Paris of the Middle East – Beirut


The city was once dubbed the PARIS OF THE MIDDLE EAST.  After the end of Lebanon’s Civil War, many of Beirut’s buildings still bear the “pockmarks” and “scars” from the conflict.  The city is  re-building itself and the resilient residents are more determined than ever to look into the future.

Its history goes back more than 500 yrs ago. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, its antiquity is indicated by its name derived from the Canaanite-Phoenician BE’EROT (wells), referring to the underground water table that is still tapped by the local inhabitants for general use.


Beirut sits on a peninsula extending westwards into the Mediterranean Sea, about 94km north of the Lebanon-Israel border.  It is flanked by the Lebanon Mountains and has taken a “triangular shape”, largely influenced by its situation between and atop two hills  ——————–AL-ASHRAFIEH & AL-MUSAYTIBAH.  The coast is rather diverse, with rocky beaches, sandy shores and cliffs situated beside one another.


Beirut (BEYROUTH) has a hot summer Mediterranean climate characterized by warm days and nights, yet summers are virtually rainless.  Autumn and Spring are warm, with rainy Winters.  August is considered the only really hot and muggy month with a monthly average high temperature of 32degrees and January and February are the coldest with a monthly average low temperature of 11degrees.  The prevailing wind during the afternoon and evening is from the west ‘onshore’, blowing in from the Mediterranean and at night it reverses to ‘offshore’ blowing from the land out to sea.  The average annual rainfall is 893mm, with the majority falling in winter, autumn and spring.  Summer receives very little rainfall, if any.  Snow is rare, except in the mountainous region’s high altitudes.


The tourism industry, in Beirut, has been historically important to the local economy and remains, to this day, to be a major source of revenue for the city and Lebanon in general.  Before the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut was often cited as a financial and business hub, where visitors could experience the Levantine-Mediterranean culture.  Beirut’s diverse atmosphere and ancient history make it an important destination which is slowly re-building itself after continued turmoil.  Although, in recent times, certain countries, such as the US frequently place Lebanon and, Beirut in particular, within their travel warning list, due to a large number of car bombings and orchestrated political violence.


The largely pedestrianized BEIRUT CENTRAL DISTRICT is the “core” of the Beirut’s Tourism scene.  The District is a cluster of “stone-façade” buildings lining “arcaded” streets and “radial” alleyways.  The architecture of the area is a mix of French architecture and Venetian-Gothic architecture mixed with Arabesque and Ottoman architecture.  The District contains numerous old Mosques and Churches, as well as uncovered remnants and ruins of the Roman Era.  The District also has restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as a wide range of shopping stores mainly in Beirut Souks.  High-rise hotels and towers line the District’s  New Waterfront, marina and seaside promenade.


Another popular tourist destination is the CORNICHE BEIRUT, a 4.8km promenade that encircles the capital’s seafront from the St. George Bay, in the north, all the way to AVENUE de PARIS & AVENUE GENERAL de GAULLE , in the south.  The “corniche” reaches its maximum height above sea level at RAOUCHE —— a high-rise residential neighbourhood rising over a giant white limestone cliff and facing the recognizable off-shore RAOUCHE ROCKS.


HAMRA STREET is a long cobblestone street, connecting the Beirut Central District with the coastal RAOUCHE area.  The street is a large concentration of shopping stores, boutiques, restaurants, banks, street vendors, sidewalk cafes, newspaper kiosks and a booming nightlife spurred by students from the neighbouring American University of Beirut.  The AUB campus is another popular visitor destination, composed of a cluster of 19th century red-roofed buildings dispersed on a wooded hillside overlooking the Mediterranean.

GEMMAYZEH is Beirut’s artistic “Bohemian Quarter” full of narrow streets and historic buildings from the French Era.  The new neighbourhood is well-known fro its bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants and lounges.  In 2004, Travel & Leisure Magazine called GEMMAYZEH —–“SOTTO BY THE SEA”, due to its colourful and chic cafes amid 1950s apartment buildings and hole-in-the-wall shops.


Beirut is a destination for tourists both from the Arab world and the West.  In Travel & Leisure Magazine’s World Best Awards 2006, it was ranked 9th best city in the world.  In 2008, the Guardian listed Beirut as “one of its top ten cities in the world”.  The New York Times ranked it at No.1 on its “44 Places To Go” list of 2009.  2011 MasterCard Index revealed that Beirut had the 2nd highest visitor spending levels in the Middle East and Africa totalling $6.5billion.  Beirut was chosen in 2012, by CONDE NAST TRAVELLER as the   best city in the Middle East, beating Tel Aviv and Dubai.

Like other forms of tourism, medical tourism, in Lebanon, is on the rise recently and the medical industry is going up by 30% a year since 2009.  Cosmetic Surgery is a major component of medical tourism in Lebanon.  Many of the foreign patients come for routine operations like plastic surgery.  Its top clinics and hospitals like SAHEL GENERAL, are equipped to handle the full range of surgical procedures.  Beirut-based CLEMENCEAU MEDICAL CENTRE (CMC), affiliated with Johns Hopkins International, was ranked one of the world’s top 10 best hospitals for medical tourism in 2012.


SURSOCK MUSEUM was built by the Sursock Family at the end of the 19th century as a private villa and then donated to the Lebanese State.  It now house  Beirut’s most influential and popular art museum.  The permanent collection shows a set of Japanese engravings and numerous works of Islamic Art and temporary exhibitions are shown throughout the year.

In 2013, MIM MUSEUM, a private mineral museum, opened its doors to the public.  It has, on display, some 1,600 minerals from more than 60 countries.  MIM Museum’s collection is considered to be one of the world’s paramount private collection for the variety and quality of its minerals.  A Didactic Circuit, accompanied by screens showing films and scientific applications of mineralogy, will reveal a world of unsuspected marvels ——– priceless both from the aesthetic and scientific point of view.
On 7th December, 2014, Beirut was selected to be among the “New Seven Wonders of Cities”, along with Doha, Durban, La Paz, Havana and Kuala Lumpur.
Beirut is truly an “Energetic, Historic & Charismatic” City.  

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