Ejo #124 – My Diary: Quarantine (Part 1)

On the last day of our trip to Japan, our HR department got in touch and instructed us to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival in Dubai. To be honest, at the time it felt like a wee bit of an over-reaction, but you will never catch me complaining about a freebie fortnight off work. I now know that the UAE government was being proactive and taking necessary precautionary measures. I started writing this diary, before the world went into lockdown. Self-isolating at home was an anomaly, and not the current norm.  We were the only ones I knew that were quarantining, and I thought it might be a little bit of novelty for you all to read about our experience. Now almost everyone is stuck at home, and you all have your own stories to tell. Here’s mine, anyway.

Coming back from Tokyo was weird. We were in business class for the long-haul flight (frequent flyer miles, yo!), and the entire upper deck of the A380 was virtually empty. There were just five passengers and almost double that number of crew. Which was a relief because I’d been a little worried about flying home in a jam-packed sardine can. Don’t even get me started on the number of times I’ve contracted a flu or a cold or a sniffle or a cough after flying. Some bitches just do not know how to cover their goddamn mouths when they sneeze. It felt like the five of us were seated far enough apart from one another to not have to worry about cross-infection. However, in retrospect, getting drunk at the bar and hugging some rando stranger may not have been the smartest choice in the world. Live and learn.



We landed in Dubai at 6am and were in bed an hour later. We got up at around midday, and easily oozed into full-sloth mode. We ordered chicken wings for lunch and spent the rest of the day watching Netflix, systematically destroying a 1.8 litre bottle of sake and popping the M&Ms we’d nicked from the aeroplane. We are not intending on continuing this way, but it feels right for the first day back. Zero effort; just ease on into it. No-one’s handing out awards for pandemic over-achievers. Actually, maybe they are. But we are definitely not in the running.



Oh my god, I had such a good night’s sleep. I actually woke up feeling rested, which is so unusual for me. I’m normally either fatigued from shift work, or burning the candle at both ends while travelling. So I felt great. I figured I should use my new-found energy to unpack my suitcase, as well as all the records and all the booze we bought in Japan. So many records; so much booze!! Actually, it feels a bit weird to be drinking, when technically I should be working. But I’m not actually sick, and I’m not actually skiving off work (though it does feel a little bit like I am). I almost feel guilty indulging in a tipple (or two), but you can bet that’s not going to stop me.


Ugh, I hate unpacking.


Adding to the collection.


Delightful, limited edition Japanese liqueurs (as well as some sake and the fixin’s for our signature cocktail – the Aviation).

Today, I also finally got around to watering all our babies ( I would make a terrible mother). Our poor houseplants have been without water for 17 days and are looking a little… shall we say, dehydrated. The highlight of today, for me, was a small (but glorious) bounty of four little red cherry tomatoes. Look how beautiful they are!!!  These are especially important to me because they are my Mum’s heirloom tomatoes. I am grateful, beyond belief, that I now have her seeds to plant again next season.


Baby tommies!!!!  I’m in love!!!

Today, we left the house. It felt weird, like we were committing some nefarious crime. Or venturing into a zombie apocalypse. But we weighed up the risks, and decided that it would be better for us to go out and do one big shop (that will hopefully last us the remainder of our quarantine) rather than continue to eat takeaway food and get home delivery. Also, we were out of wine. So…

Seems that most of Dubai is pretty relaxed about COVID-19, I guess because there haven’t been that many cases here, so everyone is just carrying on as normal. The supermarket didn’t have my preferred brand of toilet paper (tragedy!), but it was still fully stocked. No panic buying here. Not yet anyway.

Today I woke up with a mild feeling of dread that I haven’t been able to shake. I’m seriously enjoying not working (hello early retirement?!), but there’s a lot of heaviness hanging in the air and I guess it’s taking a mental toll. I also woke up with a horrible rash on the back of my hands from the incessant handwashing. FML.

