be doing there?” - with the conversation-killing "I’ll just be trying to keep my men alive" and pointedly donned his Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the rest of the flight that he had humored me off the ground - especially despite my typical reluctance to do the same.

So there you have it - my learnings, distilled for you. Bon voyage, friends!

Gratuitous Picture of Your Christmas Card Photo Wednesday

And by that I mean, what could be our Christmas card photo if we hypothetically lived in a country that celebrated Christmas…

… and / or had a functioning postal system through which to mail cards. 

So… there would be some details to be worked out. But still, you get the idea.

Taken on our Eid trip to Al Maha.

Al Maha (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Hotel Vacations)

This past week marked the Eid Al Adha holiday in Dubai: a time when locals slaughter sheep / goats / camels to celebrate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Ismael, and expats get the heck out of dodge to enjoy one of the few public holidays universally granted by our labor contracts.

Alex and I had initially booked tickets to go to the Philippines, but as luck would have it the imams in Saudi Arabia saw the moon unexpectedly and “called” the holiday earlier than planned [Ed. Note: Yes, this is actually how holidays work here], so the nearly week-long break we had anticipated got abruptly reduced to a four-day weekend and we decided that a 72-hour jaunt around Manila wasn’t worth 17 hours of flying time.

Enter… Al Maha.

View of the “Bedouin Suite” from our private plunge pool.

It is a universal truth of the expat experience in Dubai that everyone must visit Al Maha, a high-end desert resort located about 45 minutes outside the city, at least once during their UAE tenure. It’s just one of those douchey things you swore you’d never do when you moved here but sooner or later find yourself doing - like buying a gas-guzzling SUV, aggressively seeking out friends of your own nationality, or finding yourself in a conversation about how hard it is to hire good help. With the Philippines scrapped and no other plans in sight, a quick availability check on Expedia revealed that our number was up - we were Maha-bound.

The (off)road through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, leading to the resort.

We arrived just as night fell, so the next day when we woke up at 6 AM (!!!) for our guided nature walk, we were treated to this spectacular scene.

We spent the morning trekking through the sand learning random desert facts: for instance, did you know that antelopes indigenous to the Arabian Desert are able to go their whole lives without drinking water, and can survive just by consuming moisture from the vegetation they eat? (The ones on the reserve have gotten soft and now drink from the hotel’s plunge pools… sorry, evolution.)

This picture reveals our awkward habit of picking out matching outfits when we don’t watch each other get dressed. We’re like identical twins, but uh — in a romantic, non-creepy way!

We also learned about the super-deadly tree below - Bedouins used to extract poisonous sap from the trunk and use it to kill and remove their rotting teeth. 

THIS TREE SHALL BE MY DENTIST. (Is it just me or have locals, much like the antelopes, gotten a little softer since then?)

Then it was back to our plunge pool for a little lounging and light reading.

Bushie and a brewski: incontrovertible evidence that living abroad can swing your predilections waaaaaay to the right. (No but seriously, Decision Points is an interesting read even if you’re not in the process of morphing into a Republican like I… might be.)

As the sun sank over the desert, we set off on a super-corny-but-nevertheless-obligatory sunset camel ride.

Alex loves riding camels, can’t you tell?

Fortunately, there were amazing views (and complimentary champagne!) to mediate the corniness.

PRO TIP: when packing for a desert weekend, running clothes also double as camel-riding sunset clothes. The more you know!

There was also, oh, you know, pretty much the greatest sunset I’ve ever seen.

Sadly, I still use my DSLR entirely on automatic, so this is the best I could capture it.

Then we got gussied up nice and had fruity cocktails and the “Sri Lankan Feast” menu for dinner. It was dreamy.

PRO TIP: When you’re at a fancy hotel in the Middle East, always go with the South Asian option. Chances are 99% that the chef’s from the subcontinent and hence will do a better job on eggplant curry than, say, foie gras or sole meunière.

The next morning we were up at 6 AM (AGAIN!!!) to go horseback riding in the dunes at sunrise.

My little ponies.

