March 25, 2009

Beirut by Night
Beit Meri, Lebanon

Tonight's CouchSurfing meet-and-greet in Beirut gave me the opportunity to connect with some local folks and travelers passing through the country, and to spend my second evening walking around the capital's gentrified shoreline. Much of the waterfront was purchased for pennies by a few profiteers when the extreme unrest forced people from their shattered homes.

Some buildings in the area have intentionally left the pockmarks of gunfire in remembrance of the civil war. An ever-shifting side street in the city is host to a handful of stunningly beautiful boutique bars, serving alcohol (at L.A. hotspot prices) to the city's youthful elite. For many tourists and residents of the Middle East, Beirut by night is an oasis of western and Christian influence—booze, revealing clothing for women, dancing, and flirtatious conversation.

Sadly, most visitors leave with such an impression, as they limit themselves to the small, safer, redeveloped portions of the city center. The city gives off the impression that it's still struggling for stability, despite the waterfront McDonalds.

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