Prior to the civil war, Jounieh, 21km north of Beirut, was a sleepy fishing village. But with Beirut sliced in half by the conflict, wealthy Christian Beirutis turned to Jounieh as a place to party their troubles away. The town now suffers from a split-personality: on the south side of town, the old Centre Ville clustered around the Rue Mina, retains its charm. But to the north, Rue Maameltein’s weird, continuous strip of lurid bars and ‘super’ nightclubs with exotic dancers and prices as stiff as the drinks, have turned it into an imitation Middle Eastern Vegas in the worst possible way. Outside the centre, towards the mountainside, things get even worse, with gravity-defying high-rise buildings plonked up the steep mountainside.
Nowadays, Beirut is firmly back at the helm of nightclub action but Jounieh remains popular in summer with expat Lebanese returning for their holidays and visiting Gulf Arabs, particularly Saudis, intent on dipping their toes in the Med. There’s not much to detain a traveller unless you’re heading for the dizzy heights of the Téléférique or the blackjack table, or you’re particularly intent on being danced at by a bored Eastern European girl.