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  CITY FOCUS:                      


  Beirut Revisited
       by Craig Stevens Corey

                ______________________________________

Beirut had become one of the 
hangouts of the 1960's International
Jet Set. High-rollers in formal attire
(Arab sheiks, oil-magnates, and
famous movie stars) flew in from
around the world to sit at high-
stakes tables in a "James Bond-
esque" setting at the famed
Casino du Liban.          

                    _____________________________
 
CONTACTING A FEW FRIENDS as I typically do before
leaving home
, I knew that once I said Beirut, it would be met
with skepticism. The responses varied, and most said "gosh,
is it safe?" Even my pseudo business partner, who has her own
travel agency said to me “are you crazy?!” In each case I knew
that explaining my reasons for going to Beirut would fall on deaf
ears. So I kept it to a minimum by saying "Hey, everyone is
having a great time over there right now, and this a good time to
go.
" You see, I have a connection to Lebanon, my mother was
from there. While we were growing up in Michigan, she took my
sister and me back to visit her family there often, and the last
time I hadvisited was twenty years ago, in 1995. The Sixteen-
year Civil War had just ended, and the Lebanese were busy
trying to rebuild the city of Beirut from all the devastation. So
now I was off again, accompanied 
by my sister.  

Fifteen-minutes by foot in the opposite direction from the
Phoenicia, is the Rue Hamra (humm-rah) in the western
side of the city. Nowhere in Beirut exemplifies best 
what
the city stands for, more than here, and at one time it was
compared in its pedigree, to the Champs Elysées in Paris.
The street is jammed with movie cinemas, luxury shops,
cocktail lounges, Internet cafes, foreign sports cars, airline
ticket offices (yes, they still have them,) and just plain city
folk sitting at one of the many sidewalk establishments
enjoying a “café Turk” while they examine any number of
foreign papers for the news of the day, pondering Lebanon’s
plight and the shaky region surrounding them.  Within a
twenty or thirty-minute walk of the Phoenicia is Beirut’s
new entertainment district called “Gemmayzeh” (zha-my-zee,)
which is in Achrafieh, in East Beirut. 
It’s the city’s
“bohemian” quarter of narrow streets and historic buildings
from the French era that were spared during the civil war,and
then gentrified. In Gemmayzeh, the Rue Gouraud (named after
French General Henri Gouraud) is the main focal point where
trendy bars, restaurants, and lounges are the place to be for
chic young Beyrouthins (city dwellers) after dark.


Typical Beirut street sign in French and Arabic, in the
familiar blue & white motif

RETURNING TO BEIRUT. Touching-down at the new
Rafic Hariri Aéroport International de Beyrouth on an Alitalia
Airlines Airbus was seamless, just under three hours from
Rome. The flight path no longer takes jets from the
Mediterranean Sea directly over the Beirut city center like it
used to (which, by the way, gave the city such an air of
cosmopolitanism as jets roared low overhead on approach for
landing nearly every five minutes while city dwellers down
below sat at cafes, or milled about, or shopped,) but instead
flights now edge-in along the sea and pivot to the right, or left
on final approach into the field. The old 1950s monolithic terminal
building is gone, and so are the folkloric “dabke” dancers who
used to welcome arriving passengers on the ramp as airliners
lowered their stairs. It was a different time. Today, a
modern, gleaming and expansive new terminal with jet-ways
replaces it. Customs and immigration was a breeze. 
"Ahlan wa Sahlan (welcome) Monsieur Corey" with a slight
accent on my last name, was the immigration officer’s
response as he stamped a "laisser-passer" visa into my U.S.
passport (after extensively examining it) at no charge, and
waived me on.

I had chosen to stay at the Phoenicia Beirut Intercontinental
Hotel (5-stars)
because of its legacy-and because of its keen
juxtaposition on the "Corniche" seaside roadway that stretches
along the Mediterranean in the heart of Beirut. Once there, they
gave us a room, high up in the newer Roman Tower over-
looking  the Mediterranean. The Phoenicia swimming pool,
at 16 meters, 
was a  welcome pleasure-for me-a regular lap
swimmer, as 
the city’s temperature hovered  around 32
Celsius (90 degrees 
Fahrenheit) with pure sunshine and no 
clouds, which
contributes to Beirut’s reputation as a
Mediterranean play
ground.