Today was the first day that we decided to get off our butts and be productive members of the household. Working together as a team (me measuring and marking, David drilling) we hung two large artworks on the wall, and two macramé potplants from the ceiling. I’ve gotta say, so far, being house-bound kinda rules. Shit = getting done!


Measure twice, drill once (argue fifteen times).


Plant more coconuts.  Excellent advice.


About time this beauty took his rightful place on the wall.


Ivy loves her new, sun-drenched perch.

I also managed to find the time to give my ficus elastica (his name is Peter, say hello everyone) a shower. He absolutely loved it. And continuing on with the plant care, I made one last ditch effort to save Lillian (my peace lily – get it?) from the brink of death. I repotted and trimmed her down to the bone. I think it’s going to be touch and go there for a while, so… thoughts and prayers please.


Splish splash.


Lillian doesn’t look so good.


Short back and sides.

PS We’ve started playing records.  Today’s soundtrack was brought to you by…..


The Stooges


Progressive krautrock band, Can

Today started off with a pretty nasty hangover and, after a short spurt of activity (sweeping and mopping the balcony), mutated into yet another lazy day. Lots of lounging around and drinking coffee (and Berocca).  I started reading a new book, chilled out on the balcony, played Tetris on my Nintendo Game Boy (31 years old and going strong!) and listened to more records.


A little bit of light reading, entertainment (and hair o’ the dog).

David is a bit bored, but I’m absolutely loving it. I could one hundred percent (no problem whatsoever) get used to this. No appointments, no responsibilities, no parties, no dinner dates, nowhere to be in the morning, no work concerns. I’m at home with my best buddy, surrounded by a beautiful lush forest of houseplants, listening to awesome music with the doors flung open, enjoying the beautiful weather before Dubai turns into a fiery summer inferno. This is my idea of bliss, people. I feel like I’ve been preparing for isolation for the last 11 years of my life and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

We were intending to cook dinner tonight, but just couldn’t overcome the inertia of the day so we ordered Indian takeaway from across the street. Tomorrow we’ll be better. Promise.

PS Today’s soundtrack was brought to you by…..


Kishi Bashi


John Grant

Today we got busy. The house got cleaned, but good. We stripped the beds, dusted every surface, vacuumed, tidied, swept, sorted, mopped, scrubbed, made the beds and then proudly patted ourselves on the back (and rewarded ourselves with a glass of rosé). Of course we always clean up after ourselves, but I’ve got no qualms admitting that we usually get someone in about twice a month to do the real dirty work for us. This time, we did our own dirty work and while I found the result very rewarding, let’s just say I’mma be tipping my cleaner a helluva lot more from now on.


A hard earned thirst deserves a nicely chilled rosé.

Hey, so we cooked today. We threw together a very delicious chili con carne, garnished with crushed blue corn chips, diced avocado, coriander and sour cream. No reason to starve, just because the apocalypse is nigh. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we’re binge-watching Ozark on Netflix. You’re welcome.

PS Today’s soundtrack was brought to you by…..


The Fall



Once again, I woke up feeling kind of flat. I was a bit short with David this morning, and when he asked me why, I snapped, “Because my Mum is dead”. To be honest, I hadn’t consciously realised it was weighing on me until it burst out. But you know what? It’s OK. It makes sense. It’s been almost a year since my Mum unexpectedly died, and it’s only natural that the imminent anniversary of that day will have some kind of negative impact on my state of mind. Particularly now, stuck at home with not much else to do except ponder these things.

Even though I had all sorts of plans for getting shit done around the house today, I tried to be gentle with myself for not having the motivation or energy to get much shit done around the house at all. I gave myself permission to just watch some TV, stare out the window (a lot), sit outside in the fresh air, listen to music and just chill. What else is there to do anyway?

PS Today’s soundtrack was brought you by…..




Lil Louis & The World

We got up early today to go for a walk before the crowds hit the park. It was really serene and peaceful and so good for my state of mind to be out of the house, and also to exercise. I have to say though, the number of folks who have no idea about personal space – fuck me guys, are you even aware that there’s a viral contagion sweeping the globe right now? A little bit of space, please.

