I met Wissam at my hotel and we went to a different downtown area that was recently refurbished. It was a central area that was targeted by the Israelis in the last “troubles.” They left a few buildings in ruins to serve as a reminder of what happened. What struck me as the greatest juxtaposition, however, was the church that was adjacent to the Grand Mosque. How was that still standing, I wondered.
We ate another delicious meal (did I mention how good the food is in Lebanon?) and went to a local pub for a beer. With exposed brick, metal buttresses, and art nouveau films projected onto a white washed wall, I could have been in LA or NYC. Since my car was coming at 4:30 am to take me to the airport, we ended the night early (midnight in Beirut is very early). Wissam and I said our goodbyes. I was a little sad to see him go as I became very fond of him very quickly. We knew we’d see each other again.
I awoke very early the next morning, packed my things, and met my car outside the lobby. We drove through the deserted streets to the airport, and I realized that, somewhere on this trip several days ago, I stopped worrying so much about my safety. I think it happened in Kuwait at lunch with Wissam and the Egyptian pharmacists, as that is where I started seeing my hosts as well-spoken, thoughtful, intelligent friends very separate from extremists that claim to act on their behalf. I look forward to meeting my friends again.