Amman, Beirut, Istanbul. Three metropolises that I love. Part Three: Beirut – Pure lust for life. Orient meets Occident.
A wonderful but precarious region.
I have always loved the Middle East. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. There is so much to see and to do – from culture to adventures, history and beaches, exotic bazars, and delicious food (also for vegetarians)! Also, the climate in winter is very pleasant and you don´t have to fly that long from Central Europe. If there was only political stability in this region! But – let`s leave politics and all the turmoils apart and have a look at three cities which I have visited over the past few years. Amman, Beirut and Istanbul. East meets West. Different cultures and religions meet together at one place, which is one of the reasons why I like them.
Cities close to the sea and the mountains are mostly beautiful – just think of Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro or Vancouver. For me Beirut can easil hold a candle with them. „Paris of the Middle East“ – that`s how the Lebanese capital was called in the 70s, before large parts were destroyed during several wars. I will not comment on the stupidity of these wars, which have to do with religions and power in a strategically important part of the world. Let me just say that it is a pity that Beirut has been such an insecure place over the past decades. It is a gem and – security apart – an ideal destination for a city break, in winter in particular.
Photo: Rising high in the bank district
Lebanon – a very special country
Sometimes the Lebanon is described as the „most complicated country in the world“. Could well be. So many religions, so many issues. A lot of support for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and support from religious extremism at the same time. Really complicated.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my many walks through the city. And like in Amman, I never felt uncomfortable or insecure. I had fun exploring Beirut. Admire the Pigeon Rocks in Raouche, on your way to downtown. I have to say though that this part of the city is a bit dirty, very unfortunately. Shop on Hamra Street, very noisy with all the traffic but lots to see – new shops, cafés and a glimpse of the old Beirut. Don`t miss the new Suq, an ultra-modern shopping mall built in the style of an Arabian „suq“. High-end boutiques. Great eating places. Food from organic to gluten-free or whatever you are looking for. I love it! And, of course, people-watching. Lebanese guys and girls definitely belong to the most beautiful races on earth. Women are doing everything to look good – including surgery. And they often use tons of makeup – given the tough competition ;-).
Tips from a Local
Costa Costi is a 30 years old Art Director, currently living in Saudi Arabia and born in Beirut. Costa loves traveling, excellent food and partying! Work hard, play hard. He has tons of personal tips for his home city, following are a few:
Saifi Urban Gardens
Located in Gemayzeh, its the urban cultural center in the heart of Beirut
With affordable rooms, food and drinks, and it has a nice rooftop where you can eat and drink with nice view of beirut.
Contemporary-classic hotel in the historic downtown district. Enjoy their pool on the roof with a stunning view. Cool events and a great spa. Member of the Leading Hotels of the World – doesn`t say that all?
WHERE TO EAT?
They have many branches around Beirut, but their top location is in Gemmayzeh. Nice to start your day there, good food and coffee.
Oliver’s Kitchen and Coffee
Located in Gemmayzeh. Great place for breakfast, nice interior.
Located in Mar Mkhayel, this great place serves Lebanese cuisine at its best - with a very nice interior on top. Love it!
Photos – Courtesy of the Enab Restaurant
Located in Gemayzeh - food is great and innovative (they bake their own artisanal French bread...). Try their desserts :-)
Photo: Just mouthwatering – courtesy of Bar Tartine
Where to have fun on the beach:
New in Beirut, never been there yet! But I will definitely give it a try this summer.
Nice place to have lunch and dinner in their alfresco setting with a scenic view of the Beirut bay.
Located in Downtown Beirut,one of the best places to view the sunset while having your favorite drink and listening to your favorite music.
Located near Gemayzeh area, a very nice interior with nice bar
Following you will find some pubs, check out a few. Better come early or you won’t find a place. Try to reserve in advance:
February 30 (my favorite place, the music is a mix between English and Arabic; very unique interior)
Where to shop:
Very high-end shopping-center downtown. A modern version of an old Arabian "souk" (market).Lots of art, attractions and eateries. Shop until you drop.
ABC Achrafieh Mall
A world of Inspiration: ABC is the most prominent mall and department store in Lebanon that offers a unique shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment experience.
Where to club:
White (only in summer, it’s an outdoor club)
www.whitebeirut.com (a very cool website...)
Has a summer and winter location, preferably try the summer on with an oriental show – just cool.
My favorite day to go there is on Thursday night when they have the 80’s night! Better to reserve earlier because it’s always full.
There are many new places to discover and enjoy! Sometimes it’s nice to get lost in the city, and let your gut guide you - or use some help from locals around you, which can break the ice of feeling like a tourist! Enjoy your time and my Lebanon :-)