Often called ‘Paris of the Middle East’, Beirut is a hot spot for shopping, socializing and sightseeing. Beirut is located in and is capital of a small country in the Middle East called Lebanon. It is a seaport city located on the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Syria. Also known as Bayrut, is home to the world’s first law school that dates back to the Phoenician Era. Once a famous port, and as recently as the 1970s a banking and cultural center for the Middle East, Beirut was devastated by civil and successive occupation by Syria and Israel between 1975 and 1991.
There was a time when the Lebanese Civil war, which erupted in 1975, completely divided Beirut. Beyond division into East and West Beirut, the city was dominated by factionalism, with Sunnis, Shias, Druze and other groups all controlling territory within the city. Beirut has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks in 1982-1990. After 1990s, the situation became more stable and ambitious plans for the reconstruction of the city were undertaken.
The climate here ranges from extremely hot to moderately chilly. During the summer months, the temperature can get up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit but it usually just hovers around 85 to 95 degrees. It is a great time for enjoying swimming in the sea and going to beach resorts. In the winter and spring months the temperature is generally a bit cooler but there are a lot of rains and rare snow storms.
How to get here?
The Beirut International Airport is 5km away from the city’s centre. Lebanon’s national carrier connects most European capitals, various parts of Middle East, some capitals of the African countries and Singapore and Australia to Beirut. You can rent a car at Beirut airport or take a service taxi. You can travel overland from Syria by bus. If you have you car then to bring it into Lebanon you must have your International Driving Permit.
You can say that it is a little weirdly expensive for a country still recovering from war in case of accommodation. Still it is more than possible to enjoy yourself without bankrupting yourself. There are some blocks of furnished apartments with dining rooms, kitchen, living room and ensuite shower for around $64 per night. You can easily get some hostels here. Talai’s new Hotel and Pension Al-Nazih is a pair of clean options within two minutes walk of each other near Gemmayze’s lively high street.
It is not hard to pay $16 just for a light lunch in Beirut and dinner run significantly higher. However, for a delicious, creative and authentic Lebanese dinner under $20, Laziz, a Lebanese cuisine, ranks near the top of the list. They make killer hummus Beiruti, tabouleh, fattoush salad, Kibbeh in Yogurt. Corner bakeries sell small pastry parcels of spinach for very little price.
Places to visit
Jeita Grotto is the longest cave in the Middle East approx. 11 miles north of Beirut. It consists of two separate but interconnected limestone caves and boasts a length of 5.6 miles. Jeita Grotto is widely considered to be the pride of Lebanon and featured as a finalist in the New 7 wonders of Nature competition.
Faraya Mzaar is a ski resort located at only 1 hour from Beirut and is widely regarded as one of the most scenic and entertaining mountain resorts in Lebanon. With high elevation of up to 2465m, Mzaar usually has incredible natural snow blanketing its 80 km of groomed runs. Skiing here is obviously fun but the natural beauty with the mountains surrounding the area and Mount Lebanon scenery will make you fall in love with them.
Beirut Art Center
Beirut Art Center is a large non profit art gallery dedicated to contemporary art with some time to time premier exhibitions. The center provides a collaborative environment for art museums commercial galleries and cultural festivals. It also offers its venue and services to other Lebanese and regional cultural associations and practitioners creating partnerships that serve to strengthen the existing network for local and regional art.
Beirut National Museum
The National Museum of Beirut exhibits a wide variety of artifacts like mosaics, jewelry, coins, ceramics, woodwork, weapons excavated from different archaeological sites all over the county. The museum’s three floor building also offers to the public an audiovisual room and a gift shop as well.
Rene Mouawad Park, better known as Sanayeh Garden, is 100 years old and one of the largest public parks in Beirut. It covers area of approx. 22,000 square metres. It contains two play areas, smoothly paved paths filled with children on tricycles and power walkers. Sanayeh also attracts families and young People looking for a bit of relief from the concrete city streets.
Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) is located at the heart of downtown Beirut and on the waterfront of the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of 82000 square metres of multi functional area of International standards. BIEL hosts and caters a wide array of events, from professional trade exhibitions, public consumer shows, concerts, conferences, congresses, seminars, weddings and even Gala dinners. In short, BIEL is the key to almost all events in Beirut. It also offers a wide range of value added services and incentives including its own specialty food and beverage outlets, indoor and outdoor catering, easy access from all direction and a world class professional service.
Overall, Beirut is a place where the honking of cars competes with the clang of church bells and the chants from minarets. It is still recovering from the bad phase of Lebanon War but you will be left craving the city’s warm hearted hospitality, hygienic atmosphere and sheer beauty. After all, Beirut is the wild child of the Middle East.