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By Inka from Glamour Granny Travels
“You are going where? “Have you packed your tin hat and your bullet proof vest?” These are just a few of the comments I heard last week when I told people that I was going to Beirut – and not only for a short visit but for an extended stay of three months.
It all started in May when I visited the country for the first time and decided there and then, that I had to return for much longer. I only scratched the surface of Beirut and rushed to see the Jeita Grotto, Harissa, Byblos and Baalbek, all in three days. I freely admit, I had come loaded down with much of the same preconceived ideas my friends expressed: the Lebanon and Beirut in particular is a mess, a war torn country in ruins, dangerous, dirty and just generally a place best left alone. But me being me, I had to go and see for myself.
All I can say is: did I get a surprise. The first thing that caught my eye when I was sitting in a taxi leaving the airport were huge billboards along the highway reading: The World Is Beirut-ing Again! As I found out very quickly, this is true. In the lobby of my hotel alone I heard five different languages and everybody was excitedly talking about the trips and excursions they had made or were about to make.
This time around I am concentrating more on Beirut and looking at all the other wonderful sites later. The term joie de vivre could have been invented by or for the Lebanese people. They are friendly and welcoming to every visitor who finds his way to their country. They are rebuilding the city at breakneck speed and they are full of optimism. More than once did I hear: they invade and destroy our country? Ok, we dust ourselves off and just start all over again.
Of course there are still traces of the destruction, but new and beautiful buildings are going up everywhere. The famous corniche which is the sea side promenade is lined with 5star hotels and luxury apartments and the downtown area has been completely renovated. There isn’t an international designer who isn’t represented in the Beirut souks, a new shopping mall which was constructed around the mosaic tiled Intabli pool, one of the few places which has survived the bombing. Place de l’etoile is nearby with the clock tower in the middle and tree lined streets full of chic cafes and boutiques. And it’s all bustling with life.
Go to the Roman Bath of a weekend. It’s an archaeological site but also a terraced public park where Beirutis take the air, sit, talk, socialize and just have a great time.
Hamra street is less up scale and more traditional but the restaurants to be found there serve Lebanese food to die for. And then there is the nightlife. Beirutis start to go out late, nothing really gets moving before midnight, but lasts until the sun comes up again. Music and theatre festivals take place and this weekend it’s the Beirut Marathon with participants from all over the world.
Relax in the old fashioned and extremely’ in’ Sporting Club in Rawsheh where you can swim and snorkel and explore the underwater caves below Pigeon Rock. Have your morning run along the corniche as every self respecting Beiruti does and be prepared to take your life into your hands every time you have to cross a road, because the Lebanese are fierce and ruthless drivers.
I just love it.
Inka is the Glamour Granny. After a lifetime as an international attorney Inka is now a freelance writer and novelist sharing her experiences traveling the world and encouraging other Glamour Grannies around the world to do the same. You can read all about her inspiring life at Glamour Granny Travels
10 thoughts on “Why I love Beirut”
I love reading about great places that everyone has negative perceptions of. It just goes to show that you HAVE to listen to the people who have actually been to a place rather than the doom and gloom of the media. Great post that has me wanting to plan a trip to Beirut. Great job!
Exactly! We get people commenting to us all the time about certain countries and how bad they are, and they’re comments from people who have never been there!! You can’t comment unless you experience things firsthand.
I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Beirut! I WILL go there 1 day, I’m sure of it. 🙂
I’ve also heard great things but I’m convinced you find wonderful people in every country.
I am so interested in Beirut, right now. It sounds great, but Mexico first.
Inka, I’ve loved reading about all the things you’ve done and seen in Beirut. It has grown a lot of interest in me going there. And the best thing is that your perspective challenges the negative notions that many people have. Thanks! Keep up the great posts!
Yay! I’m so glad your wrote this. I’m actually Lebanese and went to Lebanon for the first time when I was a teenager to visit family. I am way overdue for a return and this post makes me miss my family there. I’m glad you love it!
Paris of the East, very beutiful indeed!
I think it would be a terribly interesting place to visit. Wasn’t on my list before my RTW but, now that I know how wrong all the hype around the world is, it’s on my list now. Cheers!
Great read about Beirut! Glad to see you where open enough to see what its about. If you want to Check out a new guide to Beirut I did one after I had lived here for 2 years.
Here is a documentary series from when I walked across Lebanon with a friend: http://2famous.tv/category/walk-of-causes/