Maybe the title of the post is a bit misleading. I was in Beirut during the demonstrations, but this was in November of last year. So even though the demonstrations had already made the news, the police was still kind of relaxed. The main governmental buildings had been roped off but the martyr square had the feel of one big party zone. Young people camped out in the square and music filled the square.
The latest update I saw from the demonstrations is that in the last couple of weeks the police was using water cannons and dozen of demonstrators got arrested. So the protestations must have increased. Overall I do think that it all looks worse on the news than it really is. Because isn’t that what the news is all about? In any case, the demonstrations didn’t detain us from visiting the Lebanon and rightly so. When you are in Cyprus then Beirut is just a very short flight away.
As you can see here, not a lot of tourists arrived with us in Beirut. Which made the whole trip so much more exciting. I was finally visiting a place which was not overrun by other people.
Our hotel was in the middle of Hamra, and while I don’t really recommend the Queens Suite Hotel, we could open the windows at night in this noisy part of town and the breakfast was delicious. The Hamra neighbourhood is full of restaurants, bars, shops and exchange places. It’s everything you need as a tourist and it’s definitely the area you want to stay while in Beirut.
So what is there to see in Beirut. In a way not a lot anymore. After the civil war Solidere rebuilt in quick succession most of the centre. The ruins of the war vanished quickly but what you got now is a very modern downtown which seems altogether too expensive for the locals. At least this was my impression. Because most of the old town was also off limit due to the demonstrations.
The Holiday Inn ruin still stand proud and tall as a reminder of what happened or maybe just because people are fighting who can capitalize on it. As you can see it looks pretty shabby amidst new apartment buildings.
We stopped at the port, which is right next to the Holiday Inn, for coffee and water. Everything is brand new and the boats speak of wealth beyond belief. The former St. Georges Yacht club is still awaiting renovations, I think there are more discussions ongoing with Solidere. Everything is new and shiny.
The old Beirut Souk is gone forever and has been replaced with a huge modern shopping mall complex that gets even bigger with an added Zaha Hadid complex.
The Martyrs’ Square in Beirut is the real centre which makes it ideal for the demonstrators. As you can see quite a lot of tents have been erected around the statue of said martyrs.
Of course we also did a free walking tour. In Beirut it starts at 4pm in the evening (in summer even at 5pm). The tour was great and the girl really knew her stuff. There is so much to learn about the city, the culture and the religions. It took us a good three hours walking around downtown. As I mentioned before, the police closed lots of streets with grates or just barbed wire. Sometimes even both. Kind of weird, but on the other hand I never felt unsafe while walking through Beirut. And of course there was more to see, but this is for another post. Yours, Pollybert