As soon as we got to Beirut, we received a phone call from
a cousin. She had been anticipating our arrival
there and was looking forward to showing us around. A
lovely and charming Beyrouthine, she would drive over to
the Phoenicia afternoons (from her home in the mountain
suburbs) to pick us up. With her amazing ability to navigate
some of the world’s most congested streets, she could
simultaneously drive in this crazy city, hand-extended out
the window with pinched forefingers, a gesture in Lebanon
that means “just cool it a minute, and let me get through”
all the while providing us commentary on sights to the left-
and to the right of us-and no less effective than a professional
guide! 
One afternoon, she whisked us up to the mountain
suburb of Broummana (well, she tried, in the face of
unbearable traffic, plying one hairpin curve after another in
a continual ascent.)  When we finally arrived, at an ear-
popping 800 meters (2,600 feet) above sea-level, we had
anticipated a stunning view of Beirut and the azure-blue sea
down below. Instead, we were immersed in a cloud! This is
where Beyrouthins come for an evening, or to dine, and to
escape the heat and humidity of the city during the Summer.
Our destination, a well-known dining venue called “Kasr
Fakheredine,” a restaurant with a large cantilevered outdoor
covered terrace with spectacular views under normal
circumstances. We were to enjoy dessert there, having
already dined elsewhere. The waiter informed us that in
order to stay, we would have to order the “deluxe” fruit.
In a few minutes, nearly twenty platters of every imaginable
variety of fruit started arriving, it was comical, and enough
to feed the whole restaurant!


The hotel was gorgeous in every way, with several
dining options including the Mosaic Restaurant and its
panoramic windows overlooking thé sea. While guests dine
in the Mosaic, they can look across and see the  legendary
Hotel Saint-Georges & Beach Club next door, Beirut's former
"it" hotel during thé city’s 1960s jet-set heyday when the likes
of David  Niven, Brigitte Bardot, and Peter O'Toole for
example, used to "hang” there.  The Saint Georges is still in
a shambles from the civil war years, awaiting redevelopment,
and caught in a real-estate power struggle. At night, a large
lighted sign, prominently displayed on the front of the
building’s empty hull says "Saint George Will Prevail!" On
Friday evening, the Mosaic Restaurant presented a lavish
seafood buffet of gourmet specialties where chefs displayed
locally-caught fish and huge prawns from the sea (and
subsequently grilled them on an open hearth) not to mention
a plethora of local Lebanese dishes, all top-notch, and very
original.

WHAT BEIRUT WAS, and perhaps still is. It was known as
the “Paris of the Middle East,” and the country of Lebanon
itself was often referred to as the “Switzerland of the Mid-
East” though not because of its dramatic mountain range
and hairpin curvaceous roadways that lead from the sea up
to snow-capped mountains, but because of its tight banking
secrecy laws
. It was said that you could be water-skiing on
the Mediterranean in the morning, then transported up to
the mountains by electric cable car in time for some
afternoon snow skiing, all in the same day! Although to my
knowledge I never met anyone that actually did that! The
suggestion that Beyrouth (the French spelling) resembled
Paris was not by appearance (although the modern city
was designed in the familiar “French-mandate” style,) but 
because of the "French influences along with a vibrant
cultural and intellectual life that resulted from post-World
War II prosperity and a boom in tourism," la joie de vivre-as
the French say. Modern Lebanon of the last century grew
up as a protectorate of, and pledged its allegiance to,
France until 1943 when it became a democratic republic
and seceded from the Vichy government. A diamond in the
rough, and with a majority Christian population at the time
(although today, perhaps roughly 40%,) Lebanon is a small
country that traditionally leans to the West, and where
“anything goes!” Beirut’s high-octane nightlife was, and
still is, legendary and certainly at times wild! On any given
night you can hear loud, Mid-eastern music thumping to
the gyrations of a belly dancer, or the western club-beat
blasting out of a doorway at any number of establishments
around town until the wee hours of the morning. It was
always a place to have fun, and with hot sunny days and
never a rain cloud in the summer, along with beautiful
Mediterranean beaches, Beirut had become one of the
hangouts of the 1960’s International Jet Set. High-rollers
in formal attire (Arab sheiks, oil-magnates, and famous
movie stars) flew in from around the world to sit at high-
stakes tables in a James Bond-esque setting at the
famed Casino du Liban (and then ultimately depositing
their winnings in one of Beirut’s “tax-free” banks) while
in the 
adjacent Salle des Ambassadeurs a breathtaking
floor-show of International performers, bare-naked, bodies
painted gold, and hanging on huge chandeliers,
descended down to the stage to dazzle audiences! Late-
night revelers would head on over to Beirut's "center
of 
gravity," the Rue de Phenicie, known for its cafes, bars,
cabarets, and brothels like the Crazy Horse, the Lido, Eve,
and most especially the ritzy nightclub Les Caves du Roy,
which was a favorite hangout of 
movie star Marlon
Brando, in the city's swinging-sixties heyday.   

