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