The rest of the day was, I hate to say it, a bit of a bust. I had such good intentions to do stuff. But alas, not a whole lotta stuff got done (there’s a theme emerging here I think). So, let me tell you about this coffee table I had big plans for. It’s been sitting on our balcony for a while. Backstory: I started sanding it in late 2016 with the intention of staining and reviving it and making it a beautiful centerpiece for our living room. Did I mention it’s been sitting on our balcony for three years? Anyway, I went out there today, armed with some 100-grit sandpaper, a brush and a can of cherrywood stain only to discover that the table was beyond salvation. Bummer.

Even though not much happened, today wasn’t a total bust. We did have a nap between 2pm and 3pm. Thank you, I will take a bow. Look, you’ve gotta take the wins with the losses. Also, guess what, I made sauerkraut!! Yes, I did. I’ve made kimchi before, but this is my first shot at sauerkraut and I’m very excited for it to work out. Keep your fingers crossed for me. We’ll find out in ten days. Oh, and we had nachos for dinner. Yes, I am going to be very fat when this is all over. I reluctantly accept that.


Yum!  And good for you.

PS Today’s soundtrack was brought to you by…..




(Early) Foo Fighters

We intended to go for another walk today but when we woke up it was raining pretty heavily and thunder was clapping pretty loudly, so we just stayed in bed a bit longer. Good story, right? Sorry guys, but this is what it’s come to. This is quarantine life. Headline: NOT MUCH GOING ON. The highlight of my day was finally getting around to making some hot sauce using the dried chillies from my Mum’s garden that I’ve been holding onto for a year. Not sure if you know this about me but I am a hot sauce afficionado. A hot sauce connoisseur, if you will. AKA Hot Sauce Freak. I fucking love my hot sauce.


A few of my favourite things.


My Mum’s dried chillies.  Potent.

The last time I saw my Mum she slipped some of her homemade hot sauce into my suitcase, which I discovered when we got to Dubai. It was amazing, one of the best goddamn sauces I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot). And I’d been meaning to ask her for the recipe. I was literally leading up to it, days before she died. Look, in the ultimate scheme of things, the loss of a recipe doesn’t really scratch the surface of everything else that I lost when my Mum passed away. But it’s something that just hasn’t stopped bugging me. My sisters and I went through every single one of Mum’s handwritten recipes last year, but sadly we never found her hot sauce potion. Today, I just bit the bullet and searched the internet for the simplest, easiest recipe made with dried chillies, and I am so excited to tell you that the result tastes pretty fucking good. I’m going to give it a few weeks to really infuse with all the flavours but I’m very hopeful that the result will be something that at least approximates my Mum’s sauce. That would make me so very happy. That would make today a very good day, indeed.

PS Today’s soundtrack was brought to you by…..






Ejo #121 – Dogs Of Dubai

My family has always been dog people.  We just love dogs, god damn it.  We’ve tried other pets along the way, of course.  Finches, fish, a mouse, a turtle I found in the garden (for about two days, anyway, before my grandfather set it free).  After one of my sister’s school projects, we ended up with a chicken called Tok Tok, which faithfully laid us a double yolked egg every single day until we came home from school one afternoon to be told that Tok Tok had been taken to a farm to live out her retirement years.  If memory serves correctly, we had roast chicken for dinner that night.  There is no correlation between these two events, whatsoever.  I once found a feral kitten in the gutter outside our house and somehow coerced it into my bedroom.  I spent the entire night fighting the damn thing off my face.


Psycho Kitty.

We kept Kitty for a while, the entire family nursing cuts and bites and scratches for the duration, but Kitty was not meant for domesticity and after a couple of years she obviously found a better home and settled down with her new family (the only logical explanation for why she disappeared without a trace, and no further discussion on the matter is necessary).

