Beirut

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Xerius
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Beirut

Post by Xerius » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:36 am

I'm going on a 15-day international school tour around the Middle East for work in March, finishing up with a brief stop in Beirut. I'm planning on tacking on a couple extra days or so in town before heading back home, since it's a city I've always been eager to visit. Any particular advice on what not to miss while there? No clue where I'm staying yet as the tour details probably won't be coming together until January or so.

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muthafunky
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Re: Beirut

Post by muthafunky » Sun Dec 03, 2017 8:22 pm

Citizen baba lives there now.

I enjoyed walking around Beirut but nothing springs to mind as can’t miss. It’s probably changed a lot since I visited in 2001.

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Citizen Baba
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Re: Beirut

Post by Citizen Baba » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:57 am

I've only really spent time in and around Achrafiyeh, so I'm not the best source. The National Museum is worth doing.

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Xerius
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Re: Beirut

Post by Xerius » Wed Dec 06, 2017 4:49 am

I'll definitely be doing some walking around, as that's my preferred way of getting to know cities (other than sprawling, auto-centric saunas like Dubai). I'll likely check out the National Museum as well. Looking forward to the food in particular. Always a highlight in the region in general, but Lebanon is of course legendary on that front.

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Citizen Baba
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Re: Beirut

Post by Citizen Baba » Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:17 am

I'd hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I've found the food a major disappointment. The full traditional spread is great once in a while, and you should definitely make an effort to have it. What Lebanese generally eat when they eat out is either third-rate western food (burgers, pizza) or their awful shawarma and variations of it. I'm not a huge chicken fan, and they eat a lot of it, overcooked. The felafel, when you can find it, is generally pretty tasty.

I've heard there's a great higher-end restaurant scene in Beirut. I'd stick with that and the traditional feast.

The city is still well worth visiting though.

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Xerius
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Re: Beirut

Post by Xerius » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:35 pm

Interesting. In light of my experience of the Middle East so far though (particularly the Arabian Peninsula), the preponderance of fast food isn't surprising. Arabs seem to be obsessed with Western franchises and fast food burger chains. Kuwait, Saudi, and UAE are overrun with them.

I'll have to make it a point to look up a few more up-market restaurants while there. With the tour ending there - and also the fact that we tend to be booked in pretty nice accommodation for these things - I'm sure there will already be a fairly nice dinner on the cards for the last night. The guy organizing the tour logistics is usually pretty savvy on where to go in each city as well, so he may have some good suggestions on the food front.

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Citizen Baba
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Re: Beirut

Post by Citizen Baba » Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:17 am

Although I've had my fill of it by now, manoushe is a good filling breakfast. A dollar for the cheese, fifty cents for the thyme.

The Economist just came out with an article on best local eats in Beirut.

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Re: Beirut

Post by strife » Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:34 pm

I really enjoyed Beirut three years ago. Stayed in touristy Hamra, went out at night in Achrafiyeh and Gemmayzeh, did a lot of strolling during the day. The city still has scars from the war, although you see far more construction cranes than ruined buildings. Baba and I really split on the food - I thought it was an excellent eating city, although with surprisingly little street food. I dined out a lot, and discovered that kibbeh nayyeh might be my favorite food. Living like I was, Beirut wasn't a cheap destination, but you live well there. Seconded on the National Museum. The Souks, on the other hand, were disappointing. Reminded me of an open-air mall with a Lebanese theme. The Mayflower in Hamra is a good budget hotel. Think I paid $50-60/night. I stayed there when I wasn't crashing in Achrafiyeh.

Security-wise, I'll defer to Baba. It's so fluid in Lebanon that my anecdotal information from three years ago would be more dangerous than useful. I hired a driver with a friend, leaning Beirut early in the morning to check out the Beqaa' Valley. We stopped at Chateau Ksara vineyard outside Zahle for a tour. Their visitor numbers were obviously way down, because they treated us like royalty. Hizbullah runs the valley, but tolerates the vineyard (which also distills arak). Then we went to Baalbek, the coolest Roman ruins experience I've had (which includes Volulibis). Again, we were the only people there. You'll see Hizbullah (white SUVs) and Lebanese Army working together in the valley, with huge banners of Nasrallah leering down everywhere. Also, there were enormous tent cities of Syrian refugees visible from the highway.

I'd go back in a second.
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Xerius
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Re: Beirut

Post by Xerius » Tue Dec 26, 2017 5:00 am

Thanks, Flexi. I'll keep it in mind to have kibbeh nayyeh while I'm there. Hokey modern souks are already fairly familiar, having been in the UAE and Saudi this past year. I'll have just been through Amman and Cairo by the time I get to Beirut though, so I'll be able to get the more authentic thing in there. Thanks for the hotel info - I'm almost certainly going to be changing accommodation for the extra nights I put in there (the tour hotel will probably be well out of my non-expense account budget).

I actually thought about trying to fit in Baalbek while I was there, but I found a couple things online recently that suggested it wasn't all that safe nowadays. As you said, it's hard to tell from here since things are always in flux over there geopolitically. Still, I've heard Baalbek's among the top Roman ruins, along with the even less readily accessible Leptis Magna and Palmyra. Well, the latter may not rate as highly anymore (sadly).

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