A popular moniker associated with Beirut truly depicts what it is. Although hit by a civil war for more than 14 years, “The Paris of the Middle East” has still got restaurants and pubs popping out every day, luxury hotels with luxury pools tending to foreigners, and traditional souks flooded with people of every color. It was last summer that I had a chance to visit this place and take my word for it, the city had me captivated – too bad it was just a short stay.
I love cable cars and to reach Jounieh Harissa on Mount Lebanon, you’ll have to ride one from the town of Jounieh. On top of the mountain, visitors can see the sweeping view of the Bay of Jounieh. But the reason why people go here is the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. Pilgrims from around the world come and go to this sacred place which is visited by both Muslims and Christians alike.
I thought the rocks were called Pigeon Rock because they could be the rallying point for pigeons. However, what I saw was two stationed lifeless rocks standing as if they were there to guard the coast. Good luck seeing pigeons! 😀
I wasn’t looking for the Rman Bath – but as I was on my way to St. George Orthodox Church, I stumbled on this ancient ruin. Just next to the parliament building and midway on the stairs of the Serail Hill, partly unearthed ancient Roman thermal baths still have its columns standing for centuries.
The present building of St. George Orthodox Church is an 18th-century marvel that rests peacefully on the very site of the churches that were destroyed by earthquakes. The best thing is, however, that it houses the remains of the previous churches and the building itself is like it has been transported by someone from Rome.
Or, the blue mosque is one of the few mosques that have intrigued my inner sense of architecture after the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul and Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Both of its oriental and Ottoman style of architecture have made it distinguishable and iconic. I said iconic because it has a giant blue cupola. You can’t miss it – it’s just a few steps from the Roman Baths.
For any art lover like me, this place could be not less than any heaven. It has a gamut of different exhibits purely dedicated to art, a screening room, a mediatheque, and an exhibition space, all too well poised to receive acclaim because all of its incredible art collections inside.
It is the pivot around which Beirut revolves. If you really want to feel the city culturally and historically, you’ve got to hit the Nejmeh Square and its decades-old clock tower. All of the buildings around them, like me, would give you a glimpse into the most versatile post-war reconstruction that may have ever taken place.
Betraying the versatile faces of Beirut’s history, the Al-Omari Mosque might be mistaken for a Roman cathedral, a Byzantine church, or a Greek sanctuary. In fact, it is all of these things. First, it was a crusader church founded on the site of a Jupiter’s temple, then it became a Mamluk mosque after the crusaders were banished. However, all of this conflicting history has not eroded the elements of all these different cultures from the building.
Worldwide survey proves that Lebanese cuisine is the best in the Middle East. My friend and her husband pampered me with food – so much food! They brought me to their favourite restaurants (I forgot the name) and oh boy, I wished I had a bigger stomach to take in all the food we left on the table! 😀
Heralding the success of peace over war, these reconstructed souks offer you a view into the daily lives of ordinary Lebanese and a chance to shop for things from DVDs, pet accessories, and a multitude of other things that you can buy as souvenirs. I was particularly warmed by the friendly conduct of Lebanese shoppers and vendors. Though I didn’t buy anything from there, no one was really barking at tourists to come inside their shops and see their goods. I experienced no hassles in shopping here – unlike in some countries I’ve been to.
So, these were the 10 things that held me captive for my time in Beirut. However, since the city is more than this, you’d have plenty of time contemplating and realizing why it is called The Paris of the Middle East.
Downtown Beirut is nice but there’s not much life there. Hamra neighbourhood is a great place to get to know Beirut through the busy street where locals come and go. Stay at Grand Hotel Beirut or Versailles Grand Hotel. They have a good size room and sparkly clean.