But for the Stathopoulos family, our hearts have always belonged to dogs.  I don’t think I need to point this out, but I will anyway.  Dogs are special.  Scientists have shown that dogs have a unique ability to love, not just human beings, but all other species (depending on how early they are exposed to them).  When a dog looks into my eyes, or licks my hand lovingly, or lays it’s paw on my foot or even just leans against me – my heart explodes with love.  If yours doesn’t, I’m afraid there must be something terribly wrong with you.  Please go and see a doctor immediately.

Our first dog wasn’t even ours.  Joshua was a farm dog from the property next to our holiday house in Cape Schanck, but over the years, he lovingly adopted us to (the bemusement of his farmer owner).  He was our first taste of how loyal and loving and fun a dog could be.


Joshua teaching me how to drive.

Our family loved Joshua so much we decided to get a full time dog of our own and ended up with a Rhodesian Ridgeback St. Bernard cross called Duchess.  She was a big, imposing dog, and she had a big heart to match.  She was definitely our Dad’s dog, but she loved us all and we loved her back.


Duchess slow-dancing with my Dad.


Pieta and Duchess being cute together.

A few years after Duchess died, we braved another pet and got a beautiful pure-bred Doberman called Jessica.  Her tail had already been cruelly clipped when we picked her out, but thankfully we got to her before they snipped her beautiful, velvety floppy ears.  Despite looking like a very scary attack dog, Jessica was a gentle soul who would never hurt a fly.  She could, however, turn on a deep, throaty growl when she felt it was necessary and she owned a bark that would scare off the most determined burglar.  When Jessica died, our whole family was heartbroken and my parents decided that was it.  No more Stathopoulos family pets.  The loss was just too painful.


Jessica and her ball.

Both of my sisters, however, had been bitten by the doggy bug and about a year or so after Jessica died, they both adopted dogs of their own.  Mari brought home an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Barnaby.  And Pieta co-parented a Staffordshire called Subby with her best friend.  


Pieta and Subby.


Mari and Barnaby.

Sadly, Barnaby and Subby have moved onto the great kennel in the sky, but they were both very loved members of the Stathopoulos family.  They are both buried in our Mum’s backyard now, which is perhaps a little weird (since the house is no longer ours) but also kinda wonderful that their final resting place is the family home.

Over the years, I’ve always felt a strong desire to add a puppy to my life but sadly, shift work isn’t really conducive to owning a pet, and neither is our tendency to travel as much as possible.  My love of dogs runs deep but I am not so selfish as to subject an animal to a life of solitude in an apartment, interrupted only by regular visits to a kennel.  The answer to my pet dilemma in Dubai has turned out to be K9 Friends, a doggie shelter in an industrial area, near the port of Dubai.  K9 Friends is a non-profit organisation, founded more than 30 years ago, that rescues abandoned dogs (which is a huge problem in Dubai, sadly).  K9 Friends’ ultimate goal is to re-home all the dogs they rescue, but sometimes dogs end up staying with them for years, which is so devastatingly sad.  I do think what they do is amazing though, because if it wasn’t for them, most of these dogs would end up being euthanised.

Obviously, being a volunteer organisation, they rely on donations and the kindness of dog lovers who generously donate their time to looking after the dogs as well as taking care of the administration side of things.  They tend to have about 120-130 dogs kenneled at any one time, so as you can imagine that’s a whole lot of work (as well as a whole lot of poop that needs to be regularly collected).  If you love dogs and want to help, but aren’t able to adopt (or foster) a puppy there are a couple of other ways you can assist.  You can directly sponsor a dog (or a kennel), and that’s something that David and I would like to get involved with.  Each dog costs about 5000dhs a year to house (this includes vet costs, food, grooming etc).  The shelter is happy to accept any amount donation, and every cent helps.  Another way to help out is to take a dog out for the day,  It really is the next best thing to taking a doggo home permanently.