For me, an introduction to Beirut occurred during the summer
of my sixteenth year. It was the mid 1970’s and I explored
the city with a cousin, my female teenage counterpart.
At a young age, she was incredibly sophisticated, tri-lingual,
and she knew her city so well.  Together, we bopped around
town. I ordered my first-ever “gin n’ tonic” at a smart little
cocktail lounge under the swimming pool at the Phoenicia
Hotel, where you could sit at the bar and watch swimmers
frolicking, through a window. And I saw my first foreign 
film-Italian, but dubbed in English and sub-titled in both
French and Arabic! And I had never before seen such
beautiful women than on the streets of Beirut! This was a
completely different world for a 
teenage kid from Michigan.
Sensing my fascination with all that I was taking in though,
my cousin also painted a picture for me, of Beirut's dark
side, where Palestinian refugees lived in camps on the 
edge of the city, bursting at the seams, and in deplorable
conditions, permitted to exist, but denied citizenship.
Of a city with a fragile infrastructure where the electricity
could randomly cut-off for several hours on a steamy hot
Mediterranean afternoon inconveniencing a few million
people, 
and of a city that was disrespected by its citizens
who dumped their trash on the side of the road, or out
of apartment windows. Initially, that information also fell
on deaf years-mine.


There are several excellent restaurants in Beirut, and it’s
not just about going to dinner.  It’s an “evening out,” and
the Lebanese are very gallant about it. So while you’re
here, forget about those “Mediterranean-esque” delis
back home, because this is the “mother ship,” and it is
commonly accepted that in Mid-Eastern cooking,
Lebanese cuisine is the very best! What’s the difference
you may ask? It’s HUGE! The seasonings, ingredients,
and preparations all vary dramatically country by country.
Recently, at a cocktail party back home, I was compelled
to quietly pull aside the host-a friend of mine, after the fact,
and said “look, next time you serve hummous, make
sure you get it from a Lebanese restaurant, and NOT from
the grocery-deli!”  In fact even in Lebanon, recipes can
vary by region. The cooking in Beirut, for example, takes
a decided (if not innovative) departure from the traditional
“akal al jabal” or mountain-cooking that you can get
elsewhere in the country, and very often there, family
recipes are the stuff of legend. The restaurants in Beirut
are spread all over town, of course, but some of the most
dramatic are in the mountain suburbs overlooking the city.
So you can imagine, on a hot summer night, the delight
of driving up to one of  them for respite and a great
dining experience with a gorgeous view while attentive
waiters scurry about, bringing on a mezze (pronounced
“mah-zah”) spread (a large selection of small, but
delectable Lebanese dishes, not unlike tapas, and though
intended as appetizers before a main entrée, they
invariably end up being the whole meal!)  Now, here’s
what I need to carefully explain. Officially, Beirut and
its suburbs have the same “smoking ban” that you
typically find in any civilized city these days. But it is
often and conveniently overlooked here, because you
will see in many restaurants, especially the ones that
have outdoor dining venues, long tables of patrons
smoking tobacco through traditional water pipes, known
locally as “narghile” (nar-ghee-lee) or “shisha,” and more
commonly known in the U.S. as “hookah.”  In fact, the
servers will come and offer a water pipe for your smoking
pleasure the moment you sit down! Now, I’m not
advocating smoking per se, but all said and done, as I
observed this age-old ritual there was a certain elegance
to the “act” because the participants did it with such élan.
Lebanese cuisine notwithstanding, Beirut is a very
cosmopolitan place and always has been, so the choices
are not limited. Worthy of mention are the several French
restaurants that stand out, quite naturally, so if you’re
hankering is for a good “bouillabaisse,” well, in Beirut it’s
excellent! (See “Planning a Trip to Beirut” at the bottom of
this review for restaurant recommendations.)


