100 meters off of the Mediterranean coast, I navigate through old Mina, turning left, right, then right again. I find Cava, one of Mina’s famous pubs, closed. A convenience store owner greets me with his 10 am shadow on the cobble-stoned path. I decide to ask him for directions since my familiarity with Mina is limited to the few pubs nestled in its winding streets and narrow alleyways. I’ve been to Beit El Nessim once before, still I swallow my pride and make sure my memory wasn’t trying to trick me.
One more right into a quaint street and the Beit El Nessim sign looms overhead, like the building it is anchored to, blending seamlessly with its surrounding neighborhood.
Standing on a narrow flight of stairs, Nabil welcomes me with a drowsy yet friendly smile. Seconds later we are both slouching in comfortable chairs in the bed and breakfast’s spacious hall. In the room adjacent to us is one of Nabil’s helpers mounting new covers on the bed.
Our exchange shifts from formal introductions and identifying common acquaintances to discussing Anthony Bourdain’s most recent visit to Beirut. Nabil recommends the renowned chef’s first book. The conversation quickly confirms that Nabil is both well traveled and well read. In addition to his fluency in English, the phone call he eventually receives indicates that his French even tops our language of dialogue.
Nabil started working on Beit El Nessim in 2007, which went into full operation after 4 years. With a degree in economics and a postgraduate degree in photography and many years of being a yoga instructor under his belt, Nabil’s experience is reflected his easy going demeanor, his thoughtful attentiveness and in every corner of the house.
Maya, Nabil’s wife, gave birth to their daughter Tulsi in that very house, he tells me. It’s Friday and Nabil is fondly expecting them to be back from Beirut for the weekend where Maya teaches Yoga - something she picked up from him, I am told.
A quick tour further reveals Nabil’s travel background. Downstairs, the building looks Lebanese, upstairs however the space starts to reflect a wider Mediterranean identity, with white and blue walls and windows. A yoga mat centers the wide empty hall that leads to the rest of the rooms upstairs.
The Mediterranean winds shuffle the carpets Nabil has next to my favorite room on the roof as we hopelessly try to anchor them to the ground with smooth elliptical stones—the kind of you’d expect to find on the very shores which are beckoning the wind. We harness one element to counter another, I doubt this whiff of irony goes by Nabil undetected. Suddenly the name “Beit El Nessim” makes all the sense in the world.