K9’s walking programme has turned out to be perfect for David and me.  In the last month we have taken three wonderful dogs out for the day.  It’s been such a treat to once again have some canine love in our lives, and I’ve really enjoyed having dogs in the house for a few hours a day (even though they’re not all necessarily completely toilet trained).  I also hope that the dogs have enjoyed a break from the shelter as well.  It really is a win-win situation for everyone.  If you live in Dubai and are a dog-lover, I would so highly recommend that you get involved with K9 Friends and take a beautiful, loving dog out for the day.  You never know, you might just end up with a friend for life.


My favourite of the dogs we took home, Cranberry was found in an abandoned warehouse in an industrial part of town. Look at that face!!!!


As soon as we brought him home, Cranberry decided he would move into our storage room.  Whenever he got a bit nervous, he would run back in there and crouch down in the corner, in the dark.


It makes me so sad to think about what Cranberry experienced earlier in his life to make him be such a nervous, timid puppy.


Cranberry and his new daddy. ❤


Whilst he was very shy and timid, Cranberry loved going for a walk and meeting other dogs and people.


Flower’s a slightly older dog who has given birth to loads of puppies before being neutered at K9.  She was a really quiet dog, and even though she was sociable with us, she wasn’t exactly affectionate.


Flower had a tendency to just sit still, almost as if trying to become invisible.


Flower loved going out for a walk.


I really loved it when Flower came and wanted to sit next to me.  She was a very chilled out dog who would really suit an older couple or perhaps a busy family. Even though she was really quiet, the house felt empty when we had to take her back.  


I have a feeling David developed a bond with Annie.  They really seemed to click.


When I picked Annie up, the volunteers at K9 Friends warned me that she was “ugly/beautiful” and I guess that’s true.  She got a lot of weird looks on our walk, but she always won strangers over with her warmth and affection.  We were both very sad to take her back to the shelter at the end of the day.


Annie was a small dog, and a little bit emaciated, but she was very strong and she liked to lead the way on our walks.  She was particularly partial to balls and always wanted to chase them down when we encountered them on our walk.  I think she would be suited to an active family or perhaps a single person that likes to exercise regularly.


It was tough to drop Annie off at the shelter, and I think that she also wanted to stay with us.  K9 Friends are a very caring dog shelter, but these dogs really need to find permanent, loving homes.  If you want to adopt a dog in Dubai, this is the first place you should check out.  If you want some doggie love, on a more temporary basis, then you should definitely register to take a dog out for a walk.  It’s such a richly rewarding experience, for you and the dog.


Ejo #120 – Drunk In….. Beirut (or How We Joined The Revolution)

I was in Tbilisi, Georgia, sleeping off a serious hangover when my Mum died. David and I had hit the city hard over three days; boots on the ground, party hats on, elbows bent – all in the name of researching my next Drunk In installment. But “Drunk In….. Tbilisi” is an ejo that will never see the light of day. It would be impossible for me to celebrate, let alone reconcile, the drunken revelry that David and I indulged in over those three days, with the fact that they were my Mum’s last days alive. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write another Drunk In post ever again. It’s not that I stopped drinking after Mum died, far from it. And it’s not that I haven’t experienced moments of joy or frivolity either. Those moments have co-existed with my grief, and they still do. I actually just thought I would never be able to write about anything ever again. I wasn’t even sure that I could continue with these monthly ejos. But, here we are.

There is something that happens to you when a loved one dies. When the shadowy concept of death becomes a forcible reality, something you have to look at in the eye and face every day, the value of life is actually somehow reasserted. Yes, I am still sometimes crippled with the pain of losing my Mum. But yes, I can also still genuinely experience happiness, I can still laugh and have fun. This is known as living. My Mum would have wanted it, and I want it. Anything less would be an affront to this beautiful gift each of us has been given. When you wake up one morning, and learn that someone you love is gone forever, it brings into very sharp relief how truly precious (and shockingly short) life actually is. Eleven years ago, I made a choice to live in Dubai, away from my Mum and my family and my friends and my home. I did that, not because I love Dubai so much. I did it because it was an opportunity to see the world. I sacrificed one thing, for another. And I ask myself sometimes if that choice was worth it – though it really doesn’t bear much thinking about. I’ll never be able to answer. The only thing I am able to do now is to honour the decision I made all those years ago. To make that sacrifice count. I have to travel, I have to see the world. I have to do it for myself, and I also have to do it for my Mum.