This was insanely cool, mainly because I was obsessed with the Black Stallion books when I was a kid and spent the better part of the years between 1989-1993 pretending I was the young Alec Ramsay, galloping on my Arabian steed through the dunes of the Empty Quarter. Even if you weren’t living out a childhood dream, though, it’d still be pretty awesome - provided you have some riding experience, they let you saddle up proper Arabian ex-racehorses, and feeling my equine Ferrari blast his way up the dunes was the closest I’ve ever come to witnessing an animal doing the exact thing it was meant to do

Dune bashing.

Nothing could top our morning gallop, so we headed back to our suite for a little more R&R at the pool and I caught up on the breaking news from Dubai, like the annual plea for local Muslims to please not slaughter their own sheep during the Eid holiday.

KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!

And that, my friends, was our holiday weekend in the desert. Eid Mubarak!

In Which I Run Beirut

Beirut is by far my favorite place to run in the greater Middle East and North Africa region.

Now, I should be clear that a statement like “Beirut is my favorite place to run in the Middle East” is akin to saying someone’s the smartest student on the short bus or the skinniest kid at fat camp - damning with faint praise, to be sure.

But in this particularly running-unfriendly part of the world, Beirut’s got a lot going for it - namely a corniche footpath that hugs the Mediterranean coast for mile after breathtaking seafront mile - and hence I try to make a point of getting out for at least one long-ish run whenever I’m in the city.

Last week’s trip was no exception, so undeterred by a heat wave that pushed Lebanon’s temperatures up into Dubai-like triple digits, I plotted out a 10-ish mile course from my hotel in Achrafieh to the Pigeon Rocks on the other side of town…

… being sure to maximize my Med exposure, of course. 

Now of course, one of the downsides of running in Beirut (in addition to the horrific drivers and the occasional threat of political instability) is the men. 

Imagine, for a second, that you are a woman in a mini-skirt walking through the most vulgar, catcalling, whistling crowd of construction workers you have ever seen in your life. Multiply this feeling by a thousand. Increase that sentiment by an additional 50% worth of Arab male bravado, and then add 10 times more shame and humiliation because you are obviously a slutty, straight-to-the-sack Western woman. If you’ve done the calculations correctly, then hopefully you can understand an inkling of what it feels like alone on the streets of Beirut. 

But never fear! I am, after all, a seasoned expert in such matters, and hence I present to you…

… my “Blonde Girl Running in Beirut” Head-to-Toe:

  • Baseball cap, pulled low over face
  • Headphones, with iPod volume on max to drown out hecklers
  • Baggy-ish nondescript t-shirt 
  • Running tights (not shorts, NEVER shorts)
  • Fierce stare
  • Lips locked and loaded with culturally relevant epithets, i.e. imshee ya kalb - get away, you dog!

Preparation finished, let’s enjoy our beautiful run, shall we?!

Okay, well, first we have to make our way past the many abandoned bullet-pocked buildings of Achrafieh, an area that saw heavy fighting during Lebanon’s civil war. 

Next we begin the leg of the run that I like to think of as centering around former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri. The mosque he built in downtown Beirut…

… the posters of him that line Martyr’s Square

… and finally, the monument marking the spot where he was killed when his motorcade was blown up in 2005. 

[Moment of respectful silence.]

Man, I’m not doing much to sell this run, am I? Downer! But trust me, we’re almost to the good part now - less political assassinations and strife, more palm trees and skyscrapers!

And finally, several miles in, we emerge from the urban morass out onto the corniche and you begin to see why I love running in Beirut so very much. 

Yadda yadda yadda, fast forward through several more blissful coastal miles, and we reach our turnaround point, the Pigeon Rocks - or raouché if, like many Lebanese people, you prefer to be faux-French and fancy. 

Sweaty self portrait at the halfway mark.

Then we turn around, we take it all in, and we retrace our steps. And rather than taking you through the second half of the run, I will simply share with you how disgustingly sweat-soaked and makeup-smeared I looked at the end of it.

In fact, I was so gross that I accidentally left this epic sweat angel on the couch after I sat down on it without thinking. 

Don’t worry, I’m not sharing these gory details all for naught. I’m sharing them because even as disgusting and maniacal as I looked at the end of the run… I was still getting heckled and habibti'ed all the way to the door of my hotel. 

To hit so brazenly on something that looks (and probably smells!) like a drowned rat… I mean, that’s commitment to an ethos, man.