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17/01 – Beirut to Damour – a brush with the ‘special police’

March 4, 2011

So we left Beirut on our way down south to a place called Mleeta to visit the Hezbollah museum which sits no more than 20kms from the border with occupied palestine. We left in darkness as seems to be the norm now and headed down the motorway until we spotted a potential camping spot on the beach. After a bit of reckying we were approached by a guy who demanded to see our passports, we asked for id but he didnt have any and didn’t look remotely officialk so we ignored him and walked back to the bikes. He followed and wouldn’t let us leave insisting that he was phoning the police, we toyed witht he idea of making a dash for it but didn’t know if he had a weapon so decided against it. With no sign of anyone for 10minutes we decided to roll the bikes forward to see his response, a loud retort of ‘Hezbollah!” came from his mouth, we stopped in our tracks.

Not knowing too much about this organisation but hearing about it in the press our sense of fear became more acute. Lights from a four by four became brighter and three guys stepped out. They all had smiles on their faces and spoke with us about what we were doing here, we handed over copies of our passports but they wanted to see the real thing. Reluctantly we showed them our Lebanese visas, all was well and they wished us good luck on the rest of our trip. Phew! our first brush with the ‘special police’ as they called themselves or Hezbollah to me and you.

Now dark we’re all feeling a bit shaken by the whole thing and a bit unsure of where to camp to avoid a repeat performance. Everything is quite built up and the beach seems busy with various lights and people hanging around. We ask in a security office where would be good and he points us in the direction of a barbers shop just around the corner.

We find the place and explain our situation to George the barber and his friends sitting outside. They completely understand what we need and give us the option of two building cores yet to be converted into proper houses. Closer inspection shows their full of rubbish and excrement so we kindly decline. Chebab a young guy who speaks English offers to put us all up amongst a host of different offers from pretty much everyone there. Whilst deciding which to go for and trying to avoid being rude by declining George the barber, a real character and probably a bit of a playboy, shows us a coupe of dusty pictures from his youth when he went travelling in the South of France, he’s pictured bronzed with two topless girls under each arm. He tells us that he keeps these photos in his shop hidden from his wife – Good lad

So we accept Chebabs kind offer and join him in his house he shares with an Egyptian who cooks us the best chips and foul (flava beans) we’ve eaten all trip. As with most of the times we offer to cook to balance the hospitality but we’re starting to understand to simply gracefully accept all that is given because the chance of us cooking or even contributing veg in someone elses house is pretty much zero.

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