Our first vacation since Tbilisi was in November. Our friend Cath (whom you might remember from our drunken adventures in Hoi An a couple of years ago) was taking a well-deserved break from her award winning work as a newspaper photographer, and when she flipped through the atlas to decide her destination, her finger landed on Beirut, Lebanon. David and I were thrilled, as we’ve always wanted to go to Beirut. And being so close to Dubai, it was the perfect destination for us to join Cath for a three day Drunk In adventure.

Three weeks before our trip, startling reports began surfacing of demonstrations and rioting in the country. The three of us monitored the situation carefully, reading up about the protests and decided that, despite several travel warnings, including advice to “exercise a high degree of caution” from the Australian government and a suggestion from the US government to “reconsider Lebanon due to crime, terrorism, armed conflict and civil unrest”, we would stick to our plan and go. Of course this was exactly the kind of thing that would have made my Mum extremely anxious. But because she’s no longer here to worry about me, in my mind I no longer have any reason to be cautious. I can throw caution to the wind, because it no longer matters if something bad happens to me. Twisted logic, right? Who said grief isn’t fun?


So we landed in Beirut after a night shift, and a four hour flight, ready to hit the town. We were staying in a vibrant and gritty part of town called Mar Mikhael because that’s just how we do. It’s a lively area known for its many restaurants and bars and that’s exactly what we’d come for. After reuniting with Cath over a bottle of duty free Champagne on our balcony, we ambled a leisurely six minute walk from our Airbnb over to Enab, a well known restaurant specialising in local cuisine and wine. We ordered a bunch of different plates to share and delighted in the fresh flavours of what arrived on the table: hummus (of course), flatbreads, beef kibbeh and roast potatoes. The pièces de résistance for me though were the most delicious and tender char-grilled lamb chops I’ve ever eaten. They were perfection!!! All of this was washed down with three bottles of Beqaa Valley rosé. To say it was easy drinking would be an understatement, and to say we were on a mission would be the same. It was the perfect start to our night.

Armenia Street, Mar Mikhael


Bellies full, we pranced out of Enab and down the street, looking for the next hotspot.  We found it less than a four minute walk away at Bar Chaplin, a (you guessed it) Charlie Chaplin themed bar.  The place was absolutely heaving on a Friday night and we were lucky that a group of people sitting at an outside table moved over and made room for the three of us to be seated.  This is something that completely characterises Lebanese people.  They are bloody lovely.  They are friendly, and warm, and they will smile at you for no reason at all, which makes it ludicrously easy to flirt with them.  I absolutely loved almost every interaction I had with the people of Beirut.  After ordering drinks from the lovely waiter, we got into a conversation with our neighbours and spent the next three drinks talking about the issues consuming Lebanon.  They were thrilled that we would visit Beirut, despite the trouble brewing in the city.  We were very drunk so I can’t remember what we drank but it was pretty damn good.  You can trust me.

Alexander Fleming Street, Mar Mikhael


So, after Chaplin we decided we’d had enough and went home.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  But that’s not where the shenanigans ended, oh no.  We sat on the balcony for a couple more hours and caught up over many “sips” of Cognac and arak, a Lebanese aniseed based spirit.  It felt like a good idea at the time.  OMG though, the hangover the next day was epic.  I can’t even.  I don’t remember flopping on the bed around 4am, fully clothed, but I do remember stumbling down the stairs at around 8am to join David on the couch in the air-conditioned living room.  Sometime around 1pm we pulled ourselves together enough to jump into an Uber and head straight to The Lebanese Bakery for espressos and a bite to eat.  Regular readers of this ejo will know that I have a huge soft spot for flatbreads of the world.  Turkish pide, Jordanian manaqish, Hungarian lángos.  I love my flatbreads!!!  And now I can add Lebanese manousheh to that list. Baked fresh to order, you can choose from a variety of toppings to satisfy any craving.  We decided to share, and settled on halloumi cheese, basil and pine nuts for Cath, minced meat, onions and bulgur for David and free range eggs with kashkawan cheese for me.  BEST HANGOVER FOOD EVER.


