في شوارع بيروت

لم تكن تلك المدينة غريبة عندما وطأت أقدامي شوارعها لأول مرة قبل عشرة أعوام. فكل شيء حولي سمعته ورأيته في أغاني فيروز التي كبِرت وانا أسمعها وأحسست بطعم زيتونها وعنبها كلما تغنّت بكروم العنب والتين.
 
ومضت الأعوام وزادت الزيارات ومازلت أشعر بحب كبير يملأ قلبي وانا أجوب شوارع تلك المدينة. كل بناية لها تاريخ وكل عجوز تحكي ملامحها شقاء سنوات الحرب. لا تشاغبني شوارعها الجبلية المخيفة ولا سياقة أهلها المتهورة، بل تؤكد وجودي هناك.. في تلك المدينة التي أشتاق إليها طوال السنة.
 
لم تقتلك السياسة.. بل زادت فنك المرهف وتاريخك العميق الذي أغرق فيه كلما قرأت قصص الحرب ورواياتك الجميلة. وفي كل زيارة يزيد فهمي لهذا التاريخ وأنا أرى مقرات أحزابك وصور مرشحيهم حولي.. وعندما يحزن قلبي كلما مررت على سان جورج حيث قتل رفيق الحريري. تاريخك صعب ومعقد لكنني أعشقه..وأقرأه وأنا أكبر..
 
 
أكره الخضروات والفواكة.. لكنها تتحول إلى ألذ ما آكل عندما أذهب الى بيروت. أحب أن أملأ منقوشتي بالخيار كل صباح..وأن أتلذذ في أكل الزيتون مع الإفطار والغداء والعشاء.. والتفاح الذي لا يضاهيه أي تفاح في العالم. ولا شيء مثل فنجان قهوة في شرفة تطل على شوارع وجبال تحكي قصص من غير حروف..
 
نتعلم منك كل يوم التعايش بين الأديان والعقائد..ما يجب تفاديه..وما يجب فعله..ما يجب عدم تكراره.. علمتينا كيف تستطيع السياسة أن تدمر بلد..وإن ما من منقذ لهذا البلد غير إحترام الأخ لأخيه مهما كان دينه او اسمه او مذهبه..
 
العالم يحب بيروت.. رغم سياسته الهائجة.. رغم السلام الغير مستقر.. سنضل نحبك ونشتاق اليك.. لأنك تاريخ..وعروبة..وجمال..وطبيعة..وشقاء عمر من الحروب.. من منا لا يحب بيروت؟ من منا لا يحب البيروتيين الأنيقين في الزي واللهجة؟ كلنا نحبك.. كلنا بيروت..
 
 

Travel Journal- Greece (Santorini & Mykonos) Sep 2011

Saturday, 17 September 2011:The flight (GF Bahrain-Athens) was at 10:40am and the three of us sat next to each other in a 3-3 small airplane. The window seat is always mine since i get airsick and need to stay in touch with the outside surroundings. The clouds help me calm down but not as much as Xanax does. My magic pill that made my dreams come true, now i can eat, read and sleep in airplanes. Those are things i’ve always dreamt of doing while flying since i was a kid.

I was confused why Gulf Air served us rice at 10 am?? Who eats rice with chicken or beef at 10 am? It’s brunch time! Serve sandwiches or snacks but, lunch? We just took the trey to eat the bread and the rest of the MEAL went to waste.

A bad, horrible, awful smell suddenly covered the plane just like tear gas and everyone started complaining to the crew. Of course, the three of us laughed hysterically just imagining the source of that smell!

The loud Palestinian/Egyptian man behind us that was socializing with the Lebanese lady next to him made it so difficult to focus on the book that i was reading. He told the lady everything about himself for more than 2 hours contineously. I am now aware of his biography in details!! The girls couldn’t sleep because of him. And the moment he said: “I’ll let you relax now” to the Lebanese lady, the three of us fell asleep!!!!

