What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster. If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.
Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.
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Travel literature review: Day of Honey
Day of Honey — A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Reviewed by Jessica Boland Annia Ciezadlo was a special correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad and The New Republic in Beirut, and now lives in New York...
Beirut destination guides
Tom Hall's travel picks for 2011
What's in store for travel in and around Europe in 2011? Here are some suggestions to get you booking that ticket. London. Sorry to bang on but you’d better get used to it. There’ll be no escaping the world’s British capital next year as it provides the perfect setting for the Royal Wedding...
Byblos, Jeita Grotto and Harissa Day Trip from Beirut
Explore the fascinating Lebanese cities of Byblos and Harissa, as well as the world-famous Jeita Grotto, on a full-day trip from Beirut! On this must-do guided tour for any traveler to Lebanon, you'll visit Byblos, one of the oldest cities in the world, and see the impressive Jeita Grotto, one of the most stunning natural wonders on Earth.
Anjar, Baalbek and Ksara Day Trip from Beirut
Take a full-day trip to the amazing cities of Anjar, Baalbek and Ksara, and immerse yourself in a captivating world of Lebanese history. The cities of Baalbek and Anjar are famous mainly for their superb, excellently preserved ancient sites, such as Heliopolis and the Umayyad Ruins.
The 10 greatest comeback cities
Toss aside your preconceptions, and come with us on a tour of the greatest comeback cities in the world, with this excerpt from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011. Once deep down in the urban dumps, these cities have bounced back from the brink of becoming no-go destinations, turning tumultuous pasts into tourist drawcards...