Lebanon - Surprised about modern Beirut

Beirut is totally ready for tourists as it safe

After two days in Jordan, I went back to Lebanon for the remaining time of the long weekend.  Heavy advertisements for tourism, already in the plane, made me realize that Lebanon is striving to sell its country to potential new mass tourism.

Based on the marketing videos I've seen on screens they have cool beaches, WW2 scuba dive spots with wrecks, and mountains to hike. It's like a "Switzerland of the Middle East" when it comes to mountains and skiing, at least that is what told me a friendly lady on the seat beside me on the plane. Of course, with only such a short visit I cannot have the whole picture about the country, but I can at least speak of what I kept in memory about the country, or in specific Beirut, after my visit.

So things that came to my mind when thinking about Lebanon – before going there:
War, Warlords, Guns, War, War, Destruction, Refugees, Danger, War, Evil

What I'm thinking about Lebanon – after going there:
Friendly, Quiet, Clean, uprising Country, Cosmopolitan, KFC, Burger King, McDonald's, DunkinDonut, Wimpy, PizzaHut, Starbucks

Map of Beirut:
Tourist Hot Spots

Saturday, November 24 – From Jordan to Lebanon

Coming from Jordan with a direct flight, but with a big detour into Syria airspace. I wasn’t aware of that but I figured out between Syria, Lebanon and Israel might be some dispute around the borderlines. That was the reason the plane avoided the Israelian airspace or avoid getting close to it at all.

There is no visa fee to pay in the airport and no hassle at all to get a stamp at all. Only money exchange is a little bit a pain, cause there is only one bank in the airport and they have limited opening hours. But I couldn’t believe the price of the taxi fare from the airport to the city center of Beirut, which is around 20 USD for a 15 minutes taxi ride. That showed me immediately that Lebanon (especially Beirut) is not a cheap funny place, compared to other countries in the Middle East.

Street in Beirut
StreetStreet toward the harborBusiness District in Beirut

I had my hotel in the city center area called Hamra. Which are the shopping area with all the restaurants and shopping malls and fast food chains? The most surprising for me was to see western fast food chains, not just a burger king but the full program with McDonald's, PizzaHut, Wimpy, Starbucks, and KFC. Never would have expected this here in a country in the middle of the middle east and so close to Syria and Saudi Arabia. But after having a few discussions with locals I quickly learned that Lebanon is probably the only country on the planet which has a 50/50 ratio of Muslim and Christians.

Sunday, November 25 – A normal Sunday in Beirut

Knowing I hadn’t too much time in Beirut because of early sunset. So I had to find a strategic route to walk to see most of it. There aren’t too many sites and monuments and that was good for me.
With Liban number plate

After a few hundred meters I saw already a few buildings with bullet holes and restoration in progress.

Snipers occupied the tower to overlook the city in the Beirut War Beirut was the epic center back in the last century in the civil war and terrible destruction happened here. But that ended in 1990. There is one tower called El Murr, it is the tallest tower in Beirut and overlooking the whole city. Back in the war, it was full of snipers. Nowadays it is a military base and heavily protected. Tried to talk to some soldiers and guards in the front if I can get up there to take photos:

“Sorry, but this is an army building, you cannot go in there, normally. Its only possible with an entry ticket.”

Hmm, I didn’t see any ticket office. A few sentences later I knew exactly what he is supposed to be the vending machine for an "entry ticket" and only requires some cash. But I didn’t want to bribe a soldier in the middle of Lebanon after only a few hours of walking around.

Also, the building was 40 levels high and no elevator.

Uhm, ok, so, maybe later!
Lebanon Flag with tree
75th independence day was two days agoRight beside the El Murr Building beside Lebanese Red Cross

The route instantly brought me to the Place l’Etoile, the Mohamed al Amin Mosque and to the Martyrs State. This area is very fresh, all newly built and modern big buildings.

Is few meters from the Mohamad al amin Mosque
Also called the Nijmeh SquareJust beside the Mosque and the christian cathedralAncient pieces at El Maarad

Its clearly visible they want to create here something which lasts for the next hundreds of years and conserves some culture. However, locals seem to avoid this area somehow as I didn’t see many of them walking here or sitting in cafes or restaurants. Is it maybe too expensive? Could be, at least it makes the impression.

Surrounded by modern and new buildings in Beirut
After a 15 year long civil warIs it Beirut Souks?

At the bay area is a long walkway for kilometers, all nicely done and clean and tidy. Its called the Corniche and leads basically all around the Beirut Coast. The north coast of Beirut is made for fishing and bigger boats or yachts… yes, yachts.. many of them in Beirut.

A long stretched walking street right at the coast
Huge flag pole at Fakhreddine CornerLeads from the McDonalds up until the LighthouseWalking along the Paris AvenueNot a sandy beach but is good to play sportsIs popular in Beirut due to easy access

My time here in Beirut consisted of lots of walking. Really a lot but it was nice and I was surprised to feel so comfortable and safe with many restaurants and coffee. Also, I didn’t notice even only one sirene of police or ambulance during my whole stay for almost two days in Beirut. That’s interesting, especially as my brain told me before going here this is literally a war zone and that I have to be careful. Even now, after a few days back home, I wonder where this stereotype thinking about Lebanon or Beirut is really coming from, but couldn’t make it out.

The west coast is more for walking as the entrance to the water is limited to the strong current along the street reefs.

A long beach with resorts
At the Ramlet al-Baida Public BeachLeads from the Raouche Rock to the LighthouseMe infront of the Plaza BeirutIts a modern city, no war at allSoldiers do not like when I make photos of itTowards the PARIS Avenue

There is this prominent rock called "Raouche", a huge landmark which is also the start point for all the resorts and hotels along the west coast beach areas.

Natural landmark called the Pigeons' Rock
Right beside upscale apartment buildingsLocated at Beirut's westernmost tipArea with oldest evidence of human existence

Now I'm going to watch the recent movie from cinemas, which is called “Beirut”. Its a thriller about the Beirut civil war. I hope it won't restore my negative stereotype thinking about Lebanon again.

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