  Général Charles de Gaulle, at the original Aéroport
  de Beyrouth, Bir Hakim, late 1930's.

During our stay in Beirut, we were on the precipice of a
major event occurring downtown on the Place des
Martyrs
. Demonstrators were accumulating night after
night outside parliament to protest the city’s ongoing
garbage collection crisis. The campaign “Vous Puez,”
or in the Arabic transliteration telayat rayihtuk, which
means “you stink” was the mantra of hundreds of young
people, aimed at the government. On top of that, they
were also protesting the government’s negligence in
improving the city’s weak infrastructure of public utilities,
most notably, electricity. Random power outages still
occur all the time. However, hotels, businesses, and
apartment buildings throughout the city have their own
générateurs to provide for their needs, but the harsh
caveat is-that even if your apartment building has its
own generator-you are still required to pay the
government for electric service! 
I jokingly suggested to
my sister that we should go down and join the
demonstrators, but it was not well received!

But I remembered it two years later when Beirut's heyday
came to a swift end in 1975 with the outbreak of a civil-war.
I was in college, but living at home. We watched in horror,
Walter Cronkite's news broadcasts on CBS, describing in
detail, the destruction and carnage taking place in Beirut.
My mom, in a perpetual state of panic, desperately trying to
phone Beirut night after night after night, hoping to get through
to her mother and brothers there, but unsuccessfully because 
the telephone lines would either be jammed, or were entirely
incapacitated due to the fierce fighting taking place. But
on the rare occasion when she would get through, it
would be met with "Oh, the weather is beautiful, we had
dinner by the sea tonight, when are you coming to visit?”
Always perplexed by this, we would eventually learn that
it was code for "it's very dangerous, we don't dare
discuss the war because our phone lines may be
tapped."  Indeed Beirut's glory days were over, and the
Paris of the Middle East had become, at that time, the
most miserable place on earth. 

The magnificent pool at the Phoencia Beirut Intercontinental

Beirut has long been known for its dizzying traffic
and harrowing drivers
. And this is a city with no
speed limits and little or no traffic signals or stop
signs. So, driving in Beirut is not for the faint at heart!
But Beyrouthins know how to navigate the roadways.
You see, it's like this, whereas in the U.S., for
example, cars entering an intersection must yield to an
oncoming car’s right of way, in Beirut it's the opposite!
Cars enter an intersection, but oncoming cars,
regardless of how fast they are traveling, are expected
to yield to THEM! Cars chaotically switch lanes and
try to inch their way in, even when it's ridiculously
impossible for them to physically get through! The
streets are clogged with more cars than space permits,
and quite often drivers will brazenly enter a known
one-way street in the opposite direction and continue
driving!  And even more impatient, occasionally one
will actually mount the SIDEWALK and strategically
drive right on it, trying to gain position over the other
cars! In the end though, it all seems to work, but my
sister and I had many a white-knuckle moment sitting
in the back seat! That said, I would never recommend
renting a car in Beirut. Instead, grab the business card
from your very first taxi driver, and call him throughout
your stay whenever you need a ride. The taxi drivers
are old pros, and they’re welcoming, and quite pleasant.
For long distances, be sure to negotiate the price
before hopping in.
            ____________________________________

Contacting a few friends as
I normally do before leaving 
home, I knew that once I
said "Beirut" it would be met
with skepticism...
 
