Head west along Beirut's Rue Hamra and on the right you might notice a proud white building with the legend Banque du Liban written in black lettering across the top. There are neatly manicured hedges, a modern sculpture and an imposing facade that befits a national institution.
Inside is the office of the governor of the central bank and, presumably, the war room from where the 20-year campaign to defend the Lebanese pound by pegging it to the US dollar has been waged. Lebanon's foreign-currency reserves are solid, and its gold deposits are the 19th highest in the world, making up 32 per cent of the country's total reserves.
Riad Salameh, the governor, is something of a heroic figure among the world's central bankers. He may not have had to sleep next to his gold bars to stop them being stolen by militiamen as his predecessor Edmond Naim did during the civil war, but, since being appointed in 1993, he has steered the country through countless political crises and conflicts.
Cross Rue Hamra and you will come face to face with a building that might be mistaken for a secret police headquarters. The paint is faded and the facade pockmarked with split-system air-conditioning units. In front is another modern sculpture, dirtier than its cousin across the road and set in a flower bed that long ago gave up its flowers and in which you are more likely to find cigarette butts and empty cola cans with the wrappings from shwarma sandwiches wedged into the tops.
Welcome to the ministry of tourism. The incumbent is Fadi Abboud, a successful industrialist and the latest in a long line of essentially decent but powerless ministers charged with selling Lebanon to the world.
The central bank is crucial to the survival of the state. As the Palestinian banker Yousef Beidas once pointed out: "Lebanon is to money what the Suez Canal is to shipping." Banking secrecy, for the time being at least, is still the name of the game, as is maintaining an iron grip on the pound's movements.
The tourism ministry, on the other hand, lives on its wits and basks in the glory of an energetic private sector. If the ministry were abolished tomorrow, Lebanon's reputation as a Middle Eastern hot spot for free-spending Arabs would be unaffected. I met Mr Abboud at a trade fair recently and asked him about funding for the wine sector. He huffed and he puffed and looked around for an aide to rescue him. He admitted he had no money, as the majority of his budget goes into salaries. So there was really very little he could do, and thank heavens the private sector was doing such a sterling job by itself. Had I not read the fantastic features on Lebanon in the international media, he asked. Now the whole world knows about Lebanon for all the right reasons.
Last Friday, Mr Abboud, clearly having consumed too much Kool-Aid, predicted that Lebanon would welcome 3 million tourists this year. He used as his indicator the fact that arrivals from Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of this year had increased nearly eightfold, compared with the same period in last year. Admittedly, Global Blue, the value added tax refund operator, announced that total spending by tourists increased by 36 per cent during the same period, with visitors from Saudi Arabia accounting for 22 per cent of all spending.
But unfortunately, other government indicators show an overall drop in tourist activity, with many Arabs deciding to give Lebanon a miss this year. Mr Abboud's wildly optimistic prediction - I don't think we have ever passed the 2 million mark - came three days before the Central Administration of Statistics reported that for the second year in a row, the number of tourists entering Lebanon in the first quarter fell, 7.9 per cent down from last year, which in turn experienced a 13 per cent drop on 2010.
Much of it has to do with the fact that many don't fancy entering Lebanon through Syria, but I suspect that Lebanon's rather tart political atmosphere has, as usual, left a nasty taste in the mouth.
* Michael Karam is associate editor in chief of Executive, a regional business magazine based in Lebanon.