Our first night out, we wander along Monot, a street teeming with Mercedes, Audis, and nightlife. Groups of three and four, arms linked, parade in the streets as we make our way to the Glass House, one of David’s favorite night spots. The café is hopping with a live band belting out Lebanese tunes and the occasional couple or individual dancer making their way to the dance floor or standing by their table, mouthing the words to the song, twisting their hands and dancing Lebanese style. Conversation is out of the question, the music is far too loud. Smoking hookah is not, (out of the question that is) and is offered as soon as we sit down. The hookah is a way of life in Beirut and the stuff you inhale is perfectly legal in the US. In fact, you can choose different flavors for the hookah. At Glass Bar, we sucked up a yummy licorice flavored fume. One voluptuous woman wearing a barely buttoned blouse gets up frequently holding a narrow stick– kind of like a dowel to dance, thrusting it towards her partner or using it simply to amplify her moves. Kathy asks, “Are you supposed to bring your own stick?” Kathy seems to have an extra dose of serotonin, enough to go around for all of us. She discovered Almaza, the Lebanese beer and we love her frequent squeal, “Oh goodie! Let’s get a beer.” We have rounds and rounds of Almaza, along with the hookah, the loud music and before long, a waiter plops a fez on my head and I see David across the table, clearly disappointed. “Please don’t do the embarrassing American tourist thing,” he mouths.
Later, in Downtown Central Beirut (affectionately called DCB) with the stunning Rafik Hariri mosque behind us, we walk along the street, careful not to risk death by accidentally stepping off the curb. Again, our concerns here are not terrorists but the berserk and crazed Lebanese driver. We hear a loud boom and the sky explodes in a cacophony of color and light. Nobody in our crowd jumps but we look to the skies in amazement. Here we are in downtown Beirut, enjoying a perfectly blissful evening, a multi-course meal, fine wine, too much beer and hookah and fireworks, not bombs.