When the topic of travel destinations arises amongst travellers, Beirut may as well stop the conversation in its tracks.
However, don’t let anyone dismay you- Lebanon is a complex nation that refuses to be reduced to an evening news sound bite.
To those fortunate enough to see this indomitable city, a knowing smile will be your reward from fellow travellers who have reveled in its nightlife, been wrapped warm by the hospitality of its people, and tasted the rich tapestry of its food.
The Lebanese capital will instantly hit you as familiar. It thumps with the beat of an Italian Mediterranean city, bolstered by an assured self pride carried by citizens of one of the best-dressed nations on Earth.
The too often used compliment of the city being the "Paris of the Middle East” (code – citizens here are elegantly dressed- you should be too) still bears truth.
After coffee and breakfast at your hotel, trot along the curving Corniche to instantly understand this city’s relationship with the sea and the west – facing towards Europe (Cyprus is a pleasant 45 min flight away).
License plates here even bear similar color and design to the EU version, replete with Arabic characters.
Being trilingual is de rigueur and Phoenicians will instantly let you know that they did their undergrad at UCLA, graduate study in Paris and converse with family and friends in Arabic. You may leave wondering how you managed to get by with just one language and such little education.
Spend the day at the Saint-George Yacht Club and Marina (a giant swimming pool located next to the sea). This 'beach club' serves as the city's public country club where you can see gorgeous Lebanese men and women interact in fascinating ways.
There is no actual beach in Beirut to swim at unless you want to join the locals diving off the rocks that line the shore. Do try it at least once as it would be a shame to be this close to the sea and not taste it.
Sky Bar is still the club of choice for Beirut’s elite and a must-do.
Open air and huge, it serves up a mega club with style and class. The smart crowd comes here to be seen, talk and of course dance. The cool Mediterranean air will keep you moving for hours as you make instant connections.
New on the scene at the end of 2013 is The O1Ne set in a graffiti covered building, courtesy of artists commissioned from around the world. The O1NE will pave a new path in how clubbers experience the night with a visual /technological concept that is already being talked about in every corner of the clubbing world.
B018 reigns as Beirut's afterhours spot- an underground bar with a retractable roof where you should find yourself heading if you see no need to stop the night. Located in a former grave yard it remains one of Beirut’s most famous and long standing party sites.
Other streets to explore are Mar Mikhail –where locals and tourists mix alike eating and drinking at Cocteau, Toto, and Sud. In Soldaire be sure to have mezze at Guilt and Society.
If the clouds sweep in (they seldom do in summer) go shopping at designer ABC Mall in Acrafieh.
Make sure to view female director/actress Nadine Labaki's films on Lebanon 'Caramel' and 'Where Do We Go Now' to gain further insight into the brilliant Lebanese psyche.
A world away from Syria - even if this humanitarian crisis begs the world’s attention just next door - Beirut demands its visitor to be astute enough to know that some cities must be understood by venturing there.
This evident paradox makes the lure of Beirut even more palpable. Ever at the whim of skirmishes that surround it, Beirut remains exactly what it always is – a city whose warm heart beats and opens to everyone.