Rush past all the exercising ladies in their hijabs and nearly die when dodging the cars while crossing the road. As you walk towards Hamra, an endless drone of hooting accompanies the stares elicited by the city's seedy men. Ignore the calls welcoming you into their stores: ahla wa sahla. Instead, you wonder how cars find parking in these busy streets, how scooters manage to squeeze between two parked cars, and how anyone ever gets out of these tight spaces.
Find refuge at a sidewalk cafe, only to be accosted by old men selling lotto tickets and young girls insisting you purchase Chiclets (chewing gum). The smell of chocolate croissants is never very far away - probably around the corner from the old man sitting outside his store on a plastic chair, smoking a cigarette while playing with his worry beads. Trendy students walk by in their tight-fitting leggings and extravagantly large handbags, briskly bypassing the big clothing shoppers popping in and out of every boutique in their abayas. Western tourists give themselves away by ignoring all the hooting and tooting with the help of their iPod earphones. The Sri Lankan and Phillipino workers are already used to all this noise, and scurry along between jobs.
Pay for your homemade mint lemonade, and make your way towards the Beirut Slow Food passageway. Taste all your favourite local dishes in their healthy versions - no sugar, wholewheat, baked not fried, no meat. Decide you prefer authenticity and leave after giving your thumbs up to the cedar-tree honey. Heading back to out-and-about cousin, you pass a sale at one of your favourite clothing stores. Try on six items, be tempted by three (one only for the winter; one maybe too short) and walk away with one: the R100 pair of jeans!
More hooting, staring and welcoming chides en route to out-and-about cousin. Then the ride home: top-down convertible blasting Robbie Williams, with Lebanon's mountainside to the right and the Mediterranean to the left. Oh, the diversity of it all!