The mince beef manousheh.


The free range egg version.  Looking at this gives me food orgasms.  They are a thing and if you don’t have them I feel sorry for you.

Salim Bustros Street, Tabaris, Ashrafiyeh

After eating we took a really long walk around town and ended up at Martyr Square, where the biggest demonstrations had been held.  On this Saturday afternoon it was deserted, but we somehow found ourselves accosted by a news crew wanting to know what we thought about the protests.  I was more than happy to share that we were fully supportive of the Lebanese people and that we weren’t frightened to be there at all.  That we wanted to be there.  I was broadcast on some Lebanese TV station, no doubt.  Listen, when you’re Drunk In a city, you get right in there, you get involved.  You don’t skirt around the edges.


Martyr’s monument.


I love being interviewed when I’m hungover as fuck.


The reporter told us that there would be a major demonstration the next day so we popped that into our itinerary before taking off in an Uber for some beers.  Cath had already visited Al Falamanki and reckoned we needed to get there in time for sunset.  And boy, was she right.  This restaurant/bar is perfectly situated on a cliff-face overlooking the Mediterranean and has incredible views of the setting sun and the famous Raouche Rocks.  Also, ice-cold beers and wonderful wait staff.


We turned up in time for this view.


After a really hard day of…. recovering, we needed these beers.  Don’t look at me like that.

General De Gaulle Road, Kraytem


So we had dinner at one of the hottest restaurants in Beirut that night, but to be honest it was nothing to write home about, so I won’t.  What I will mention is that after dinner we were ready to kick on.  We walked to Anise, a bar featured in the World’s 50 Best Bars list.  Again, people went out of their way to make room for us, this time right at the bar.  Honestly, I’ve never felt so genuinely welcome and accommodated anywhere else in the world.  Lebanese hospitality is second to none.  We settled in and attempted to read the cocktail menu, somewhat thwarted by the dim lighting (oh, the vagaries of old age).  In the end a cocktail we watched being constructed in front of us proved too tempting and we just said, “We’ll have what she’s having”.  It turned out to be a sage margarita, and it turned out to be very fucking tasty.  While our drinks were being made, a guy next to me was served a yummy looking snack.  I was curious, so I asked him what it was and… seriously people, he offered me a bite.  And then he offered some to David and Cath too.  And we tried it.  And it was delicious.  And I can’t, for the life of me remember what it was, because… drunk.  But where else does that happen??   How wonderful.


The lovely bartenders at Anise.  And the toaster oven (to the right) where the tasty snacks were being heated up.


Sage margaritas.  Yum!

Alexander Fleming Street, Mar Mikhael


Em Sherif restaurant is a Beirut institution.  Everyone from our Airbnb host, to our taxi driver, to Tripadvisor (#1 don’t lie) said it was a must do dining experience.  And so we did.  And it was…. everything.  And when I say everything, I mean that literally.  Thirty six dishes were laid out before us, one after the other in a constant (CONSTANT) procession.  And I will admit to making the rookie mistake of eating too much too soon, because I simply couldn’t finish everything that was served (which really sucks).  It’s kinda too much.  But at the same time, it’s kinda amazing.  So many feelings.  I think it’s definitely something everyone needs to experience at least once in their life.  If nothing else, to taste the silkiest, most incredible hummus ever created.

PS.  You need to make a reservation here.  Our table of three was the smallest table by far.  And we were the only non-Lebanese folks in the joint.  Just sayin’.


We were amongst the first ones to arrive, but by the time we left the place was loaded with joyful Lebanese families celebrating life.


But a small sample of the Lebanese delicacies that streamed out of the kitchen.

