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Is Beirut The New Dubai Or The New East Timor?

Where: Beirut, Lebanon
November 9, 2009 at 2:04 PM | by | ()

Everyone wants to be on the edge of a comeback these days. The city of Beirut isn't releasing a new single or belatedly confiding in Diane Sawyer, but that hasn't stopped the Guardian from proclaiming that Lebanon's capital is "back... and it's beautiful." We'd feel guilty reading this objectifying headline in a different context, but we guess it's okay to do to a city.

Writer Carole Cadwalladr has a bit of history with the old lady, having written a guidebook to the country with her friend back in 1995. Now she declares it "the Elizabeth Taylor of the Mediterranean... if you replaced the words 'alcohol' with 'Israel' and 'a string of unsuitable marriages' with '15 years of civil war.'" That's a comeback? Oh wait, and it has two new hotels and the seal of approval of the New York Times, which is where the metaphor begins to fall apart.

Cadwalladr cites the amazing food, chic bars and reemergence of native Lebanese in her article, but also admits to taking a wrong turn to drive through the bombed-out former headquarters of Hezbollah. Anthony Bourdain also coped with unexpected airstrikes in the city when filming in 2006. Has the city put its past political struggles behind it far enough, or are these new growths just tempting fate? We're reminded of East Timor's recent push towards welcoming more visitors, but what we've heard from Cadwalladr and other visitors who have been to Beirut before the recent troubles is that it's the Paris of the Middle East. Are you ready to go back to Beirut?

Related Stories:
· Beirut Is Back... And It's Beautiful [Guardian]
· No Reservations in Beirut [Jaunted]
· East Timor: Now Serving Tourist 19,001: Will It Be You? [Jaunted]

[Photo: austinevan]

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