Beirut is a fascinating city of huge contrasts.
Poverty and wealth.
Evidence of a great street-wise hussling culture.
- Where you can find a cafe worthy of St Germain opposite totally derelict land.
- Where there is the latest Mercedes gullwing sports on show at the airport and a Ferrari dealership in the city centre which was noman’s land in the civil war that ended in the 90’s.
- Where you hear the call to prayer echoing from highrise to highrise and the shopping streets have all the latest European styles.
- Where the Intercontinental sits pockmarked with mortar blast holes as a monument to the 15 year civil war.
- Where the entire centre is a security zone forbidden to vehicles.
- Where I was asked three times for directions in Arabic because my Sri Lankan tan, hoodie, camouflage cargoes, and beaten up trainers are the local ‘uniform’.
- Where there are armed men on every street (sometimes in large numbers), wearing uniforms in a great variety of permutations.
- Where the police drive sinister looking Dodge Chargers and tote automatic weapons.
- Where the people are very friendly and proud of their achievements.
- Where there seem to be as many banks as in Zurich.
- Where Lebanese coffee and very sweet pastries are still a tradition.
- Where many women dress for attention and almost all guys under 30 think they are very worthy of that attention – and show it (and where the amount of cologne worn by those guys would fill a lake on a daily basis…)
- Where hookah cafes are open for very brisk business.