We had around 4 hours to spare in Athens Airport waiting for our connection flight to Santorini. We were starving and i was excited to see my very favourite pizza place Sbarro. Each one of us had a slice of pizza then we shopped around and i got to have my first Greek Coffee. It’s very similar to Turkish Coffee but a bit thicker.

Connection flight was very short. Around 40 minutes. I loved Aegean Airlines. The plane was clean and big with a very friendly crew. I spent the whole flight reading till we started landing. Landing in Santorini was one of the most beautiful experiences i’ve ever had. The sun was setting on that volcanic island while the plane took a u-turn around it. It was breath taking with all the white buildings spreaded around the edges of the hills like sugar cubes. The girls were jealous because i had the best view. Unfortunarely i didn’t take any pictures. Was too busy admiring the scene.

Santorini Airport was a cute old building with zero counters or staff. The only thing you can find there is the luggage belt!

Hotel driver picked us up from the airport and the very narrow roads that went up and down got us worried since we were planning to rent a car. But the moment he parked the car infront of the hotel…i’ll let the pictures speak!!

Where was the hotel? There wasn’t any visible building or any trace of it. It was just a door. An open door to no where! But that’s the beauty of Santorini, usually you enter a hotel and go up. But in Santorini, you go down!! Everything is located downstairs. The door to nowhere led to a staircase by the right side. And once you go down the stairs you find the actual hotel.

This tiny room is the reception. So simple. The hotel rooms were down. And there were no lifts of course. 90 steps to get to our room.

Our room was a cave. I think that it was the most beautiful hotel room i’ve ever stayed in. It was spacious with plenty of space for the three of us. Staff were very friendly.

We were staying in Fira. We took a 7 minutes bus ride to the market where we walked around to get a vibe of the place. Then we had our first Greek dinner in a nice and delicious restaurant called Athiri. The food was exteremly good that i immdeiately fell in love with Greek food. We had sea food risotto and Falafel.

The bill. Loved how they always placed it in this plastic thing.

After dinner we found a small Crepree right outside the square. We had the most amazing waffle ever.

Sunday, 18 Sep 2011:

I jumped out of bed after a good night sleep at 8am. Too excited to have breakfast on the balcony while facing the amazing view. I opened the door and a cold breeze hit my face. It was very refreshing.

These were the 90 steps that we had to climb up and down every time we left & went tor our room.

We drove our ugly old rented grey car south, heading to Oia (pronounced Eeya). We followed the map and got there easily. There roads were not tricky, yet. Something funny happened while driving, we saw the guy who drove us from the airport to the hotel, which was the same guy who to drove the shuttle bus to the market the night before, driving a truck!!!! The guy had three jobs and the island is TOO tiny.

We parked the ugly car in a public car park (3 Euoros for 5 hours) and walked to the market. It was a very long pedestrian strip with gift shops.

Above pic is a store that sells Santorini paintings on old peices of wood. Using old doors and different shapes of wood.

Below is one of the most beautiful bookshops i’ve ever seen. It sells old Greek books.

It was too sunny that day that i had to buy a pink hat that didn’t match my yellow/brown outfit. We shopped around and bought a CD of Zorba for the car, magnets, postcards and bookmarks.

We were looking for a recommended restaurant called Sunset Taverna. It was supposed to be by the sea and the market that we were walking around was up the hill. We asked around and they told us that we have to go down around 300 steps. So we started climbing down all kind of steps. Some were white, some were stoney. Some were wide and small, some were high and long. And whenever we climbed more the way seemed to be longer and longer. It was an endless way to Sunset Tavern and we felt our muscles getting torn. But guess what? We MADE IT.

Sunset Tavern: We had all kinds of delicious sea food after stretching our legs!

There was no way that we climb up all the steps that we just climbed down to go back to our car. That was impossible, we had no energy whatsoever and it was a long long way. The only way was to take a taxi, OR take a donkey ride up the hill. We walked back to the steps to find so many donkeys for people to ride and reach the top of the hill. And the only thing we thought of was: POOR DONKIES!

