Yes, we survived Beirut. Or should that be: Beirut survived us? It's safe to say that we fully embraced everything the city has to offer. We gave and gave until it hurt. Where to start?
Firstly, the serious stuff. Beirut is GORGEOUS. It looks like Cannes when you come into land, rolling green hills with hotels and apartments built into them. And the European feel continues when you head into the city. It's just like Paris. And everyone speaks French, which adds to the effect. Yes, I spent the whole weekend speaking French - amazing how it comes flooding back to you after a few (ahem) g and t's.
Our hotel was in a seriously cute residential/shopping area (near the ABC mall, fellow Beirut travellers) which meant that literally ten steps from the door were all sorts of gorgeous restaurants, bars, shoe shops. Bliss. And the actual mall was a far cry from the sterile and anodyne malls in Dubai, this was partially open air, with lots of foliage and breezes. Oh and because Lebanon isn't a Muslim country, you can have a glass of wine (ok, a bottle) with your lunch, without having to be in a hotel. So lots of relaxed cafe culture vibes in full effect. Yes, people of England, this might sound tame to you, but after a year and a half in Dubai, this is great news!
Sightseeing: there's a lot to see in Beirut and the surrounding areas. the actual city is so gorgeous. The downtown area has been restored after the war, and looks just like a Parisienne arondissement. There's even Roman ruins to take a look at. Spent many a hungover hour checking it all out, with frequent food/wine breaks, natch.
Thanks to our NBF Joe Le taxi (a taxi driver who was really called Joe: genius) we had our own personal driver for the trip, who scooted us round the whole city (nothing like spending hours in a car with a wicked hangover). He even took us out into the hills to Jeita where we spent a hilarious, if painful few hours exploring caves and countryside via cable car, boat and train (no really). It was a little like the Krypton Factor crossed with Survivor. Or maybe that was just the previous night's antics catching up with me.
So, that's the serious culture/sightseeing part wrapped up. What about the rest? They call Beirut the Ibiza of the Middle East....and if by that you mean you can have the most insane nights out ever, where anything goes, then yes, it deserves the title. I'll keep it short as quite frankly, there's so much to tell when you've been out til 6 am each night, and also, I suspect some of the stories are only truly hilarious if you were actually there.
Some highlights will follow soon....I'll preface them by saying, if you're blonde, female and western in Beirut, you're definitely a novelty. And you attract a LOT of attention. You can't walk 2 paces down the street without every car honking and trying to pull over and pick you up. Which really isn't as predatory as it sounds....