Babes in Beirut
Move over Marbella, Beirut has so much to offer for a weekend with the girls. It’s full to the brim with luxurious cars and beautiful people, so after my recent girls’ holiday, I couldn’t recommend it more. With ample clubs and bars, as well as easily accessible day trips and cultural excursions, the Lebanese capital is bursting with glamour and fun, and still allows you to come back to reality every now and again to immerse yourself in its profound history and culture.
Part of excavations from the ancient town of Byblos. Now housed in the Beirut National Museum. © Georgia Dey
Beirut is a small capital city, with a population of only 4.5 million, therefore, while maintaining the bustling and energetic feel of any major city, it has the added ease of mobility of a smaller place.
Walking through the streets of Beirut you become all too aware of the conflicts in its past. Shadows of the Civil War linger in the form of blown out buildings and others showered with bullet holes. Eerie though it may sound, this adds to the depth of the atmosphere in this now modern, cosmopolitan city.
Furthermore, the remnants of the French colonial rule are visible in the form of beautiful Parisian architecture seen throughout the city, and of course in the language. French is a dominant language in Lebanon, although it is generally the language of the educated middle class; a knowledge of Arabic comes in handy when out and about and chatting with taxi drivers.
Top Tips in Beirut
As a tourist, the easiest way to travel around the city is by taxi. There are two types of taxi found in Beirut. A service taxi acts like a bus and costs 2000 Lebanese pounds per person, while you must haggle a price for a private taxi and it often works out more expensive.
Inside the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut. © Georgia Dey
The official currency of Lebanon is the Lebanese pound. However, due to inflation, £1 sterling is roughly equivalent to 1900LBP, so they have adopted a dual currency system, also accepting the US dollar as legal tender. I would advise that you stick to using the Lebanese pound, as the majority of the time you’ll receive it as change regardless of the currency you paid in, and switching between multiple currencies becomes complicated very quickly.
Make the most of Beirut’s coastal location and take a sunset walk from the Corniche along the coastline until you reach the Pigeon Rocks. The relaxing stroll gives you ample opportunity to unwind, especially if, like me, you spent the previous evening sampling the best of Beirut’s nightlife, and are feeling a little worse for wear. The gentle sea breeze and sound of crashing waves is truly therapeutic.
My number one recommendation for a night out in Beirut is a bar crawl in Mar Mikhael. Renowned for its arty vibes, the area boasts an array of trendy bars. A particular favourite of mine was Lock Stock because of its talented cocktail bartenders who never failed to conjure up gorgeous and delicious cocktails time and again (believe me, I tried a lot of them!)
A Greek Catholic Church, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey
An afternoon in Byblos is essential. The oldest continuously inhabited town in the world dating back almost 8000 years, Byblos is a small coastal town with charming cobbled streets and buildings bursting with character. By the modest harbour there’s an abundance of restaurants and cafes with views of the sea and ruins. Given its prestige as a must-see spot in Lebanon, it can feel a little touristy at times but it is nonetheless a remarkable and relaxing destination.
The Jeita Grotto
Having existed for countless years before human discovery, a visit to this cave, full to the brim with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The slow development of the calcium has created the unique underground landscape, untouched by humans until the 1830s. No wildlife inhabit the cave, apart from a few bats that have taken refuge there since its discovery. Sadly, pictures are forbidden inside the Grotto, but that makes this spot even more worthy of a trip.
A sleepy village doubling up as a Christian pilgrimage site, where in close proximity you can visit a modern cathedral, a traditional Greek Catholic church and the statue of the Virgin Mary, “Notre Dame du Liban”. You can also take an exciting cable-car ride up to the town, which is located high on the hilltop. Not one for those with a fear of heights, but it’s worth it for the incredible views of the sea stretching back to Beirut’s harbour.
“Notre Dame du Liban”, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey
I had the most wonderful time in Lebanon and would recommend it to anyone! It has so much to offer — vibrant nightlife, incredible natural landscapes and unbelievably friendly residents, making it a fantastic holiday destination. Unfortunately, due to conflicts nearby in the region, I must highlight the importance of checking your government’s travel information before making any plans.
So when you’re planning your next girls’ — or guys’ — holiday, check out Beirut. You’d be silly not to.
Featured image © Georgia Dey