As the sun set, the boardwalk of spotless tiles sparkled as the water lapped against the rocks below.
Joggers ran by. Photographs were taken by women wearing burqas. The road was lined with candy-apple red sports cars.
Modern highrise apartments were visible across the street. They stood high above the cobalt-blue Mediterranean Sea and offered views that justified their sky-high rent.
This scene recalls Beirut’s mid-20th-century memories when it was called the “Paris of the Middle East” by jet setters.
In one of the most diverse cultures in the Arab World, life was whole and happy. However, I saw other people as tall when I looked beyond the new highrises.
These buildings were not designed to have balconies that offer million-dollar views. Instead, they had blown-out windows.
Civil War in Beirut
The grim remains of the skeleton were left with bullet holes.
A part of Beirut’s skyline is now an outdoor museum that displays daily reminders of the 15-year Civil War, which ended almost 30 years ago.
Beirut’s Corniche beachfront looks like Miami Beach, with Aleppo as a background.
Three reasons brought me to Beirut:
One, to celebrate with my girlfriend from Italy, who I’d always wanted.
Marina and I heard that Beirut had made a remarkable comeback.
We were pleasantly surprised by the friendly Lebanese that we had met previously. They told stories about great restaurants, relaxed atmospheres, free-flowing alcohol, and peaceful streets.
Today, Beirut is full of snapshots of a modern seaside society that beckons adventurous visitors. Nightclubs pulse until dawn.
Stilettos and leather pants for women. Locals are sipping fine Lebanese wine at outdoor cafes. Couples enjoy romantic meals at affordable restaurants.
Marina and I smoked green apple-flavored Lebanese hookah in restaurants overlooking the ocean.
It’s funny, Marina’s father offered to take her to the city.
Is Beirut safe to visit?
Chris Koudouzian (24), a Beirut native who works as a waiter at Badguer in Bourj Hammoud’s Armenian neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud, said, “I hear it all the time: Outside Beirut, people think it’s a frightening place.”
It’s not like all Arabian countries. This is a place to unwind. Lebanon is peaceful now.
Is war threatening our country? Yes. It has not yet affected Lebanon.”
Problems In Lebanon
Probleme in Beirut remains.
Lebanon has 6 million people, 1.5 million of them Syrian refugees. Eighty percent of these refugees don’t have legal status.
The debt of $80 billion owed to Lebanon is the third largest in the world, after Japan and Greece.
The head of the World Bank Middle East stated that the Lebanese economic system “is defying gravity” during our March visit. He will only pay another penny once the country solves its electricity problems.
The lights went out as I read this at my hotel breakfast buffet.
We have a bigger problem with Beirut’s public transport system, one of the worst in the world.
How to Get Around Beirut
Random street signs and building numbers add to the confusion. It isn’t easy to find formal addresses because they were not given until 1943 when the country gained independence.
Taxi drivers need to become more familiar with all the significant points of interest so they drop you off in an area for you to manage on your own.
It is highly recommended to use GPS.
Buses are often small and old, but they are rare.
Explore Beirut, The Walkable City
Beirut is very walkable.
Even amid heavy rain, there were still exciting stories around every corner.
Walking 15 minutes from our Corniche hotel to downtown Milan is possible.
We passed Versace and Giorgio Armani in the Beirut Souks. Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, and Versace were also there.
Milan is free from the rubble of World War II.
The Beirut Egg
The Egg is located in downtown Beirut. It is a large concrete oval initially built for a cinema but is now a burned shell due to years of civil war bombardment.
New Beirut City
We were just a few blocks from The Egg but now in Beirut.
We sat outside the Backburner, an urban coffee shop where young adults enjoyed cappuccinos and soft music.
This is Saifi Village’s heart, a post-civil War neighborhood that boasts modern apartments, small shops, and stylish offices.
We were told by a native Beiruti, who had two children on the sidewalk, that a one-bedroom apartment in the same street sold for $600,000-$700,000. This could explain why $5.60 for a cappuccino is so expensive.
Mohammad Al Amin Mosche
Two blocks away, Beirut’s iconic landmark brings the city back into focus.
Mohammad al-Amin Mosque is the largest mosque in Lebanon, and it’s an architectural marvel in Saudi stone with four minarets.
This mosque is unlike most Middle East mosques. It was built post-war and was initiated in the 1990s by Rafik Hariri, the since-assassinated prime Minister.
Five soldiers armed with AK47s stood guard outside. Only a few worshippers ventured inside to pray in the pouring rain.
I stood naked on a vast, red, blue, and yellow Persian carpet, and gazed up at the enormous chandelier I had ever seen. 13 layers of crystal, weighing six tonnes, hovered over 16 men kneeling in front of a cleric wearing a white hat.
As we left, we noticed the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral next door, a sign of Beirut’s peaceful coexistence.
It is a stark contrast with the brutal symbol that can be seen across the street from Nejmeh Square’s mosque.
Martyrs Statue depicts two men holding a flame and one missing an arm. Both are covered in bullet holes.
Beirut is a city with a festive atmosphere.
They shop at chic boutiques in the morning and then laugh in the many bars and clubs scattered throughout the city. It’s almost as if the war has ended, but the corks aren’t stopping popping.
Nightlife includes the hoity-toity Karantina Club. The neighborhood dives like Li Beirut. This dark, small bar has Lebanese love songs over the loudspeaker and photos of Lebanese artists on the wall.
Marina and I met here. Dallin Van Löven, 33, is an Idaho native who worked as a peace and conflicts researcher for an international non-profit in Beirut between 2016-18.
He now lives in Rome and was giving a lecture in Beirut. He broke the stereotype of a typical Westerner by drinking tall glasses of Iced Arak, Lebanon’s licorice-flavored liquor.
Beirut and Alcohol
Tea is still the preferred drink of choice, despite the availability of alcohol.
He said, “Beirut and the rest of Lebanon are the most alcoholic places I’ve ever seen,” You can grab a beer and hop in a taxi. Sometimes, the taxi driver is also drinking.”
Van Leuven said he had never done it himself, which was not legal. However, he said he never had problems with crime or the Lebanese.
He noted that Beirut, as with most Middle East cities, is safer than many American cities. “Lebanese people love Americans.
Beirut’s New Generation
While they have concerns with American foreign policies, they can disengage from our politics. Many Lebanese have relatives in the U.S.