“ Off the coast of Raouché, there is a natural landmark called the Pigeons' Rock (also known as the Rock of Raouché). Located at Beirut's western-most tip, the two huge rock formations, which stand like gigantic sentinels, are a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. „
== Pigeon rock ==
Beirut is a very busy city, just like London or even a bit busier (disregarding when London hosted the Olympics of course). Nearly all important "places" such as governmental sites reside in Beirut which explains why most people prefer living in the city. In the city you can no longer see the lush green grass or trees or natural entertaining areas which used to exist prior to the civil war. Now Beirut city is crowded with high buildings from accommodations to restaurants & hotels. An increase in population in Beirut in addition to more work opportunities has led to the suffocation of the city with millions of cars and buses. This means that you are less likely to spot a park or two.
The capital city Beirut is a coastal city mostly surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea so you are more likely to go to the beach to get a good sun tan and enjoy the wonderful blue sea than go to a park. However, most beaches are privately owned so you need to pay an entrance fee but you will definitely enjoy yourself there especially if you are a beach person.
There are so many entertaining places to go to which will be mentioned in my next review about Beirut because I won't do justice to the city by a paragraph or two.
However, to me, one of my favourite spots in Beirut is Al Raouche which I really like for many reasons.
== Al Raouche ==
Al Raouche is one of many natural landmarks in Lebanon. This beautiful place is actually located in Beirut; as a matter of fact it's a breath of fresh air for this city. People usually go there after work or on weekends or public holidays to enjoy themselves whether it is a family day or just a breath of fresh air for a price close to nothing.
I'm going to elaborate more about Al Raouche because it's not just any place, you need more than a day to discover the whole place!
== The area location and how to get there ==
== Al Raouche Avenue ==
Not only is Al Raouche one of the most expensive and popular areas in Lebanon it's also one of the most expensive areas in the Middle East too! It's a residential and commercial district in Western part of Beirut. The apartments there are at least 14 stories high and are all newly constructed, the oldest one being constructed after the civil war ended in 1990. The buildings there have sky high prices, for example a small three bedroom apartment is almost £2,000,000! At these high prices only the people of the Persian Gulf can own this apartment!
The area itself is a very busy area, most of the buildings are overlooking the sea and it surrounded with numerous luxurious restaurants, café's clubs and nightclubs, in short this is an area with something for everyone!
== Al Raouche Rock or Pigeons' Rock ==
Off the coastline of Raouche area, there is a very well-known natural landmark called the Pigeons' Rock or the Rock of Raouche in English or sakhrat El Raouche in Arabic.
Pigeons' Rock was used as a symbol of Lebanon in many occasions, you can find it on postcards, memorabilia, stamps in addition to it being featured on the old Lebanese currency. As for now it was featured on the front page of Microsoft's Bing page a few weeks ago and I was so proud to see such a lovely landmark shown by such a site.
It is said that the name of the Al Raouche originates from the Aramaic word rosh , which means head, because the Raouche rock has a head like formation. However in French roche means rock and due to our track record with the French (colonisation) this seems like a more logical reason for the naming. However we "the Lebanese" cannot pronounce it like anyone, we change a word to suit our unique pronunciation. As for naming it as pigeon rock I think it was named after the pigeons who stand there on the very top of the rock nearly all the time.
== What is Al Raouche rock? ==
It is two rocks and not one but we usually refer them as one because they look like as if they were one rock separated by one of the many natural disasters that hit Lebanon, but there still is a very small connection between the two of them.
The two rocks are very huge and they stand in the middle of the sea like two huge mountains.
The Raouche rock was admired by foreigners and locals alike, many documentaries were filmed about this wonder and many photos were taken by international photographers as well as shootings of films and video clips.
Swimming competitions used to be held there in the 70's where some people used to jump there just for fun or to impress some girls while others took it on the dangerous side by attempting to commit suicide!!
There is a small passage wide enough for a small boat or two to pass through these two gigantic rocks. I had the experience of boarding one of these boats with an experienced person and I had a good half an hour on the sea taking pictures and touching the cold water with my hands. It was definitely a worthwhile experience.
Just on the coastline that surrounds the Raouche Rocks lays great evidence that one of oldest human civilisations existed in Beirut. Flints and some basic tools that were used by ancient humans were found there and there is still still more to look for. Most of these artefacts are displayed in the AUB Archaeological Museum if anyone interested in seeing them.
Some people like to practice their favourite hobby fishing, starting from the early morning until late in the evening.
