Okay, I admit it.
I’ve reached a regional impasse.
And I’ll continue to remain in this geographical cul-de-sac until I work out an exit strategy that doesn’t involve cycling straight into a popular uprising on the one side and a brutal state apparatus crackdown on the other. Whilst I stand in solidarity with Syrians everywhere who are striving (often with their lives) to throw off the yoke of forty years of dictatorship; the fact that the UK have been helping to train military personnel loyal to the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad does not help my cause in securing a safe passage to the Jordanian border, a mere 160km away.
Falling short of stepping onto a plane, it really does seem like it was easier to cross the Mediterranean to Egypt 5000 years ago during the maritime trading era of the Phoenicians, than it does in the 21st century. Unless you take a bank balance-busting cruise, its seems nigh on impossible to reach African shores by sea. Apparently, there was a Russian-owned shipping company that once ran a service from Lebanon to Egypt but that stopped when the Soviet Union collapsed two decades ago. It really does seem like air travel has wiped out the once flourishing shipping and trade routes that connected this side of the med for millennia.
So whilst I work out how I get myself plus the bike safely – and legally – onto a container ship or hot foot it to Jordan overland by taxi, I have the opportunity to beat the streets of bustling Beirut and sample the best coffee this fascinating city has to offer…
In one word? Intense. The coffee prepared in a Turkish-style cesve is often mixed with ground cardamom which gives the drink an intensely fragrant flavour that lingers on the tastes buds long afterwards. Finding myself caught in a regional impasse in Beirut doesn’t seem such a bad thing when the exotic taste of the Levant is just a sip away.