Rob and Jacky Black
Thu 17 Jun 2010 08:21

33 59.2 N 35 35 37.2 E

JOUNIEH (near Beirut) 10th - 14th June

We left Lattakia at 1430 and after a brief stop in the bay for a swim and 'prop' check we headed off on our set course

due west for 6 miles before turning to the south and Lebanon. The weather forecast was for light winds but in the event we had

increasing winds which as usual (for this rally!!) was right on the nose! The sea was choppy and all in all we had a fairly uncomfortable

sail/motor sail for the next 100 miles! As usual we heard boats chatting and several caught sizeable Tuna en-route (we were lucky enough

to be given 2 steaks by Rob and Sarah from Seraphina later!) Our arrival in JOUNIEH was delayed due to strong head winds so our group

did not tie- up until 1300. We were both very tired so once the boat was tidied up and we had other vessels alongside we crashed out

for some well needed sleep. The following morning we explored the marina and found a wonderful swimming pool and bar/restaurant

complex with plenty of showers and toilets - definitely of the 5 star variety! We met a guy - David from Shoreham who is employed locally

as a skipper of a large motor yacht and he has been able to give us local information and also been kind enough to take us out in his car.

Friday night was the rally Dinner which was held around the pool of the marina it was a magnificent setting with the lights of the homes on

the mountains to the east and the sun setting over the sea to the west. We had a delicious  3 course (French menu) meal which was waiter served

and this was followed by a beautiful belly dancer  and then a great disco. We all agreed that this place has to be the best of everything to date.

We made a number of trips while here the longest being to the Bekaa Valley ( a mere 2 hours by coach) to see the world heritage site of Baalbeck. This Roman city

has the largest and best preserved Roman remains in the world and they were truly colossal. The drive through the mountains to get to the valley and the

opportunity to see the rich diversity of living conditions was also very interesting, this area is much less affluent than the coastal strip.

We visited a Lebanese Winery on the way back and were able to taste some products though decided not to buy from the shop there as we

had seen the same bottles in the supermarkets for cheaper.

We also went to visit the famous Jeita Grotto which was awesome - more spectacular than any we have seen anywhere before. Our last night took us on a

drive through Beirut which gave us the chance to see some of the war-torn derelict buildings (including the shelled skeleton of the once prestigious Holiday Inn hotel)

as well as the beautifully rebuilt areas in the centre of this famous city. We sat at restaurant on a pedestrianised street in the area known as 'downtown'

where we had a mixture of delicious Lebanese and French food while watching the world go bye! We were amazed at the contrasts seen with western dressed

locals of all ages mixing freely with women in the full bhurka and all varieties in between! As it was 'world cup football' time we had giant screens set up all over

the place and in our restaurant a large local contingent were supporting the German team against Australia.Great platters of fresh fruit were on the tables and

many of the spectators were 'smoking' from the hookah pipes which one sees everywhere here.We thoroughly enjoyed our visit here and would like to return in the future.