Never were so many luxury cars driven so badly!!!

Trip Start Aug 12, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Al Shaaba Hotel

Flag of Lebanon  ,
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beirut has often been nicknamed the Paris of the Middle East and it is fair to say that the cafe culture and chic dress sense does contain some similarities. However, what Paris or frankly no other city can prepare you for are the drivers. Between us we have visited most of the richest cities on earth yet never have we seen so many luxury cars. The vehicle of choice is clearly the super-charged 4x4, so we have a suggestion: perhaps someone would be kind enough to set-up a driving school so that the locals could actually have some training before being handed the keys to exocets on wheels. As it stands only two controls have been mastered, the accelerator and the horn, both of which are used to ridiculous excess! Red lights are almost as meaningless as pedestrians, one way streets, pavements or illegal u-turns. Tania holds the new world record in the ten metre dash, no mean feat in flip-flops. The next time we are asked the question "what is the greatest challenge you have ever faced?" we shall in all seriousness reply "successfully crossing the road in Beirut!"

Having done so however, what an incredible city it turns out to be. A mixture of restored elegance side by side with bombed out shells, bullet holes everywhere, yet no end of oppulent new buildings and clearly the future is held in optimism. It is hard to believe that just a few years ago we were watching the news reports of the civil war here, but then you see the Holiday Inn. This was opened just before the war started and became the focal point for snipers on all sides and subsequently intense shelling.

Today it's a bustling confident city, full of cafes, bars, designer stores and five star hotels and the corniche sparkles. But it really comes alive at night time, funky bars and swish restaurants with great food and some excellent wines. All in all this has to be one of the most interesting cities in the world and compact enough to be easily manageable.

Beirut is clearly intent on becoming a major tourist destination once again and we have little doubt that it will succeed, just be careful when crossing the street.

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