A cityscape of cranes and new skyscrapers shows the optimism of Lebanon’s capital. The banking and tourism sectors are the linchpin that stabilizes the economy, but around Beirut’s historic foundations, the metropolis continues to re-invent itself and expand providing new opportunities. The Lebanese linguistically mix Arabic, French and English with consummate skill. Usual business etiquette is observed, from modest dress to proffering business cards.
While a new breed of boutique hotels have opened across the capital city, the Moevenpick Hotel & Resort (www.moevenpick-beirut.com) and the three Rotana properties – the Gefinor Rotana, Hazmieh Rotana, and the long-stay Raouche Arjaan (www.rotana.com) – remain popular with business travellers.
‘Momo’s at the souk’ (www.momobeirut.com) headlines Beirut’s new wave of dining experiences to match the country’s business and tourism revival. ‘Star Trek’ style automatic doors unveil a cosy yet contemporary space, and an eclectic mix of art and furniture, while mood lighting helps create the ‘wow’ factor. Sitting above the modern architecture of the souk, Momo’s balcony provides an excellent al-fresco dining option. The menu is a fusion of Moroccan, French and traditional Lebanese dishes, making sure all bases are covered.
Where to start? The Lebanese are known for their ‘joie de vivre’ and ability to party. Roof bars such as Sky at BIEL (Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Centre), ‘Square’ at the Moevenpick Hotel & Resort and ‘Bar ThreeSixty’ at Le Gray Hotel will delight and amaze in equal measure. Move on to the Gemmayze and Monot districts to continue the party until dawn.
British Airways operates daily to Beirut, having taken the operation over from BMI. Middle East Airlines (MEA) is the national carrier and offers the only other direct service to Lebanon.
Taxis are plentiful and pretty much the sole means to get about the city. If, however, visitors are willing to share, then the most common transportation mode is the 'service' – a shared taxi, with fares negotiated in advance. Regular taxis have red license plates and an official tariff. Certified airport taxis are recognised by an airport logo on the door. The journey time from the airport to downtown Beirut is 20 minutes and the fare is around £15-20.
Beirut is two hours ahead of GMT. Lebanon has a balmy Mediterranean climate most of the year. The currency is the Lebanese Pound or Lira (L£, LL), but the US dollar is widely accepted. For more information see: www.destinationlebanon.gov.lb.
Beirut’s compact city centre means the Lebanon National Museum, the Ottoman-style Al-Amin mosque and the architecturally refined Solidere area can all be explored in a morning. Further afield are the Jeita Grotto and Lebanon’s oldest winery, Ksara, in the Bekaa Valley.
“Take advantage of Beirut's exclusive 'rooftop bar' trend and relaxing climate to impress clients and talk business informally. Remember to book a table in advance”
Mirna Abboud, managing director