Christmas 2009 was absolutely AMAZING!!!! I spent two weeks in Beirut, Lebanon visiting friends and it was beyond ....... it is the chicest, most exciting and inviting city, Beyrouth is the most happening spot around!!!!! Apparently Beirut, previously known as the Paris of the Middle East, has regained its title!!!!!!!!!!!!
The city sits on the Mediterranean, a blend of ancient and contemporary culture, architecture, and design, it is surrounded by ancient cities that include Baalbek, Tyre, Byblos, and Tripoli. The weather is spectacular, as the Lebanese constantly remind you, you can go snow-skiing in the morning and water-skiing in the afternoon!!!! The international flavor of Beirut is the result of the mixture of cultures, Christians, Sunni's, and Shites. Lebanese are warm and charming, they love eating and drinking ...... and having a good time!!!! Family and friends of friends are always welcome, and adding additional guests at the last minute is done with ease. Overseas guests are treated as family and always have a wonderful time. Culturally the city is blossoming ..... the year-old Beirut Art Center presents universally acclaimed shows, featuring both Lebanese and international contemporary artists. Ashkal Alwan, founded in 1994, is invested in forging cultural connections between artists residing in Lebanon and overseas. To date, over 450 international artists and museum curators have registered for their presentation of Home Works V in April. Recently, a group of five artists reopened the Metropolis Cinema, a two theatre movie house. They plan to feature a variety of film festivals, and will have a cafe with a cinema library, to serve as a meeting place for film buffs. Beirut's restaurant scene is extensive and varied (see NY TImes 12/29/09), and packed cafes are central to the fiber of the city. There are a number of chic hotels, including The Albergo, a Relais & Chateaux property, and the newly opened Le Grey, owned by international hotelier Gordon Campbell Grey. Shopping is a major pastime for Lebanese women, and there is a wide selection of fabulous international designer boutiques. This past December a new Dior store joined the mix and according to WWD, any major designer without an outpost in Beirut is on the hunt for space ...... even Hermes is opening this fall!!! In addition, Saifi Village, the tasty shopping district downtown will soon be home to the newly renovated souks!!! Currently Saifi includes my favorite home design stores .... Nada Debs and Bokja Design, both a must stop on any Beirut shopping trip .... and also my favorite cafe Balima, designed by Annabel Kassar.
There are no coincidences ....... yesterday, the Sunday NY TIMES Travel Section featured an article about the ancient seaside city of Byblos, the St. Tropez of Lebanon ..... it featured a photograph of this house (above), built by my friend's grandfather. The house has been occupied for the past 30 years!!!! Last Tuesday night at dinner she was telling me about the history of the house and that it had finally been given back to her family by President Michel Sleiman. I was totally intrigued by the house on my last visit and had taken a bunch of pictures ...... and now here it is in the NY TIMES!!!!!!