x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Beirut full of cosmopolitan surprises

The Life: There is more to Beirut than skiing in the mountains and surfing on the beach.

Lebanese citizens enjoy a sunny day on the beach. AP Photo
Lebanese citizens enjoy a sunny day on the beach. AP Photo

Business travellers visiting Lebanon may hear the country described by locals as the place where one can ski in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean in the evening.

However, it is not just the mountains and beaches that make this place a unique destination.

To start, check out the Beirut Souks, located in the Solidere district, which is a favourite among Gulfies and home to more than 200 shops, a department store and a handful of cafes and restaurants. Concerts and open-air shows are held regularly in the grounds of the souqs.

Nearby, the Hariri Mosque is one of the most frequently visited attractions in the capital. Inspired by Istanbul's Blue Mosque, the domes provide an even greater delight when you enter because they are painted with beautiful designs and calligraphy.

For professionals with enough time on their hands before their next meeting, it is worth heading to Gemmayze, the capital's artistic bohemian quarter. It is an old district full of narrow streets and beautiful historical buildings from the French era well-known for its trendy bars, cafes, restaurants and lounges.

Simpler ways to experience Beirut include getting some work done in coffee shops along the city's Hamra Street, once known as Beirut's Champs Elysees. A few steps away is the seaside Corniche where Lebanese gather to smoke narghile pipes in one of the district's many coffee shops.

For history junkies, head to Beiteddine, almost 50 kilometres south-east of Beirut. It is a palace complex in the Chouf Mountains, built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

If Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East, then Byblos, some 35km up the coastline, is its Cannes: an ancient port framed by pre-Roman ruins. The city is famous for its fish restaurants, which serve up fresh red snapper and sea bass to tourists.

The Quote: Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West. - Late Pope John Paul II