“Hot summer nights and days in the Lebanon glamorous capital”
Hot summer nights and days are easy to come by in Lebanon’s glamorous capital
In 2009, The New York Times ranked Beirut as number one on its “44 places to go” list A few months later, a visiting CNN reporter called Beirut the “Best Party City” when he stumbled upon the daily beach parties animating the infamous Mediterranean coastline – replete with tiny bikinis, djs and freely flowing cocktails.
Indeed, despite years of political unrest, instability and wars, Beirut remains a red hot destination. And it’s not just the parties. Lebanon is abounding in culture and history. On the pop culture stage, the Lebanese are always on the forefront.
Lebanese jeweler Mouawad is famous for creating Victoria’s Secret $10 million Millennium bra in 2000. Heidi Klum has since collaborated with the company on several jewelry collections. Designer Elie Saab made international headlines in ’02 when Halle Berry sported a much-talked-about sheer-bodice gown. Saab has since designed gowns for everyone from Angelina Jolie to Beyoncé. Carrie Underwood made the “Best Dressed” list at this year’s Grammy awards wearing a Zuhair Murad gown – another Beirut-based fashion designer who is a favorite of Hollywood A-listers.
Over the last 5000 years, Lebanon has been home to Phoenicians perfecting the alphabet. It has been conquered by Greeks, Romans, Arabs and the Ottomans. Today, tourists are rediscovering Lebanon’s archeological sites, enjoying its gracious population and indulging in an unsurpassed variety and quality of life’s pleasures.
The Four Seasons (1418 Professor Wafic Sinno Avenue, tel. 961 1 761000) has a brand-new seafront property offering classic luxury and ultra-modern amenities. The Movenpik (General de Gaulle Avenue, tel. 961 1 869 666) is a Swiss-owned resort style property which has become a Beirut institution. The hotel provides access to water sports and has a summer camp for the kiddos. For a boutique experience, Le Gray (Marty’s Square, tel. 961 1 971 111) is a gorgeous, newly opened, centrally located, Campbell Gray property. It offers a rooftop pool, panoramic views and everything from a cigar lounge to Bar 360, a circular glass-enclosed party space featuring a blue-lacquered grand piano and color-lit tables.
To escape the hustle and bustle, head for the hills. In this tiny country, everything is just a short drive away. Nestled in Lebanon’s luscious green mountains is the Intercontinental Hotel at Mzaar (tel. 961 9 340 100). A ski resort by winter and a mountain playground by summer, temperatures here are a few degrees cooler than in the city. Locals and expats in Rovers and Cayennes gather here to enjoy art fests and hiking. We rented ATVs and hired a guide who took us on a magnificent ride to the top of the mountain. Fresh air and a fabulous breakfast buffet make this place a worthwhile trek. For anything that might ail you, don’t miss the locally-produced herbal tea.
In Beirut, there is a parallel world which exists only at night. On one evening at Centrale Restaurant and Bar (Rue Mar Maroun, tel. 961 3 915 925), the outdoor dining area was still being set up when we arrived at 9pm, and it was only after speaking to the manager that we got the bartender to whip us up a batch of mojitos. A lounge-like elevator took us up to the freestanding capsule-like bar. Feeling as if we were in some kind of dramatic movie, we munched on carrots and sipped on potent cocktails to the sound of some American blues. By 11pm, the whole place was brimming with dancing diners. Music Hall (Starco Ctr., tel. 961 3 807555) is a cabaret-style music theatre and one of Beirut’s trendiest spots. Up to twelve acts perform each night, keeping revelers highly entertained until the wee hours. The aptly named Sky Bar (Biel Ctr., tel. 961 3 939191), described as one of the best bars in the world by World’s Luxury Guide, is set on the roof of a downtown high rise and offers panoramic views of Beirut. Local celebs, TV stars and Western tourists head to Sky Bar to indulge in champagne, sushi and non-stop electro beats.
Where to play
The center of Beirut, known as Solidere, is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Historic architecture was restored in 2000, with careful attention to maintaining both the original facades and a few war markings. Cobblestone streets are lined with cafes and shops. Veiled Saudi tourists puff on sheeshas (middle eastern water pipes) while girls in platform sandals and awesome blowouts pop into Aishti, a local luxury department store, looking for the latest Chloe handbag.
For a perfect day of sea and sand, Lebanon has numerous beach clubs. Our new favorite is the recently opened Lazy B (Jiyeh, tel. 961 70 950 010), just south of Beirut. An oasis of natural calm, the property has outdoor showers equipped with olive oil soap and strewn with pink flower petals. A collection of antique dressers set outside make for the most pleasant grooming ever. There are hammocks and sling chairs shaded by palm leaves. Natural pools filled with tiny fish are a unique swimming experience. A saltwater infinity pool is also available, in case you grow weary of fish nibbling at your toes. Try a glass of local wine producers Ksara’s Sunset rose while lounging on the poolside daybeds.
Riviera (Paris Avenue, tel. 961 1 373 210) is a downtown fixture where girls with enormous cleavage and suspiciously perfect noses allegedly change bikinis and heels several times during the day. This hotel pool is classic Beirut, a remnant of the “Paris of the Middle East” period. For a more local experience, a stop at Tyre’s public beach is an interesting choice. The vast, white sand beach is about one hour south of Beirut.Fully veiled women mesh with young tanned, fit joggers and jet setters alike. Just watch your step during July’s jellyfish invasion. For more info, go to www.lebanon-tourism.gov.lb.
By Nadia Michel