We walked a bit further to find a cab and it was then we had a good view on the hill we climbed down. Trace the brown fence from the highest point you see and all the way down to the chairs of the restaurants by the beach…

There were no taxis. Some other tourists needed to go back to the top of the hill too but couldn’t find a taxi. There was a bus that belonged to a tourism company who made a deal with the restaurant to drop us and the other tourists for 10 Euors per group!

We took our ugly car and drove to Imerovigli. The roads were very steep since the location was higher. It wasn’t worth going because it turned out to be a village with many hotels but no shops or cafes. We decided to go back to our lovely hotel to see the sunset. Sunset is a big deal in Santorini and people plan their day accordingly. They must be in a strategic location to watch the sunset by 7pm.

The smooth roads that took us south that morning were still smooth when we went back to Fira. But we lost our way at some point. There was one single turning that we kept on missing which linked central Fira to the highway that took us to our hotel. We tried every single turning and Zorba CD was on repeat till we got sick of it. We found our way after a long while and we made it to the hotel just when it was time for the sun to set.

After a short rest at the hotel we went back to central Fira for dinner. Salt & Pepper was the name of the number 1 recommended restaurant in Santorini by Trip Advisor. I insisted to have dinner there and we found the place. It was a small restaurant owned by a Greek couple. The food was so delicious that the three of us agreed that it deserved the ranking. The owner/waitress was so sweet and we had a long conversation with her about the place. So far all Greeks we met were extremely friendly and sweet. She kissed each one of us on the cheek goodbye and we took a picture with her.

That night i discovered my favourite Greek dish. Tomatoes Kefteda !!!! (i’m not a tomato person)

Milk Steak.

We were full when we left Salt & Pepper, but we couldn’t resist the idea of passing by that Creperee for the amazing waffle and excellent Latte. And so we went again..

Monday, 19 Sep 2011:

The day started with breakfast on the balcony again. It was cold, so i wrapped up my shawl around me and enjoyed a cup of tea and cake. The eggs were not so good.

The day was planned to drive south and visit some of Santorini’s many beaches. But since it was cold i was certain that i would’t be able to swim. We packed our beach clothes just incase and hit the road.

Had to take a picture of this couple reading in the hotel with their Kindle. Very cute.

First destination: Red Beach.

We parked the car and followed some people who climbed a few stony steps next to the parking space. But there was no beach! We took a few steps, again following people, to find the beach far down below! We had to hike up and down a rocky cliff. It was a very tough hike as the rocks were big and uneven. We reached the beach after 10 minutes of hiking.

Try to trace the people in the following pictures to see the hike route.

The weather got warmer but the water was still too cold to swim. There were some sun beds and umbrellas for rent so we sat there for a bit of relaxing, reading and tanning. The incredible thing about this beach is that there was no sand!! Imagine walking through a beach with tiny volcanic stones replacing sand. Just like a therapy spa. See what i mean in the following pics.

After that we headed to another beach called Perivolos with a very very long strip of restaurants that it was so hard for us to pick one. The water was as cold and the sand was not sand also. Result = More tan and eating two large pizzas by the beach.

A short break at the hotel to rest and watch the sun set again.

This is our ugly overpriced rented car. Driving in Santorini was a nice thing to experience.

We spent the rest of the day in central Fira where we found a huge area that we hadn’t discovered before. Truly beautiful.

Referring to Tripadvisor again, we looked for a restaurant called Daphne which was rated 2nd best in Fira. We found the place but it was closed. So we searched for the 3rd which was called Naoussa Taverna. It was located near Daphne and owned by the same people. There was a long queue of people waiting to be seated there and they also came based on Tripadvisor’s rating!! We waited for around half an hour till we got a table and it was worth the wait. The food was good (Salt & Pepper was better) and the owners were really friendly. The atmosphere was also lovely. You get the feeling that you’re on set, filming a Greek movie or My Big Fat Greek Wedding when it’s actually outdoors!

