Safe Arrival

I’ve arrived safely in Beirut. Overall the travel experience was great. Turkish Airlines was awesome! The few previous international flights I’ve been on were on US based airlines and were not as great. The flight from DC to Istanbul was spacious, had great food and amazingly there were no screaming children. Also there was free wine!

The hotel is nice and better than expected based on the reviews I had read on TripAdvisor. Here’ s a link to the hotel (trust me it’s better in person!):

Today we had an orientation with the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and met Sabine, Melkar and Fadi. We’re going for lunch now and a walking/bus tour this afternoon.

I promise more updates later tonight!

Oreos with the Ambassador

My first update! I’ll be boarding my flight momentarily, but I wanted to tell you all about my crazy day.

We started off with a chat with Dr. Anthony the founding President of the National Council on US-Arab Relations (referred to as National Council or the Council for short). He is a brilliant man who we were lucky to meet and spend a great deal of our time with.

Our first presentation was from Miriam who is a relatively new employee at the National Council. She is a Lebanese Canadian who is doing her research on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I learned so much from her presentation and it created lots of further points for research.

Next we went to the Lebanese Embassy. Yes we ate Oreos with the Ambassador! Here’s the photo from our visit:

After the Ambassador we met with several other scholars and prominent thinkers of the Middle East. Due to security reasons, we are not allowed to share the names/titles/employers of all those we met with (no joke!). But every session was very informative and generated lively discussions.

Several unscheduled highlights of the day:

  1. Attempting to hail a cab outside the National Press Building and two huge black SUV’s pull up. Security guys in suits step out, followed by Leon Panetta! We got a smile and wave from the Secretary of Defense!
  2. While waiting in line to go through TSA in Dulles, our study visit leader saw Ambassador Cook, former ambassador to Oman. We were introduced to her as well!

All together a busy and exciting day. I’ll try and post again later with some more detailed comments based on the tons of notes I took from all the sessions today.