Beirut

 

Beirut by the beach by CC user sadsnaps on Flickr

Introduction

Associated with a long running civil war that had raged in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Beirut has been largely free of that strife since that conflict ended in 1989 (save the occasional bombing from Israel), but it has largely retained its bad reputation since that time.

This is a shame, as the city has tons of attractive qualities, not the least of which is a nightlife scene that is incredibly infectious. Additionally, it has many natural draws, starting with its choice frontage on the Mediterranean, and extending to some geological formations well worth checking out.

Before heading out into the less comfortable (and potentially hazardous – check warnings from your government before traveling outside Beirut, especially near the border with Syria or Golan Heights in Israel) countryside, take full advantage of the pleasures that this fun-loving metropolis by the sea has to offer the intrepid traveler, as Beirut offers it in spades.

National Museum of Beirut by CC user cgranycome on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

To learn more about the story of this complicated city, and of the nation that it governs, a trip to the National Museum Of Beirut is highly advised. The principal concern here is archeological artifacts, the oldest of which date all the way back to prehistoric times.

While this building stood literally on the front line at the start of fighting in the civil war that started in 1975 and it suffered extensive damage as a result, heroic actions by museum staff saved the majority of the artifacts that were contained within the museum at the time, allowing for more than 1,300 pieces being able for viewing by members of the public in the present day.

Spearheads and pottery from prehistory, the oldest ancient text of the Phoenicians, and countless statues, busts, coins and jewelry are among the highlights that can be found here making for an active afternoon of viewing for the visitor interested in historic objects.

Another museum worth your time in Beirut is the Sursock Museum, which shows off an amazing collection of modern art gathered by a man by the name of Ibrahim Beyhum. Located in a mansion on a street full of mansions built by many of the cities’ elite in the 18th century, you won’t find a more dignified setting to view this delectable collection of art works, which includes sculptures, ceramics, glassware and icons in addition to painting from over 300 years of Lebanese artistry.  International art is also featured here, with exhibitions of traveling works of art being held on a relatively regular basis.

If you on an art kick after perusing the Sursock Musuem, then heading to the Beirut Art Center will be a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours. Featuring the cutting edge of art in Lebanon and the Middle East, this center just opened recently, with its first exhibition being held in 2009. If the Sursock profiles the best of the old world of Lebanese art, the Beirut Art Center represents the way the scene is moving and acting today, with performance spaces allowing for live art performances in addition to having gallery space for visual art.

Pigeon Rocks by CC user khalidalbaih on Flickr

Other Attractions

Lounging on the beach in Beirut is an advisable activity, but once you’ve had your dose of Vitamin C from the sun, head out in search of the Pigeon Rocks. There are a variety of ways one can enjoy this natural rock arch; great views can be had from cafes near the cliff tops above the sea stacks, making it an excellent place to enjoy some caffeine or alcohol at sunset, but those looking to get closer can hire a boat down on the beach that will allow you to get up close and personal with these natural wonders.  At the end of the day, it’s your choice!

A natural sight generally considered to be a must-see in the Beirut area is Jeita Grotto, which is a water-filled limestone cave that boasts a chamber that is almost 400 feet high at its loftiest point.  Do take care in the grotto though, as the water that passes through the chambers are part of the water table that grants local Lebanese above the cave clean drinking water … no swimming!

Finally, conclude a successful trip to Lebanon’s capital by partaking of Beirut’s infamous nightlife.  Like Tel Aviv to the south, this city has a liberal attitude towards partying and alcohol, making it a tolerant place as well for those who identify as LGBT, as well as welcome those that like to consume a beer or three. Some of the finest DJ’s in the world visit Beirut during the course of the year, and a musical festival also bring some of the globe’s finest jazz musicians as well for those that prefer a more chill way to spend their time after the sun goes down.

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