Beirut, the city of contrasts

Have you ever been in a city where bikini and full “hijab” meet on a daily basis? Where even Muslim families have their own Christmas tree, where people talk better french and english than arabic?

Beirut is a city of contrasts: of refugees and snobs, of extreme poverty beside flamboyant wealth, of liberal and bohemian lifestyles coexisting with fundamentalism.

For nearly a century, Lebanon has managed to mix people, religion and cultures. Many wars have damaged and reshaped the silhouette of Lebanon. People have fled and returned a thousand times. There is something that is difficult to define in one word but which makes us all mysteriously attached to this country. This something (Ce quelque chose) is felt and seen in every part of the city of Beirut.

Take for example a stroll in the streets of Beirut; walk through the newly rebuilt part of old Beirut, The Souks of Beirut, which used to be the oldest commercial part, where gold and spices mingled and sounds and smells flowed through the paved streets.

Souk of Beirut in 1900


Today's remains of the building "L'Orient le Jour" (The Lebanese newspaper in french)

Today, the Souks remain a commercial district, but has totally lost its old charm. It is now sleek, modern, huge, spacy, airy and grand! It is full of international brands, that you can find in every city of the world. No more Al berke Antabli, where even my father remembers stopping by and having the traditional lemonade or jallab! No more spices filling the air with delicious colours and perfumes. Those times have long gone.

Souks of Beirut anno 2010

Grand alley of the Souk

Instead, we have very modern cafes, where Lebanese people of all ages and foreigners sit and sip their cafe latte, lounging and gazing at the eternal fashion show that never stops in the streets of Beirut. We have ultra modern architecture (inspired by a certain spirit of the old souks), no cars, and only pedestrian strolling and shopping.

Time changes, and so do cities…


4 thoughts on “Beirut, the city of contrasts

  1. i feel sad coz we lost the spirit charmy of the old souk, i didn’t like the modern architecture one , and many of many people they don’t like it too

  2. I can appreciate the transformation that Beirut is currently undergoing..but I feel that if the pace keeps up, all of Beirut’s history and charm will be gone before we know it, and then it will have nothing to differentiate it self from the hundreds of other “international/cosmopolitan” cities of the world. The Souks are a perfect example. International brands have flocked to occupy spaces while, at the same time, alienating man Lebanese people who used to call it home. You are right, times change, along with cities!

    • hi Danielle,
      thank you for your comments…i feel frustrated also when i see how beirut has changed the last 10 years. But the traditional lebanese still exists, he is found in the mountains, in the other cities, where you also can feel the good old Lebanese way of living.. Unfortunately for Beirut, things are only going to change more and more.. we can write about the good old days and keep the memories intact for future generations!

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