Since it was our last night in Santorini, we had to pass by the Creperie one last time. We said Goodbye to Diana, the lady who served us for three nights, and had a crepe for a change which didn’t turn out to be good.

Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011:

Had breakfast in the room this time. I was trying hard to be healthy so i just had some small cubes of apple while watching BBC.

We said goodbye to our lovely hotel.

It was time to go to Mykonos by ferry. We headed to the port with our heavy luggage and waited for the ferry in a “waiting room”. Three old ladies sat right infront of us and one of them was writing notes on a notebook. I laughed and said: “Look, that’s me in the future”. When in fact all three ladies looked like us in the future. I guessed that they were Mexican but the girls did’nt agree. But then we heard them speak Latin and i think that i was right!

The ferry was big but just like an airplane. No outdoor area and long rows of seats. All luggage were placed on top of each other on the deck. It was a total mess.

I found myself all alone when one of the girls fell asleep and the other was getting nauseous. And for some reason i was craving pistachio. So i went to the “cantine” and luckily they had pistachio. I ended up with a cup of latte, chocolate/biscuit sticks and pistachio. People were either asleep or reading and i was the only one eating like there is no tomorrow while writing some notes.

After 3 hours of cruising we reached Mykonos. It took us a while to find our luggage that was placed between so many other suitcases. The moment i stepped outside the ferry i noticed the difference between Santorini and Mykonos: Gay island!

I don’t know why but i didn’t take any pictures of our hotel in Mykonos, Bill & Coo. What i loved about it is that, other than all buildings, it was white with light green doors and windows instead of blue. It stood out because it was a bit higher than the other buildings around it.

Best part is that i had my own room there. We reserved a honeymoon suite and i took the room with no A/C since i get cold easily.

We walked to the Market and then walked around the tiny shops and narrow allies till we got to Little Venice; a short waterfront line of restaurants. We sat in a random cafe and had Greek Coffee.

We had dinner reservations in Sea Satin, which was luckily close to Little Venice. The atmosphere was lovely but with cats walking under the tables which totally ruined it. Food was average. And of course i had to order my tomatoe dish.

I’ll go over the rest of Mykonos by places and not by day by day details as the lifestyle is very different than Santorini. It’s more about the big picture, the beaches, and the shops. The season was already over so the island was quiet.

Nammos – Psarou Beach:

It was my tanning day but it was cloudy and windy. But i laid on the sun bed praying for some sun. It was on and off but somehow affective. The water was freezing cold, swimming wasn’t an option so we walked by the beach. While walking my feet got used to the cold water and i found myself walking into the sea, fighting the cold water, step by step till i dipped my full body in the water. What a refreshing feeling it was to swim against those freezing tides. It was the best experience in the whole trip.

We had lunch there afterwards and the food was excellent. Especially the salad, it was exactly like my cousin had described it: “The best salad you will ever have in your life”.

Solimar:

Uno Con Carne for dinner (Steak & Oyster). Excellent food and beautiful atmosphere. One of the most beautiful restaurants i’ve ever been to.

Panormas Beach, didn’t like it much for some reason, it looks better in pictures.

And now get ready for a breath taking scene: The Horse in The Middle of No Where.

Kiki’s, a family owned restaurant that stands on its own at a level between the narrow road that leads to it and a small beach. The dining area is covered with huge tree branches with a small building where the kitchen is. Walking down the hill to get there you suddenly find yourself facing a beautiful scenery.

We passed by one of the most beautiful Greek houses on our way down to Kiki’s. Truly inspiring as it stood alone on the hill.

Our rented car in Mykonos was lovable this time. I love Fiat.

Starbucks, the Greek way..

Jimmy’s. Yummy Gyros on the go..

And that’s it.. Our trip to Greece ended by delaying our internal flight because of
a strike in Athens airport. Lucky enough we had around seven hours to spare in Athens airport which got reduced to five because of the delay. I love airports so time passed so quickly as we shopped in the Duty Free.