== How to get there? ==
First you need to find the location of the area, Al Raouche is located in the western part of Beirut and the best way to get there is by taking a taxi for less than £10, if you are a family, it's a convenient and cheaper way to get there but once again you can always negotiate the price with the driver but I think the tariff is already cheap and fair enough for the customer and the driver.
== The Corniche or Cornish ==
The Corniche is a seaside boulevard in Beirut, Lebanon. The Corniche was first built during the period of the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon. The Corniche road is the main road to get you to Al Raouche so if you want to get there just tell the Taxi driver that you want to go to the Corniche road. The way through is lined with palm trees, some of them are as old as the Lebanese civil war and you can see some bullet shots in the trunks of the trees but most of the palm trees are newly planted and are very well looked after.
I like to look through the car window and see the waterfront walkway, it has an amazing view of the Mediterranean sea and if you look further down the horizon you can enjoy the magnificent view of the hilltop of Mount Lebanon to the east.
== Reaching the Corniche ==
The road is very busy and there is hardly space for you to park your car, some cars do park on the pavement and if you are not an expert you won't get out from there without smashing your car as Lebanese people are a crazy drivers and parkers, trust me I know my people very well. I thought taking a taxi is the best way to go instead of getting annoyed looking for a space to park in.
The Corniche sidewalk is a very a common destination for all people and it's crowded with people from all ages from walkers, joggers and bikers, to people enjoying themselves, have a breath of fresh air or simply having some quality time with their family.
Bikes are available for rent at a very low fare for adults, children and even toddlers.
Over 75 coloured cemented benches designed by Lebanese artists are distributed all over the pathway of Corinche so people can have some rest after walking or jogging for hours and enjoy the stunning scene of sunset.
I'm not joking when I say that it's one of the most romantic places in Lebanon, love birds everywhere are holding hands walking next to the sea and families with kids are happy.
The Corniche walkway is a wide pathway made out of solid concrete and it's surrounded by a sleek looking aluminium railing for the safety of people.
== My experience ==
I must say that my visit to the Raouche is unforgettable experience. I went there many times and am still willing to go every time if I do get a chance to go. The seaside sidewalk is always crowded with people especially over the weekends and evenings where the weather is a lot cooler. The pavement is crowded with Push cart vendors who sell a wide collection of local snacks and drinks such as Lebanese kaak (special shaped bread made out with sesame seeds and sprinkled with thyme or cheese), Barbecued corn, Lebanese nuts, cooked fava beans with cumin and lemon and many other snacks and different refreshments.
I like it later in the evening, the weather is cooler even in summer there is always a light breeze mixed with the smell of the sea. It's also much calmer and quieter so you can enjoy an unforgettable experience just by listening to sound of the waves.
Flashlights are placed on the sides of the pavement and some of them are directed towards the Raouche Rock making it look even more attractive!
My boys enjoyed the experience too; we hired a tricycle for my youngest while the two other eldest boys walk with me for over 5 km while their brother accompanied them on his bike. Yes, the sidewalk is too long; It starts from al Manara (light house) until Al Raouche and that's why walking and jogging are the most preferred activities on this seaside esplanade.
I was done by half way to be honest so I chose a bench and got some rest drinking some water while the boys were racing their way to the end. I was so glad that I bought sun block and sun hats with me as the sun was extremely scorching.
We took some pictures next to the view of Al Raouche Rock and after hours of playing jogging walking we felt extremely hungry and snacks were not enough so we decided to cross the road and have a nice meal at one of Numerous restaurants in Raouche.
== Amenities and features ==
There are several restaurants, cafés and eating places that line up in Avenue de Paris, which forms part of the Corniche Beirut.
The restaurants serve local and foreign cuisine like Italian, French and Mexican and of course there are restaurants which serve the usual fast food restaurants like KFC, McDonalds, Hardees and Nandos but if you are after a light meal, cliff-side cafés will offer a good range of snacks and sandwiches.
If you are a tourist and are lucky enough to get a room in one of the most expensive, yet in demand hotels in the Middle east or maybe in the world, you would be astonished by the wonderful view of the seaside, the lighthouse and the Raouche Rock. However, it's highly unlikely that you would get that room because because a room in such hotel would cost over $1000 per night.
Getting back is very easy, transportation in Lebanon is available day and night so can order a taxi at any time.
== Would I visit it again? ==
Absolutely! It's a wonder place to visit; you can rarely find a seaside city as good as Beirut. It is a crazy city with multiple personalities, having something good for everyone's taste.
Al Raouche is a place to practice many activities, It has incredible views, you can meet new people, eat decent food, your kids will love it and even better there is no admission fee, you only pay for your food.