Saturday, December 03, 2005

Beirut by Bike...

Beirut by Bike is a new, wholly different, species of animal. There are many things that are impossible to see with the naked eye or with the most powerful microscope for that matter, you need the magnifying power of a balancing act on two wheels to see such things.

I bought a bike yesterday with the sole intention of taking care fo my body. Little did I know that right there I had shaved a few decades off my life expectancy, also the bike seat can't possible be good for the sperm count. Biking in Beirut has the feel of bungee jumping, without the bungee cord. You leave your house with two choices: do you want to ride on the road or the sidewalk? Half the people on the road don't know what a driver's license looks like, the other half acquired it by taking a bribing test. Throw in the crazy cabs and the delivery scooters phenomenon and that eliminates the road option. Sidewalk it is, people cussing you out won't kill you, uncovered manholes will. Suddenly disappearing sidewalks, trees, traffic signs, dog shit, and cars parked on the sidewalk make it a very challenging obstacle course.

I did reach the oceanfront "corniche". I wish I could document everything I saw there but writing while riding is just too much of an additional risk to take. It was a pleasant ride there, clean ocean breeze, relatively, wide flat area to ride in, ocean view, few obstacles except for the little brats running around. I rode back and forth between Manara and Ain Mreisseh for a few hours, well I wasn't keeping time but that's what it felt like. That small of strip of oceanfront is Lebanon's storefront. You can find a little sample of all that lies inside. The copycat entrepreneurial spirit is present in the Corn on the Cob Carts every ten meters, well those who dare to be different sell coffee and bottled water. There is "wazwaz" lovers lane. Plenty of joggers. Plenty of Social Joggers. Plenty of Flirtatious looks. Cliff Fishing. Cliff Diving. Japanese tourists clicking away. Rich kids with the latest rollerblades and skateboards trying to act tough. Couples with full patio furniture sets and the everpresent arguileh. Greenpiece activists. Women in mini skirts. Women in Ninja dress. The Polaroid photographer. Older men playing backgammon. Older men discussing I mean screaming out politics. The Cartoonist. Fortune Tellers. Jehova's Witnesses.

One thing you realize when you realize when your legs tire is that the oceanfront corniche is the lowest point in Beirut. Everything else is on mountain peaks. No matter where you live there is no way to get back home without a steep climb. A steep climb where you gasp for air and all you get is car exhaust. A nice welcome back home after my little escape at the corniche.


Nour Malaeb said...

Hey Jamal, great blog you've got here. I found it when I searched for "biking in beirut", as I am considering getting a bike when I got to Beirut. Are you still biking? Is it doable?



nyame said...

Hello. Im an AUB student. I bike to class every morning, and the journey to say the least is...treacherous. I have a road bike which operates well on beirut streets so long as you are one with the bike and the road. but last night my friend fell into a drain and broke one of the gears. are they any decent bike stores in beirut that can make repairs?

Anonymous said...

hi, Im an irish cyclist who is coming to beirut on jan 7th with the intention of riding up the coastal route to tripoli over a few days. Im looking to rent a bike in Beirut and head off north . is there a good cycling club or tour group who i could tap into for info on route etc. PS whats the weather like there in january ?

Nour Malaeb said...

Hi Anonymous,
I don't know much about the bike scene in Beirut, but the one place I do know to rent a bike is called Beirut by Bike. I'm sure you can get more information on routes and bike groups from there.
Good luck!