The pirate of Byblos.

Author:Doyle, Paul
Position:Mosaic - Profile on Fishing Club restaurant owner Pepe Abed

"We don't talk about the war anymore, although we have all suffered from it in one way or another," says Mr Abed, owner of the Fishing Club restaurant in Byblos, 23 miles north of Beirut.

Mr Abed, or Pepe, as he is more affectionately known to locals and tourists, preferred to reminisce about less serious matters. For Pepe is one of Lebanon's eccentric characters: retired deep sea diver, amateur archaeologist, part-time jeweller and restaurateur. It was the warmth of the welcome and the multi-faceted personality of its host which, prior to the outbreak of fighting in 1975, made the Fishing Club one of the most fashionable restaurants in the Middle East.

Born in Mexico in 1915 of Lebanese parents, Pepe's childhood quest for freedom and adventure took him and his playboy cousin around the world, mixing in celebrity circles. However, after experiencing much of what the great wide world had to offer he decided to settle in Byblos. Having made a small fortune from his ethnic-inspired jewellery, Pepe opened the Fishing Club in 1963 because "the ancient port was being neglected and needed some life breathing into it".

Located on the coast road between Beirut and Tripoli, the old port of Byblos is reputed to be the world's oldest continuously inhabited town, its history dating back to 5000BC. The word 'Bible' has its origins here and the town bears the signs of numerous past civilisations; archaeological ruins from the Phoenician, Roman, Greek and Crusader periods testify to the town's historical legacy.

In more recent times, however, the fame of Byblos' illustrious archaeological past was eclipsed by its fame as a magnet for film stars, politicians and the international jet set. Hundreds of photographs of past patrons of Pepe's, including Marlon Brando, David Niven, Brigitte Bardot, Frank Sinatra, Anita Ekberg and Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel, adorn the walls of the bar.

The Club must be one of the only places in the world where you can eat, drink, be merry and dance your way around two museums. Pepe was more than happy to show me his fascinating array of jewellery which he has designed and made...

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