Published: April 11th 2011April 9th 2011
Walking down a Beirut street with the grand mosque in the background
Wow what can I say?!?!? Beirut is incredible! It's strange to believe it is part of the Middle East bcause it is so civilised. The fear and misconceptions many Australian's have of this city is totally incorrect. Ok yes it's got a terribly chequered past with civil war and currently with Hezbollah (both of which are still visible here) but it really has rebunded from it's war past and got itself together.
No wonder they call it the Paris of the East - with all their cafes and amazing cars on the road, most Lebanese seem to live well out of their means. The money they show off is absurd. It's all about being seen at the right places, wearing the right thing and driving the right car. The streets are full of porches and ferarris and plastic surgery is the number one thing to do for a majority of the women. It's so normal to have your boobs done or a face lift or nose job. Nearly every woman I saw had fake boobs. In fact, it's so important to look good here that it's become a sign of prestige to walk around with your face bandaged! It's insane!!!
The famously bombed out Holiday Inn still stands as a reminder of the war and new buildings go up everywhere around it
To make matters even more bizaar, the women I have seen with bandaged faces are muslim women who wear burkahs and only show a tiny part of their face anyway. Only in Lebanon hey!!!
There's heaps of investment going on with construction on every corner and some incredible architecture alongside the traditional french colonial style (most of which have been restored to their full glory). Everyone speaks Arabic, French and english and the french influence is evident in the wines, breads and cheeses that are widely available. Therefore, in my opinion this makes Beirut is very very livable.
Another favourable aspect of mine is the night life. Since arriving we have been out clubbing every night and it's partying on a level I have never seen before. On the first night we went to a club called B018 which was like nothing I had ever been to. It was located in an old anti aircraft bunker so the roof opened and all of a sudden you were dancing to 80s music under the stars. They then proceeded to hand out blow up musical instruments and I found myself on a podium with a blow up keyboard singing along
French architecture in downtown Beirut
to ABBA - needless to say I had a ball of a night.
The next night we headed to Music Hall which was a very different experience. This place was in an old theatre and we had a booth for 12 and a giant bottle of vodka that was 1 metre high. Throughout the night we were treated to some high quality music performances - the place totally went off!
So as you can imagine the days have been a little slow as I have pretty much been nocturnal since arriving in Beirut. We did however, get to visit beautiful Byblos which is a lovely port just north of Beirut on the Med. I seriously had to pinch myself though to remind me that I was not in Europe - it was that amazing. We also managed to get to the mountains just out of Beirut and walk in snow to see some of the last 1000 year old cedar trees (the cedar tree in the one on the Lebanese flag) and then head to the ocean for a seafood lunch in the sun. There's not many places in the world where you can be in snow in
Partying in Beirut
Loving the 1 meter bottle of vodka
the morning and by the beach in the afternoon.
Lebanon will truly blow your mind and I have to keep asking myself - is this really the Middle East????
There are more photos below