Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Beirut bowling baptism

Bowling... it's great fun!
There’s always a first for everything… I finally went bowling in Beirut last week. The finding: It’s great fun!

The closest I got to bowling until then were bowling shirts. They were fashionable at one time -- in the late seventies if I remember correctly. I was fond of one in particular. It was black with red and white pins on a left side pocket. I have several snapshots of me sporting it, but they are in Dubai.

Gustav's Noor and Khaled
As it often does, the evening started at Gustav -- the pâtisserie haven for dessert aficionados and our favorite hangout on Hamra Street. Gustav (@LeGustav on Twitter) is the brainchild of Emirati entrepreneur Khaled Bou Falasa and his Chef Patissier Noor Ramlawi. It has become the virtual world’s nerve center. It’s where you invariably come face-to-face with “friends” you only got to know through Twitter or Facebook.

Woody waits for his ball, strikes and...
... gets a high-five from Liliane
Joining us from Canada, and meeting him for the first time, was Woody Ghsoubi (@vipwoody), who studies in Montreal and is now holidaying in Lebanon. It’s always uplifting to chance on a Twitter friend. Also going bowling were Liliane (@FunkyOzzi), Hussam (@sam_lb), Maggie (@Abaretruth), Yasmine (@yasminehajjar), Jennifer (@Jenhaddad), Youssef (@ychaker), Samir, Khaled (@Arabear) and Noor (@ChefNoor).

We just had to walk across the street to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where the 10-lane Score bowling alley and amusement center is sited.

Maggie joins the fray
Finger magic from Liliane
Jennifer chooses her ball
The good time a bunch of “would be” adults can have at one of the oldest and most popular games in the world is remarkable. I didn’t even know bowling is a sport dating back to 3200 BC!

In the 1930s, British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects in a child's grave in Egypt that appeared to be used for a primitive form of bowling. In Germany, historian William Pehle found evidence of bowling around 300 AD. In 1366 England, King Edward III banned bowling because the game was taking archery practice away from his troops but Henry VIII brought it back.

English, Dutch and German settlers must have imported bowling to America, where it started on lawns. There’s still a plot in New York called Bowling Green in what is now the financial district.

The electronic scoring board
The equipment used for bowling has evolved from the hardwood balls and pin boys responsible for setting up the pins. New technologies have improved the bowling ball, introduced electronic scoring and monitors that show the path and speed of your ball, and several other novelties. 

Cheerfully, bowling is played by people of all ages, which was the case while we were there. There were children challenging their parents, teenagers and older groups as well. The amusement center was packed.
We were among the 95 million people across 90 countries that bowl every day. Debate whether ten-pin bowling should be introduced at the Olympics Games is continuing.

Sam, Youssef, Jennifer and Maggie play a game of air hockey
I was apprehensive at first and sat out the first game. But I couldn’t resist engaging in the second -- with little success I must confess. But that was part of the fun. I will not be changing careers or going to the World Series of Bowling any time soon with a score of 33!

The rules seem easy and the automatic scoring is a blessing. 

Yasmine and Liliane take the Harleys for a spin
The Hamra bowling center has 10 alleys and a cafeteria. LL 10,000 ($6.63) pay for a "game," bowling shoe hire and a new pair of socks. Each game is divided into 10 "frames." A "strike" is scored when a player knocks down all pins on the first roll in the frame.

It all looks straightforward when watching. But when I strode up to roll my first ball, it wasn’t that easy. However much I tried to aim straight, the ball kept swerving right. In one of my tries I hit my calf instead of the alley!

The evening didn’t end there. On our way out, we couldn’t resist the other games at the amusement arcade, including the air hockey and Harley-Davidson rides.

You can join our bowling night in pictures.

Voilà, et à la prochaine!
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