               ____________________________________
      


EXPLORING THE NEW BEIRUT. The city of Beirut
interrupts the smooth coastline at the Easternmost end
of the Mediterranean by suddenly jutting out to sea like
a huge bump. Gleaming towers of glass and steel reach
to new heights all along the route from Avenue du
Général de Gaulle
to Avenue de Paris, to Avenue
Charles Hélou
on the same contiguous coastline
roadway. It’s a beautiful sight at night.  Just steps from
the Phoenicia Hotel is Zeitouneh Bay (be very careful
crossing the Corniche roadway, there’s no speed limit,
and cars FLY past) a marvelous new pedestrian area
lined with outdoor dining venues located just below the
roadway on the edge of the sea. Some 19 restaurants
seat diners, offering views of the sparkling new skyline
on one side, and the yacht basin on the other, and
hundreds of people are strolling along the promenade
throughout the evening. Just on the other side of the
Corniche, The Beirut Souks, a ten-minute walk from
the hotel, and situated right on what was once the city’s
main Arab bazaar in the Beirut Central Business District
is a smart, high-fashion outdoor lifestyle shopping district
designed as interconnected open spaces with many
access points (just like a traditional souk) and 200 shops
and a Gold Souk with 55 lavish jewelry boutiques. The
original Souk was destroyed during the war and
eventually cleared out for post-war urban renewal. The
new Souks maintains all historical landmarks and street
names, and is bound by Rue Allenby to the south, and
Rue Weygand to the East. With outlets like Hermès,
Chanel, Armani, and Tom Ford for example, the Souks
typifies Beirut’s high taste-level like no other. Just east
of there is Place de l’Etoile, or “centre-ville" (downtown)
Beirut. This is the financial and business core of the city,
but most notable here are two super-imposing figures,
the St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral (which is
the seat for the Orthodox Christian church in Lebanon)
and the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque (the country’s
largest) both co-existing, side-by-side
   

THE CIVIL WAR ENDED LONG AGO, and a
sense of normality has returned to Beirut over
the last couple of decades. But in spite of the
relative calm, an occasional brouhaha has erupted,
usually between the country’s tenuous political
parties. Add to that the chaos taking place outside
of Lebanon’s borders, namely in Syria, and the
whole place gets a bad rap because of constant
media attention. Only after visitors actually get to
Beirut, are they able to formulate a different
opinion, which is usually quite favorable.
Europeans already understand this fact, but unlike
we Americans who are by-and-large isolated on
our own continent, they can reach Beirut by air in
just a couple of hours, making it easier to cross
that psychological threshold. And ironically today,
Beirut is on the “International Party Circuit,” as
Millennials (not to mention celebrities) are
flocking there from all over the world to sample
the nightlife, most especially the highly-acclaimed
SKYBAR, an open-air rooftop club that can handle
several hundred revelers cocktailing, dancing, and
partying to house and club music spun by 10 DJ’s,
located on top of the BIEL Building. During our stay, 
we felt completely safe at all times-everywhere.
Beirut is a big, civilized, fascinating city of striking new
skyscrapers, hustle and bustle, banks, traffic jams,
shops, beaches, night clubs, cafes, and well
“la joie de vivre!  But in spite of Beirut’s modernity,
it’s still an incredibly exotic place. The U.S.
government officially warns Americans about travel
to Lebanon because in recent years there have been
isolated acts of terrorism perpetrated in the city,
but they were not aimed at American, nor other
tourists, per se. You will see “security” at entrances
to most major buildings and hotels. On this trip,
Americans were largely not noticeable to us, but
Europeans were there en masse. And the Lebanese
were incredibly hospitable, as has always
been their nature. – Craig Stevens Corey.

