Chic, sexy and ultra-modern, downtown Beirut can once again be considered the “pearl of the Middle East”. A booming coastal metropolis in the midst of an economic revival, a city once divided by 15 years of civil war is now home to high end stores, trendy restaurants, and a modern population living among thousands of years of history.
Travelers to Beirut can relish in the simple pleasure of sipping a thick coffee at an outdoor café or people watching along the Corniche, a three-mile coastal promenade where bullet holes still riddle the well-manicured palm trees. Visitors can similarly amble along the newly constructed Zaitunay Bay esplanade where private yachts moored offshore bear witness to Beirut’s surging wealth.
Though Beirut has no shortage of easy transport, travelers can take pleasure in strolling in the pedestrian mall around Nejmeh Square and gawk at the masterfully planned architecture. Nearby, in Martyr’s Square, many of the country’s largest political gatherings have taken place and the grounds are still a hotspot for raucous political expression.
Beirut is much more than picturesque squares and glittering promenades. It’s also a regional center of culture and commerce. At the ultra-popular Souk el Barghout, shoppers can search for everything from designer shoes to traditional caftans. Meanwhile, across town, history buffs will get lost in the sprawling National Museum and the numerous cultural artifacts residing within.
For the 1.5 million people who call Beirut home, however, gambling on horse races at the Hippodrome and dancing all night at thumping nightclubs are elements of a daily Beirut life steeped in pleasure and enjoyment. For thousands of years Beirut has been an alluring fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean lifestyle, and as Lebanon progresses into an increasingly modern future, Beirut will be the capital city leading the Lebanese charge forward.