Fleeing the revolution

I am sitting in one of the few open restaurants for lunch sipping on a magnificent Lebanese red. This is my last day in Lebanon and I fly out at lunch time tomorrow. The What’s App flashes me a message from my driver for the 3 days sightseeing. “There are some rumours about closing the airport road from all sides with huge sand and rock hills”. Today the protests have turned ugly and I trust Mohammed implicitly. He has nothing to gain by warning me. A flurry of interchanges ensues and I scoff the rest of the wine and go back to pack up. I am packed and ready in 20 minutes. Mohammed drives the backways trying to avoid both the protesters and the army roadblocks. We pass by the outskirts of town and look down at heaving mass of humanity, 1000s of protesters filling city streets. The friendly protesters at road blocks from yesterday have turned nasty and I see them threaten and intimidate drivers along the way. We are spared. Mohammed has organised the closest hotel to the airport some 3 km away and should be just beyond any attempted blockade. I could easily walk that with my pack in the morning if need be. May Allah bless Mohammed!

The morning started uneventfully enough. There were more cars on streets and more shops open. The billows of smoke from the fires on the roads yesterday were also gone so I assumed that things had settled. I planned to revisit our Lady of Lebanon about half an hour away to light a candle for Nana, Suzanne’s mum. She was always one for lighting candles in churches as a prayer for anyone who was sick. The Uber driver spoke almost no English but as we are detoured off the motorway by an army blockade he drops a bombshell that all roads into and out of Beirut would be closed by the army in half an hour leaving me stranded out of town. I am out on the streets in a shot and hightail it into town. Today absolutely everything is closed there are more soldiers with riot gear and a large protest group marches past me. I take a couple of pictures downtown and Uber back to my accommodation.

This is all new to me. In 40 years of travel, I have come close to being bombed in Peru, I have been interrogated by twitchy Zambian police but never watched a possible revolution unfold in front of me. While it makes for a ripping yarn I will be glad to be leaving tomorrow for the safety of neighbouring Jordan!

My only 2 images taken in downtown Beirut on the last day.