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Beirut, Lebanon: Passport!

As a little kid in the UK, my mom used to yell at me and say that my ‘room looked like Beirut’ – in other words messed up, bombed out and ruined. Or better yet, student housing without the beer cans. Nowadays I’d have to drop some serious change to get a room that looks like Beirut. And if anything sums up the glamor of the Lebanese capital, it’s the main square’s clock tower, which touts a giant Rolex face. Blinged out doesn’t even start to describe …

Internationally remembered for its civil war, Lebanon’s moved on to uncivilized amounts of partying. Underground 80’s bomb shelter turned into clubs and rooftop all white decor spots that are $1000 a table are all part of Beirut’s scene. Partying is so frequent and expensive that there are special temporary finance deals offered by local banks designed to kick your weekend into the next gear and tide you over till pay day. Even the bank manager accepts that dancing is an essential. And as for dress code if your feet don’t hurt before you even leave for the club, well you better try harder…

And partying isn’t the only thing Beirut holds dear to it’s heart. On the visa arrival forms, where you must declare your purpose for visiting, next to “Business” and “Vacation” sits the “Medical” option but not the transplant kind. The Lebanese embrace a lift, a tuck and straighten up with the best of them.

Beyond the city’s flashiness and dresses so short a girl can barely reach down for anything, Lebanon is a model of religious tolerance and acceptance. Beirut’s largest and most prominent mosque is so beautiful its begging to photographed and it’s sometimes overshadowed … by the major church standing just beside it. The contrast is bizarre yet natural. The Lebanese are Lebanese first. The people are so committed to tolerating each other that the government must be made up of each major religious group, never excluding anyone from national unity.

Finally, Beirut’s locals are the most hospitable on the planet. Don’t finish your plate unless you’re prepared to have it piled high again. A Lebanese sentence or conversation starts in Arabic, wedges some French in the middle and rounds off with American slang. It’s a vibrant and generous culture of ‘live to that last drop of whiskey’ kind of people. You are embraced by everything and everyone, especially if you make the effort with those heels. After all, as Beirut folks say, it’s only a good time if you look hella good doing it.

– Jaime

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