Leaving the Beirut airport I quickly enter the “First Time Uncomfortable Zone” of driving in a foreign country. Although I have a generic map, it is now dark and it is not an easy feeling as I merge onto a dimly lit highway with huge trucks belching diesel fumes. It would help if I read Arabic but I continue on as if I know where I am going.
Soon I see two tunnels that eases my comfort level. I was told earlier about these by the rental car employee and now I have a sense that I am on the right track. I take the one on the right and exit onto a congested one way street. A quick stop at a gas station and an English speaking local confirms that I am almost where I should be.
Heading down a busy Hamra Street, I make a few turns here and there, head this direction and then the next, compete for road space with a few motorcycles and pedestrians, ask a few more questions before eventually arriving at my destination.
The Mayflower is said to be one of the only hotels that remained open during the conflict.
I am happy to see there is no evidence of the war left behind. I am not sure why but I am upgraded to a Junior Suite and will have room to entertain a delegation for the next three days.
Although it is later in the evening, checked it at the Mayflower, I hit the streets to find an old Middle East friend. Fortunately, I think she will not be hard to find as I have no doubt she is very popular in a city like Beirut.
A Lebanese salad is ordered followed by what I consider a Lebanese feast. Humus, seasoned pickles, grilled meat, slices of warm pita bread topped with mint leaves and read onions along with French fries.
In talking with Kaakaya's manager he has offered to help me find my friend and suggest I should enjoy our time together with a hint of mint and lime.
My food arrives and shortly thereafter my Middle East friend. Hours later I leave Kaakaya content with a full stomach and a big relaxing smile on my face thanks to the delicious food at Kaakaya and from being able to spend quality time with my friend, Shisha.