Beirut, Part I

Of course, many of my friends in the States expressed questions about the state of my sanity when I told them I was about to spend several days in Beirut.

“Is getting kidnapped by Islamic crazies your idea of a good time?” a New York chum asked, reminding me of that much-reported incident several months back when two Turkish Airways pilots were nicked after landing in the Lebanese capital, and were only recently released in exchange for nine Lebanese Shiites held by Syrian rebels.

A pilot friend in Paris, citing the same incident, informed me that whenever he flew to Beirut, he was less than comfortable on the road in from the airport to his hotel. Then there was the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who issued a statement some months back as the Syrian situation grew even more nasty, stating that Americans should not, under any circumstances, travel to Lebanon.

But I have two passports: an American and an Irish one. It was a no-brainer which one I was going to use upon arrival in Beirut. Anyway, the few times I Googled “Recent Lebanese Kidnappings,” all that came up was that sole incident involving the unfortunate Turkish pilots

“See, it was just an one-off event” I told one skeptical friend who, quoting Raymond Chandler, asked me if ‘trouble was my business.’”

“The thing about Lebanon” he said, “is that you don’t really know what you’re walking into.”

To which the compulsive traveler in me – and one who is always suspicious of the external images often imposed on a terrain – could only think:

We certainly like to categorize the unknown.

And for most people beyond the Middle East, Beirut remains just that: the dangerous unknown…