****************************************************************

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PLANNING A TRIP TO BEIRUT,
THE BASICS:

GETTING THERE: Lebanon's national carrier Middle East
Airlines does not currently serve the United States,
but you can make connections at many European
cities. However, if you'd like to travel the distance in
luxury, take Emirates Airlines from any of their U.S.
gateways nonstop to Dubai, and make direct
connections to Beirut, You will need a valid U.S.
passport, and an "entry visa" which is complimentary
upon arrival. It's a short ride into the city on the Auto-
Strade, Beirut's main highway, and taxis are available
outside the airport Arrivals Hall on the lower level.

WHERE TO STAY: There are several top-notch hotels
in Beirut. The Phoenicia Beirut Intercontinental
(5-stars) is completely luxurious, overlooking the
Mediterranean. And for roughly $60, the hotel will
send a Bentley out to the airport to fetch you! Also
notable are the Four Seasons Beirut (5-stars) just a
stone's throw from the Phoenicia, and known for its
glamorous roof-top cocktail lounge, a place to see,
and be seen. Smaller, and less expensive is the
Warwick Palm Beach Beirut (4-stars) right on the
Corniche roadway, directly in front of the sea, it
has a rooftop swimming pool that is a popular
gathering place for singles. And for an exceptional
and intimate stay, try l'Hotel Albergo Beyrouth
(5-stars, a member of Relais & Chateaux) downtown
on Rue Abdel Wahab El Inglizi in a palazzo-style
luxury residence with only 32-rooms.

  Hint: Just for fun, on Friday or Saturday evenings
  head on over to the Phoenicia or Four Seasons
  hotel lobbies. There, you will see some of the most
  strikingly beautiful women on earth, stepping out
  of Rolls-Royces and Maseratis, dressed to the
  nines in couture!

WHERE TO DINE: For authentic Lebanese cuisine, try
Karam al Bahr at Zeitouneh Bay. It’s a branch of famed
Beirut restaurateur “Karam” who’s main out-post is in the
mountain suburb of Broummana. Though this branch is
mainly devoted to seafood, the standards of Hummous,
Tabbouleh, and Baba Ghannouzh for example, are
“out of this world”, and after eating here, you’ll never
again buy the grocery-deli stuff back home! One of
Beirut’s best French restaurants (among many) is
Cocteau, in Aschrafieh (East Beirut,) named after the
poet and film-maker Jean Cocteau who was a frequent
visitor to Lebanon. Also notable , is Em Sharif (Sharif’s
mom) with Lebanese cuisine in a beautiful setting
downtown, on the Rue Monot. Also, Balthazar (high-
end French food) on Rue Weygand at the entrance of
the Beirut Souks, in a beautiful room designed by
Jacques Garcia. And try Tawlet on Rue d'Armenie
(just off Avenue Pierre Gemayel, near the Bourj
Hammoud neighborhood) for typical Lebanese food made
from fresh ingredients brought in by farmers, plus every
day a guest chef from a different village in Lebanon
cooks based on the culinary delicacies of his, or her
area, truly "akal al jabal," or Mountain-cooking, and very
original! And there's Balthus, downtown on the Rue
des Français which is Lebanese fashion designer Eli
Saab’s favourite place to dine in Beirut where the
spécialite de la maison is “Grenouille à la Provençale,”
(frog’s legs!) 

WHAT TO BUY: In Lebanon these days, everyone uses
the U.S. dollar rather than the Livre Libanaise
(Lebanese Pound) so don’t anticipate any real bargains.
This is a great place to buy a watch, if you happen to
be in the market for one, and the selection in Beirut is
second to none. But what really stands out in Beirut
is high-end jewelry and gems in spectacular designs
(and prices!) by local artisans. Try Maison Selim
Mouzannar on Rue Chehade in the Beirut Souks for
his gorgeous collection of one-of-a-kind rings,
broaches, and necklaces. And for tschotskes, small
marquetry caché boxes of inlaid wood and ivory
mosaic (of excellent workmanship, brought-in from
Syria next door) are exquisite, and inexpensive. And
cutlery from the village of Jezzine, with handles made of
intricately inlaid horns, brass and other materials are
unique and exquisite, and make beautiful gifts. 

