BEIRUT

Shak­ing off its trou­bled his­tory, Le­banon’s cap­i­tal is emerg­ing as an ex­cit­ing new de­sign des­ti­na­tion. With balmy tem­per­a­tures that aren’t un­com­fort­ably hot, spring and au­tumn are the per­fect times to visit

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Elle Dec­o­ra­tion -

Get­away Beirut is win­ning back its rep­u­ta­tion as the Paris of the Mid­dle East. We sug­gest where to stay, eat and visit

THE CITY

Ruled at var­i­ous times by the Greeks, Ro­mans, Ot­tomans and the French, Beirut is one of the old­est cities in the world – it’s been in­hab­ited for more than 5,000 years. In re­cent times, its lus­tre has been tar­nished by Le­banon’s civil war (which raged from 1975 to 1990), but now it’s re­gained the vi­brant cul­tural scene it had in the 1960s, when it was known as the ‘Paris of the Mid­dle East’ and at­tracted the cream of the in­ter­na­tional jet-set. Go in Septem­ber and you can also check out the an­nual De­sign and Art Fairs, which are rapidly be­com­ing favourites with the cool crowd ( beirut-art-fair.com; beirut-de­sign-fair.com).

WHERE TO STAY

The Mar Mikhael dis­trict near Beirut’s north­ern wa­ter­front, which is known for its hip bars and shops, is a great place to make your base. It’s here that you’ll find Villa Clara, a gen­teel old town­house with just seven rooms, dec­o­rated with a mix of an­tique and mod­ern fur­ni­ture. A visit to its pink chi­nois­erie-wall­pa­pered restau­rant is not to be missed (from £180 per night; vil­laclara.fr). The nearby Zan­zoun B&B (pic­tured over­leaf), whose rooms are dec­o­rated with lo­cal art, is also a beau­ti­ful re­treat (from £126 per night; hotelibanais.com). Not far away, in the Achrafieh dis­trict, is the Dar Al Achrafieh B&B, a home built in 1929 that still boasts its painted ceil­ings and Art Deco fur­nish­ings. The owner, Jamil, is a de­signer with a love of tex­tiles and good food; over a break­fast of lo­cally made cheeses and top-notch cof­fee, he’ll help you plan your tour of the city (from £180 per night; hotelibanais.com).

BREAK­FAST & LUNCH

Al Soussi, tucked away down a small street in the north-western Mar Elias dis­trict, is famed for its leg­endary break­fasts. As well as the ex­cel­lent hum­mus, don’t miss the fat­teh (a mix of yo­gurt and chick­peas, with toasted bread and pine nuts) and awarma (slow-cooked spiced lamb served with eggs). For a re­laxed lunch, head to Tawlet. It’s part of Souk el Tayeb, a col­lec­tive that pro­motes lo­cal pro­duc­ers and serves a meze buf­fet that changes daily. The restau­rant also runs cook­ing classes and a Satur­day farm­ers’ mar­ket at the Beirut Souks (soukeltayeb.com).

WINE & DINE

Seek out Liza Beirut in Achrafieh for one of the city’s most stylish din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. This restau­rant – which has an out­post in Paris – is housed in a grand 19th-cen­tury build­ing restyled by lo­cal de­signer Maria Ous­seimi. Its stun­ning in­te­rior con­sists of Moor­ish-style fret­work win­dows, tiled walls and mod­ern mar­ble ta­bles, with a so­phis­ti­cated menu to match. Try the Djej Bel Frike (cit­rus-mar­i­nated chicken with smoked green wheat) and Hay­taliye, a milk cus­tard in­fused with orange blos­som ( liz­abeirut.com). At the nearby Ho­tel Al­bergo, you’ll get a flavour of the old city. Its Ital­ian restau­rant, Al Dente, ex­udes old-world el­e­gance, with moody 1940s-in­spired dé­cor. As the name sug­gests, it serves great pasta dishes, and has an at­mo­spheric cock­tail bar (al­ber­gob­eirut.com). In Cle­menceau, to the north-west of the city, visit the 1920s-style bar-restau­rant Salon Bey­routh for its strik­ing mono­chrome in­te­rior. The house spe­cial­ity is whisky – it sells more than 120 va­ri­eties from around the world (sa­lon­bey­routh.com).

ART & CUL­TURE

The Sur­sock Mu­seum in Achrafieh is Beirut’s an­swer to the Peggy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion. In the 1950s, col­lec­tor Ni­co­las Sur­sock left his turn-of-the-cen­tury man­sion to the city so that it could be con­verted into an art mu­seum. Re­cently re­vamped by French ar­chi­tect Jean-michel Wil­motte, it has an im­pres­sive range of works by 19th- and 20th-cen­tury Le­banese artists, some dis­played in the orig­i­nal Ottoman-style rooms, oth­ers in more mod­ern gal­leries (sur­sock.mu­seum). For some­thing more con­tem­po­rary, visit the Aïshti Foun­da­tion, de­signed by Sir David Ad­jaye. This re­tail com­plex-cum-mod­ern art gallery is housed in a bright red box on the wa­ter­front and dis­plays works by the likes of Ju­lian Schn­abel and Ger­hard Richter (aishti­foun­da­tion.com).

SHOP

No trip to Beirut would be com­plete with­out a visit to Nada Debs’ bou­tique in the Gem­mayzeh dis­trict of the old town. One of Le­banon’s best-known de­sign­ers, she cre­ates ev­ery­thing from fur­ni­ture to jew­ellery and has set up shop in a 1930s man­sion block, which is dec­o­rated like a home (nadadebs.com). Sim­i­larly eclec­tic is con­cept store An­other, housed in a sleek new build­ing by lo­cal prac­tice Rabih Geha Ar­chi­tects in the Zero 4 quar­ter in Nac­cache in the north-east of the city. Here you’ll find ev­ery­thing from edgy fash­ion to high-tech gad­gets and home scents (an­oth­er­store.com). Fi­nally, there’s Paper­cup­store, a book­shop with a cof­fee bar in Mar Mikhael that sells un­usual de­sign books and art­works by lo­cal il­lus­tra­tors. Shelves are stacked high, with li­brary-style lad­ders to reach the up­per­most lev­els (paper­cup­store.com).

ES­CAPE THE CITY

The Le­banese coast­line is a trea­sure trove of an­cient ru­ins, many of them Ro­man. The city of Tyre to the south of Beirut has some of the most im­pres­sive, among them a hip­po­drome (char­iot arena). To the north of the cap­i­tal is the city of By­b­los, a UNESCO World Her­itage Site with a wealth of an­cient architecture and lovely beaches. Plus, a short drive away is the beau­ti­ful vil­lage of Harissa, whose hill­top Shrine of Our Lady of Le­banon – a pil­grim­age site – has spec­tac­u­lar sea views.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.