I am just back from a trip around Morocco and some of the countries which used to be part of the Persian Empire at some stage in the past – Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Georgia, Armenia.
For information I used Lonely Planet: Morocco; Middle East; Georgia, Armenia, & Azerbaijan. These three books. I uploaded the electronic version to Google Play Books and saved the weight of real books. They served their purpose pretty well. I bought them when on special, which LP does quite often. Otherwise I read some blogs and online forums for more up to date information.
For each country I’ll be writing of one good and one bad experience. And then include some hints and a few photos of the country.
I’d wanted to visit Lebanon for decades, but every time I thought it was safe another war started or incident occurred, and it just seemed too dangerous. At the moment is seems OK, but apparently the south is not safe because of rocket attacks from Israel, and Tripoli in the north is not safe because it’s a stronghold for terrorists, and sometimes demonstrations block the road to the airport so you can be stuck and unable to fly out. In addition, people are sometimes kidnapped from taxis or private buses, so you must use a reputable taxi company or government buses only. More normal crime is also a problem.
Despite minimal tourism, hotels are still quite expensive.
So I came up with a plan. To fly in early in the morning, get a prearranged taxi to pick me up and show me some of Beirut, Byblos and Tyre, and drop me back at the airport in time for a night-time flight. In doing so I could avoid expensive hotels, crime, and minimise exposure to the other dangers. Only one day, but I could fit the equivalent of two or three days sightseeing and it’s better than not visiting at all. A few weeks before my trip I arranged a one day tour with Comfort Taxis, and they were happy to correspond with me, despite being a one-time customer. It all worked out well and very conveniently. I flew out to Jordan that night.
What was disappointing was the airport. I arrived very early in the morning, but there weren’t really any facilities. No free WiFi. You could buy WiFi by the hour, but it was expensive, or you could buy a SIM card for $75! In Europe around $7 buys you a SIM card and 5GB of data for around a month. Celcom Malaysia has a roaming “deal” of RM38 ($8) for a Malaysian time-zone day – i.e. it expires at midnight Malaysian time – for a tiny amount of data – it may have been 50MB. It was the cheapest choice, and the data allowance ran out almost immediately, but at least I could contact the taxi company.
Here are a few photos: