A Visit To Beirut, Lebanon in Pictures

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A beautiful avenue of downtown Beirut, Lebanon. Flowers i the foreground and a cafe and long street in the background.

I used to dislike Beirut, Lebanon. What I remember of it as a boy was a bombed-out, bullet-riddled city brimming with sectarian trouble. Back then, pictures of Beirut hardly appealed to me, so I only visited the city with my family to attend engagements or weddings. I remember it as a city in ruins. Remnants of the Battle of the Hotels stuck out like eyesores in the middle of downtown Beirut. The luxury hotels are now mostly repaired, but some still remain abandoned.

You'll find many bombed out buildings like this one in pictures of beirut. A burnt house next to it.
The bombed-out Holiday Inn Beirut, a victim of the Battle of the Hotels. The hotel is now a military base (trucks in the basement). The burnt house next to it is still inhabited. Soldiers forbid photography, forcing me to move down the street.

After the civil war, which started in the 70s, much of its beauty disappeared along with its title as the Paris of the Middle East. The war lasted almost two decades, painting all of Lebanon as a no-man’s land.

A skyline of Beirut, Lebanon with tons of cranes and construction equipment scattered about
I thought 75% of the world’s cranes were in Dubai?! They’re all over the place in Beirut.

But much has changed since the early 90s. Oh, so much. The healing and rebuilding process has proceeded at an impressive pace. Bear in mind the country has very little in the way of natural resources, but it has much ingenuity and discipline.

One of the pictures of Beirut's skyline from a distance, lightly hazy from the smog.
It was a perfectly clear day, yet somehow a haze covered downtown Beirut. This is a reminder of the smog which plagues most large metropolises. Note the number of construction cranes face-lifting Beirut’s past.

The capital of Beirut is under constant construction, cranes abound. The buzz of the busy new generation would have you believe there had never been a war. Music blares from downtown clubs and bars. Mercedes’s and BMWs of the newly rich speed by, their owners wearing the latest in fashion and apparel.

One of the pictures of Beirut showing the vast amount of construction cranes on one of the city's streets. There must be at least ten.
The sight that greets you as you enter downtown Beirut.

The beaches during the summers are full and the smell of the Mediterranean ensconces you. Everything is framed against a new Beirut which resembles a neo-European marvel.

It is a city reborn, a city with which you can easily develop a romantic relationship.

A new mosque has recently been built in the downtown area, next to St. George’s Maronite Cathedral, in display of the country’s religious solidarity and tolerance.

A romanticized picture of the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut
The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, located the Martyr’s Square in downtown Beirut. It was built by the late and former president Rafik Harir, who lies buried beside it. The back of St. George’s Maronite Cathedral is in the foreground.
St. George's Maronite Cathedral in Beirut, Lebanon
Christianity and Islam side by side in harmony after years of sectarian fighting from the 70s-90s.

These pictures of Beirut speak a story very different from those you might hear in the media. Women wearing veils, conservative ideals, religious fanaticism–these are ideals left to other, more radical countries.

Children Playing with Birds in Downtown Beirut Lebanon
The Lebanese value their freedom of expression and religion. I’ve yet to find a woman veiled head-to-toe anywhere. I’m sure they’re there somewhere, probably at home.

Beirut breathes modernism, it speaks French nearly as well as it speaks Arabic. It reminds me of the Cote D’Azur in Southern France.

A coastal picture of the Christian Jounieh district in Lebanon
This is the Jounieh district bordering Beirut. It reminds me of Nice, France. Areas in Lebanon tend to also be densely populated and the road infrastructure is less than adequate. You can see the smog above the city, however, on windy days this haze disappears.

But poverty is far from abolished, you can see traces of it in these pictures of Beirut. The income disparity between rich and poor is vast, yet both classes live shoulder to shoulder.

There is no other way to live, Lebanon is a small country, it is about half the size of Florida. You can go from top to bottom in 3 hours, and east to west in a little over an hour.

A very old house which looks abandoned.
Abandoned buildings and houses sit next to brand new condo towers, as if stubbornly refusing to modernize. Poor families live in some of these houses.
Shanty housing in downtown Beirut as seen from the highway.
Shanty housing in downtown Beirut as seen from the highway. A reminder that there still exists significant income disparities amongst the Lebanese.

The spunky youth leave their marks everywhere, as if letting the world know they are no different than the youths of New York or Paris. They express themselves on walls and trees for all to witness a generation that refuses to be forgotten .

Graffiti on the walls in Dbayeh, Lebanon
Rita is a lucky girl…
A wall of graffiti in Dbayeh, near Beirut, Lebanon
…and maybe a little spoiled?
Etchings of youth on the trees in downtown Beirut
Confessions of love and random thoughts are also etched on the trees in downtown Beirut. I left my etching there too.. you can see my Banker logo on the bottom right 😉

One thing you’ll notice when you visit Beirut is the abundant presence of the military. The Lebanese seem to fear a fall-back into the past, what with the radical Hezbollah having a well-established presence in Lebanon. I found soldiers stationed like sentinels of freedom at every major road junction.

Soldiers at a road intersection on Beirut, Lebanon
You’ll find plenty of soldiers in street pictures of Beirut.
A security checkpoint along the highway in Lebanon.
If you’re a lover of security checkpoint photography, head on over to Lebanon.

But as you walk some of the less-crowded streets of Beirut, you’ll be reminded of hope’s seraphic power of healing. I’ve visited numerous cities and countries with shattered pasts, but I’ve rarely seen any rise from their ashes like Beirut. Pictures of Beirut are a testament to the people’s relentless will to reinvent themselves.

A coastal skyline of Beirut, Lebanon.
Some of the coast is filled with cement blocks. If you want to see beautiful coastlines and beaches, head up north of  Beirut to Byblos, one of the oldest cities in the world.

My walk through some of the quieter streets filled me with introspection and self-reflection. I am soon leaving for Vietnam to visit the house of my favorite French author, Marguerite Duras. The neo-French allure of Beirut filled me with anticipation of Vietnam’s French-era architecture.

A charming French-looking avenue. Downtown Beirut, Lebanon.
Paris or Beirut…?
A stone archway in downtown Beirut, Lebanon.
The architecture of the new city is gorgeous. Cafes dot the sidewalks.
A quiet-looking street in downtown Beirut, Lebanon
Some of the streets are eerily quiet. Many of the shops are closed down or empty. I don’t know whether businesses can keep up with the rapid renovation/expansion of the city.

Pictures of Beirut are never complete without a few shots of the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque and the Hamdiyi clock tower. But to get the right vantage point, one has to stand in the middle of a security checkpoint, which goes to remind you of the trouble brewing beneath the city’s surface.

The clock tower of Beirut in the foreground, the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in the background.
Two must-see sights in downtown Beirut: the Hamidiyi clock tower and the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque.

Being one who’s lost much faith in organized religion, my visit to Beirut, Lebanon filled me with inspiration. I witnessed the two faces of Beirut: one charming and romantic, counter-weighed by the other, more militant side.

Satisfied, I made my way back to Byblos, Lebanon, but not without entertainment. A schoolboy in a school bus up ahead kept making funny faces at me 😀

A small school bus in Beirut, Lebanon
Several kids started making funny faces, but they quickly gave up. This kid persisted for a good ten minutes! lol

I’ve definitely come to terms with my past and what I used to think about Beirut. The city has transformed into a portrait of guarded innocence. If I could, I would live there, but there’s still some adventuring for me to do.

Beirut is like a gem of romance in the hilt of passion, I assure you my pictures of Beirut do it very little justice. You’d do well to visit. I wouldn’t listen to the media. Yes, there is occasional unrest, but is this any different than many countries in this day and age? I also never once felt the need to guard my bags or watch for pickpockets like I did in some Asian or European cities. Most of these petty thefts don’t happen in Beirut,

Because I’ve quickly learned from my visit there,

That even trouble respects beauty.

Do modern pictures of Beirut call to your curiosity? Do you agree with the media’s warning about visiting the Middle East? Would you visit anyway to see places like Beirut?

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2 comments on “A Visit To Beirut, Lebanon in Pictures

  1. Great post and absolutely stunning pictures! I might need a photography lesson at some point 🙂
    Also, thank you for the information on Lebanon and Beirut. I’ve always wanted to visit but to be honest, hadn’t really don’t any research on the city and I very ignorantly assumed it wasn’t too safe to travel there. This totally changed my mind and got me so excited to see the city as it rebuilds itself. Thank you!

    1. Rupa! I’m hoping to see you guys in Vietnam 😀 Lebanon is well worth a visit. Let me know if you guys are interested in seeing it, since I go back there every 3-4 months to visit my father (who lives in Byblos). We have a couple of spare rooms you can crash out in and I’ll take you around and show you the country. It’s picture-worthy, and speaking of photography, I really recommend FroKnowsPhoto.com to get started.
      Safe travels!

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