Yesouiyeh Street, Ashrafieh



Avoid demonstrations, they said.  Ha!!!!

All day long we’d been joking about “dropping in on the revolution”.  Little did we know that’s exactly what we were going to do.  We made our way back to Martyr Square at sunset just as the demonstrations were kicking off.  Thousands of people had gathered in solidarity to protest their corrupt government and a mismanaged economy.  Despite paying high taxes, the city hasn’t had reliable electricity or running water since the 70s.  When the government recently announced that they would be introducing a tax on WhatsApp usage the people said, “OH NO YOU DIDN’T!!!”.  It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and it brought Lebanon, a country made up of 18 different religions, together.  It was incredible to be swept up in this feeling of unity on this night.  It was intoxicating.  Everyone gathered, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or religious identities, and they sang the national anthem and they danced and they waved their flags and they announced that, together, they were the people of Lebanon and that they’d had enough.  And we were right there.  It’s not often you get to be part of an historic event.  Despite being scared for me, I think my Mum would have been pretty proud that I was there.


Photo courtesy of Cath Grey (award winning photojournalist).



Revolutions are pretty thirsty work, so when things looked like they were winding down we set off in search of some drinks.  We happened upon Torino Express, which during the day disguises itself as a café, but morphs into a very cool bar in the evenings, complete with someone’s grandad, decked out in his best tracksuit, spinning tunes on a record player in the corner.  And let me tell you, grandad has some pretty good taste in music.  We all decided to start with a classic margarita, and they were so good we just kept ordering more.  Paying the bill I got confused with the currencies (both Lebanese pounds and US dollars are universally accepted), but the guy behind the bar was kind enough to point out that I was leaving a ridiculous tip.  He could have just pocketed it and I wouldn’t have been any the wiser, so huge props for honesty.  Just another reason to love Beirut.


Torino Express


Simply.  Perfect.  Margaritas.

Gouraud Street, Gemmayzeh


Right next door to Torino Express is Dragonfly.  I’d read about their incredible cocktails online, and we were not let down.  The guys behind the bar are like cute, happy scientists, carefully measuring and concocting delicious libations with a smile.  Seriously, everyone in Beirut seems so chilled out and happy, despite the massive problems they face.  I want to know their secret.  I guess I’ll just have to go back and do some more research.  Come here if you’re passionate about cocktails.


Such a sweety.  We asked if we could take a photo and he happily obliged.


Three different versions of yum!


The bartender obviously enjoyed all the love we were throwing his way because he threw these shots of arak our way.

Gouraud Street, Gemmayzeh


Opposite the front door of our Airbnb was a very lowkey bar called Grayscale.  It was so lowkey, and so hidden from sight, that we weren’t even sure it was open, so of course we had to go and find out.  And yes it was!  Post-revolution, we used this bar as a rendezvous point because Cath and I wanted to hit the streets and check out the action, while David was feeling a more chilled out kind of vibe and hung out at the bar while we went exploring.  I was extremely fucking drunk by this point, wandering around the streets, making friends, bringing them back to Grayscale (much to David’s bemusement).  Cath and I got separated but I never once felt unsafe.  So much for travel warnings.  You know you’ve reached the upper echelon of Drunk In when they name a cocktail after you.  Life goals people.


Grayscale Bar


I present to you the cocktail known as…. 40 Shades of Grey.

Opposite Galerie Tanit, Armenia Street



The people.    © Cath Grey


The future.  © Cath Grey


Peacefully protesting.  © Cath Grey.


Standing together.  © Cath Grey.




These guys were amazing.  They were so peaceful, and above all, human.  They didn’t want me to take their photo but I drunkenly snuck this one in.  We chatted about what they were doing and what I gleaned is that they are simply young men forced into a position of authority.  They don’t want any drama.  They don’t want to be there.  While we were there, the protests were not only peaceful, but friendly.  Sadly, after we left a protestor was shot and killed by a young officer. Things have taken a darker turn since and that makes me really sad.