Visiting Santorini at this time of the year (September) is highly recommended. As for Mykonos, the season was almost over and the crazy island was quiet. If you’re only going for the beaches then it’s a good time.

Last but not least, parakalo.. the most common Greek word that we heard twice in every sentence..

Efxaristo..

29, Glorious 29

–    That Cozy Se7oor: I looked around at that transition moment at 12 mid night when my 28th year ended and my 29th started. I was surrounded by my best friends, feeling the warmth of their company and laughing about our wrong choices of Lebanese food in Abdelwahab restaurant. My phone started receiving continuous greeting messages, statuses were updated with birthday wishes and my face was suddenly in many friends’ Display Pictures. I love attention. And at that moment I was the center of attention and I loved being under the spotlight for no reason except for being born 29 years ago, on that day. And the picture was complete with Fairouz playing in the background. Her songs are the soundtrack of my life.

–    It Got To Be 2011: On my way back home I passed by Ras Rumman to see Police Jeeps parking and few policemen surrounding the area. I turned my head right to see that typical view of trash and bricks all over the entrance that was caused by rioters. 2011, the year of endless riots stamped a reminder on my 29th birthday.

–    The Bike Revolution: Driving through the neighborhood after 1:30am, I saw a boy riding his bike. I usually feel jealous when I see people riding bikes in the city when I only get to do that around the beach house. But this time I felt proud of myself for trying and learning how to ride a bike recently. I smiled all the way back home.

–    The Kuwaiti TV Commercial: After having 3 Safi fish and a huge plate of rice for fu6oor at granny’s I was feeling so heavy that I couldn’t lift up the newspaper to read it. And just when everyone was seated in the living room to watch el Camera el Makhshosha, my aunt Shaikha walked in with a cake and that candle that is more like a firework. Some started singing happy birthday, some didn’t really care (jafaf), while my aunt was complaining about the firework candle suffocating her while carrying the cake. Sitting next to my cake, I started taking pictures with my phone, my aunt kissed me and broke the jafaf, my grandma was so touched that she started crying as usual and I turned to her and kissed her, family members in the background doing different things, someone pouring tea and someone making fun of the drama. All that and my dad was video taping the scene with his iphone. A typical Kuwaiti TV Commercial.

–    Precious gifts: Three of my favourite people made my night by giving me precious gifts that will last for life. They made me feel extra special and lucky. Yes, I felt lucky. I feel lucky. I am a lucky 29 years old lady.

–    The Last Scene: I never thought that being in a room with three 2-months old babies would be so much fun. I’m not a big fan of kids. But when three of my close friends gave birth to three adorable babies a couple of months ago I started feeling the motherly love. Every time I carry one I get a very warm feeling and my heart gets filled with love. That’s how my day ended, carrying baby Shaikha, dancing for baby Khalid, and making fun of lazy baby Rashid.

And that was the kind of birthday that I will never forget.

24-8-2011

UOB.. Memories of the early 2000s

My old friend Nawaf took me 10 years back in time when he reminded me how much i used to love the song “Ghareeb” in UOB..now i’m stuck there:


Remembering the drive to UOB every morning in my Golden Bora, listening to all kinds of mixed tapes (especially A.Karim A.Qader) & parking in the “cool” parking area!


Remembering the walk to the business building carrying the heavy books & hiding from the security lady who always comments on my clothes!


Remembering how we used to dress up on SMW because the uni is too busy & be casual on UT because it’s almost empty.


Remembering skipping lectures, going for a drive in Riffa & having 6an6a chicken sandwich


Remembering laughing out loud in that very small corner upstairs near the stairs that was enough to fit all the “cool” business students!


Remembering that very famous sarcastic e-mail that i wrote & was widely spread around. Random people gave me thumbs up!


Remembering my very favourite Dr. Sameera Al Khazrajy. Her lectures were my favourite


Remembering the huge National Day celebration when the King came & i was the one who offered him a trey of chocolate 😀 


Remembering how all students used to go to Seef for lunch every Wednesday and Chili’s for dinner every Thursday (parking crisis).