Believe it or not, it took me a few days to understand that the signs I was seeing, in large, bold letters BEYROUTH, was actually the French spelling for Beirut. I know that so many cities in the world have different spellings from those that English speakers use, but I didn’t catch on very quickly here. Of course, the signs in Arabic are different yet again, but I am completely illiterate in Arabic, so that doesn’t count.
We had decided to drive south from Byblos and visit some interesting sites in the Chouf Mountains, south and east of Beirut. I expected there might be a ring road that would bypass the city’s horrendous traffic, but was surprised to learn that there wasn’t. If I had taken the time to look at a topographical map, I would have realized that the city is squeezed in between the mountains and the coast and there is a no place to put a ring road, unless it is elevated.
I asked directions from the hotel manager before we left and he told us that we would have to drive right through the heart of downtown and then follow the signs for the airport. I was really glad that we had walked most of the streets of downtown Beirut, so I was confident that I could navigate. In fact, we had very little difficulty and before we knew it, we were passing the airport and heading along the coast south of the city.