And so like Ibn Battuta I arrived again in Beirut.
“We traveled next to the town of Beirut. it is a small place but with fine bazaars and its congregational mosque is of striking beauty. Fruit and iron are exported from there to Egypt.”
Beirut is no longer small - its population is about 1.3 million, many of its bazaars are now expensive haute couture boutiques and its exports are of the financial services variety. By the end of the civil war the city was a wreck, its reputation as the “Paris of the Middle East” in shreds. Many of its buildings especially those of Martyr’s Square and along the Green Line which divided Christian East and Muslim West Beirut, were pock-marked with shell and bullet-fire, windows were shattered, streets blocked by fallen masonry. But phoenix-like the city began re-building - in razing and clearing the center of the city vestiges of its historic past were uncovered and Roman baths, columns and mosaics have since been left in situ or moved to other parts of the city. Today the corniche or seafront, has elegant new buildings and shiny glass-sheathed towers, large swathes of Downtown have been re-built in honey-colored stone in the original French Beaux Arts-style, and streets like Rue Verdun and Rue Monot and quartiers like Gemmayze, Raouche and Ashrafiye have chic boutiques, restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs. The dynamic, party-loving city was re-born; the city was featured in glossy international fashion and lifestyle magazines - Beirut was back.