(PLANNING A TRIP CONTD.) 

The Lebanese have a highly developed sweet-tooth,
and you’ll see luxurious patisserie shops all over
town, with mouth-watering window displays of exotic
oriental pastries rolled and stuffed with various nuts
and fillings, or pistachio clusters and nougatines
for example, and more, which you can bring back
into the U.S. One of the best, and oldest is
Patisserie Bohsali Frères on Rue Mar Roukoz.

And, Beirut is a GREAT place to get cosmetic
surgery! In fact, getting a nip here, and a tuck there
has evolved into a national epidemic for status-
conscious Lebanese! So if you see someone in the
streets all bandaged-up, it's likely they just had a
procedure. And best of all, it's a total b
argain
compared to elsewhere! There are clinics all over
town, and Lebanese regularly take out bank-loans
(much the same way the rest of us might, to
remodel our homes) just to get their surgeries done! 

“LA VIE NOCTURNE DE BEYROUTH" (high- 
octane nightlife:) 
Beirut is chock-full of bars, clubs,
cocktail lounges, and reviews. 
For top-notch
Lebanese belly-dancing, try Awtar inside the Monroe
Hotel on Rue Kennedy (just across from the
Phoenicia.) And 
Al-Mandaloun is a glamorous
new club inside an old theater 
in the Mar Mikhael/
Gemayzee neighborhood specializing in 
excellent
club music with live performers. And for that 
“industrial club” feel, try B 018 (or locally in French,
bay-deez-weetwhich is a discothèque in the
Quarantaine neighborhood known for 
it’s quite
“liberal” atmosphere and is a favorite hangout
of fashion-
model Naomi Campbell, and singer Dee
Dee Bridgewater.  And 
the granddaddy of them
all is SKYBAR (on top of the BIEL 
Building, Rue
de l’Indépendence, in Ras Beirut,) world-famous
open-air rooftop club with 10 DJ’s spinning house
and club music 
all night long, and drawing the
International Party Circuit from 
around the world.

Customary: Arabic is the official language,
but French and English 
are both widely spoken.
Out in public, you will most often be greeted
with “bonjour,” or “bonsoir” for example, and street
signs are all in French, but don't 
be surprised to
hear Arabic, French, and English all in one
sentence! In terms of how to dress, well,
Beirut folks, who traditionally were quite elegant,
have dialed it right down 
like the rest of the world,
so pretty much anything goes these days 
BUT,
when heading to one of the fancier restaurants,
a word of advice, 
much like Paris you may get
snubbed if you either arrive under-dressed, 
OR
without a reservation, the two go hand in hand.
Check with your 
hotel concierge if in doubt.

“Doin’ the tourist thing” (What to see and do:)
Get to know Beirut by foot. WalkBeirut offers
extensive and in-depth
walking tours of the city, run
by docents from the American
University of Beirut.
The tours, in English, last 4-hours, and cover
everything from Place de l’Etoile and downtown,
to the adjacent and 
imposing St. George Greek
Orthodox Cathedral
and Al Amin Mosque
to Wadi
Abu Jmeel
and Beirut’s Jewish Quarter (betcha
didn’t even 
know they had one!) for example.
Take the Téléferique (cable car) up 
to Harissa,
Our Lady of Lebanon
, the statue of the Virgin Mary.)
It’s a breathtaking trip from Jounieh, on the coastal
road North of Beirut
, taking about 15-minutes from
sea to mountain, at an ascent of 
600 meters above
sea level. A journey not to be missed, and spectacular
photo ops! Visit the Grotto of Jeita (also NOT to be
missed,) one 
of the world’s most amazing collections
of stalactites and stalagmites, 
first discovered in
1959, and a top tourist attraction!

 Beirut Souks, completely restored with luxury retailers

*Note: after this printing, WalkBeirut has temporarily suspended their
 group tours until 
further notice.