Bug Bytes: Living The Chic Life in Beirut!

by Kelly on February 23, 2011

Bug Bytes is a weekly feature in which fellow travelers tell us about the places they have lived and what makes those places awesome.

This week’s Bug Bytes is with Inka Piegsa-Quischotte of the informative and hilarious blog, Glamour Granny Travels. After finding out that Inka lived in Beirut (umm, awesome!) I had to know exactly what her experience was like, as a glamour granny in the Middle East.

Read on to find out!


BB: You lived in Beirut. How cool is that? What originally brought you there?
: I lived in Beirut for nearly three months. I am originally from Germany, but have been a nomad for a long time, living and working in the UK, Switzerland, Spain, Miami and Turkey. My grandad used to go to Beirut a lot in the 50s and was always full of glamorous tales. Since I was living in Turkey and Beirut is so close, I decided to take a look, absolutely loved it and came back to stay for a longer period of time.

BB: What is a typical day in Beirut like for you?
IPQ: I get up early and join the health and fitness conscious Beirut ladies on their early morning jog along the Corniche. After that it’s breakfast and one of the many coffees of the day. I spend a lot of time socializing and meeting new people as well as traveling around the country. There is so much to see and do. Cafe hopping is a favorite Beirut pastime and I do the same. Many nights a week it’s party time or else meals in the home of my friends.

BB: What about the people? Are they friendly? Are there particular customs we should know about before we visit?
: The people are very, very friendly and welcoming to any visitor who has found their way to their country. Everybody will give you directions (or try to), tell you about shops and interesting places and compliment you on your outfit.
Before visiting you should know that many places and streets are known by different names so people will not always understand what you are looking for. Nobody is in a rush either and you’d better get used to a whole new concept of service: you don’t ‘do’ for yourself if anybody else is happy to bring you whatever you need.

Imagine a country where even the maids have maids. I think, that says it all.

BB: What would you tell someone headed for Beirut? Is there anything they should know, anything they should be wary of, anything they should bring?

IPQ: Language is not a great problem. Road signs are thankfully in English and Arabic and most everyone speaks some English or French. Bring lots of chic clothes, dressing up when going out is a way of life. Be preared to eat a lot, Lebanese love to entertain and you are expected to sample every dish that’s put before you.

BB: Let’s talk food– what’s the food like? What should we eat if on a budget? How much will it cost?
IPQ: Oh food. A typical Lebanese breakfast alone consist of about 7 different dishes, eggs, cheese, fruit, olives, tomatoes, flat bread with thyme, honey or melted cheese. If you are on a budget, eat manouchee, which is flat bread with different fillings. There are stalls everywhere, it costs about $2 each and is filling and tasty. Otherwise you can sample about any cuisine of the world in Beirut.

BB: Is it easy to travel within Lebanon? Do you take buses or trains? Are they affordable?
IPQ: The best way to travel within the Lebanon is by car and driver. A full day costs about $100 and you have the advantage to go and stop wherever you want, plus to have a guide and bodyguard rolled into one.

Trains and public buses run, but it’s difficult to find them and to make out where they go because their signs are only in Arabic.
You can also join organized tours and within Beirut you use ‘service taxis’, which are joint taxis and cost a fixed rate of approx. $3. You just lift your hand, shout service and your destination and if the driver goes in your direction, you hop in.

There are regular taxis too but you have to agree the price in advance because meters are seldom running.

BB: How about hostels? Can you find affordable accommodation? What can you expect to pay per night?
IPQ: Yes, you can, but I’m not much of a hostel user. I rented a serviced apartment at $1500 a month which was very good value. For cheaper accommodation you’ll just have to look on the internet.

BB: Would you say Beirut is largely safe for women traveling alone?
IPQ: Yes, very. There are certain areas nobody should go to, woman or not, but otherwise Beirut is safe. I had no problems walking around on my own in the dead of night. Arabs are respectful of women and nobody will bother or attack you. Purse snatching is also very rare.

Colorful Truck

BB: How has living in Beirut changed your views on the world around you? Any lessons you’ve learned?
IPQ: I have learned that it is stupid to have pre-conceived ideas. Just about everybody warned me about moving to Beirut, but I did it anyway. I was impressed by the spirit of optimism and the warm welcome they give to foreigners. You are invited and presented to friends of friends all the time and they will check in on you if they haven’t heard from you for a day.

BB: What should we see on our next visit?
IPQ: Beirut, Baalbeck, Sidon, the entire coast line and of course the mountains and the cedar woods. Not to forget the wineries, of which there are plenty, often in a monastery.

And, what do Beirut ladies for fun?

Two very important things: visit beauty parlors. Lebanese women are very chic and look after themselves. You can get the best beauty treatments and permanent make ups which really last.

Next is shopping: the Beirut soukhs are a designer haven, but if you don’t have a big budget, Hamra street has countless department stores and boutiques with the latest fashions at very affordable prices. Having said that, Beirut is not a particularly cheap place, but with a bit of know how and insider knowledge you can get by very well.

Thanks so much Inka! To find out more about Inka, follow her blog Glamour Granny Travels, or follow her on Twitter @lilygogo

Bug Bytes is a weekly feature in which fellow travelers tell us about the places they’ve lived and what makes those places awesome. Interested in taking part in a Bug Bytes? Lived someplace cool and want to tell us about it? Contact Kelly @ travelbugjuice@gmail.com

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jade February 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Okay- beauty, eating and shopping… this sounds like my kind of place! I’d love to visit Beirut and enjoy this luxurious life!

Christopher February 24, 2011 at 9:24 am

Loved all of this inside information about Beirut. Thanks to be of you! Inka, I live in Munich! Had no idea you were Deutsche! 🙂

Ayngelina February 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I love love love Inka, what a great interview.

Laurel February 24, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Great interview. Nice to learn more about Inka and Lebanon, a place I don’t know very much about.

Rebecca February 25, 2011 at 3:23 am

I read a book last year about an Australian journalist who moved to Beirut and it made me want to move there in a heartbeat. And seriously, how gorgeous and amazing is this granny??!!

Cathy Sweeney February 25, 2011 at 3:50 am

Loved reading about Inka and her life in Beirut. I always enjoy her posts about the wonderful and exotic places she’s been. Great interview. I really like the photo at the top — she really looks like she’s having fun!

Migrationology February 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Yes, Inka’s blog is great, and awesome interview! When I hopefully visit Beirut, my stomach will be fully prepared, and I will eat (indulge) in everything set before me (without hesitation)!

Rease February 26, 2011 at 4:13 am

Cool interview. I feel like Beirut is just a huge mystery to me and I only hear about it in songs. This was helpful and intriguing!

Glen February 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Great interview of someone whose blog I always read!

Jeremy B February 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

Great info on Beirut! I met a girl from Lebanon back in 2004 when I was in Paris. I got to know a lot about her, the food, and her country. Very fascinated by the place and it has inspired me to learn more about the history there.

Lorna - the roamantics February 28, 2011 at 5:22 am

inka is such an inspiration! so glad you featured her here kelly and great to learn more about beirut. great questions as usual! 🙂

inka March 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I only now got around to reading this because I didn’t have good internet in Venice. Thank you Kelly for the interview and I can’t tell you how pleased I am about all the lovely comments. My birthday is in Mai and by coincidence two of my best girl friends (from Beirut, naturally) have theisr the same day. Our joint party will last for days and I’ll tell (nearly) all in the glamour granny.

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