Approaching Beirut either by sea or air promises an unforgettable sight. The mountains rising behind the city are bathed in sunlight 300 days of the year and in winter, they glisten under a blanket of snow.
The destroyed town center in once again active. Its former reputation as a crossroad between three continents and gateway to the East is not only restored, but also updated. The new city planners hold computer-rendered plans that show an extended coastline, a new mixed residential area, and touristic recreational zones built around a central park. And all unhindered by traffic thanks to underground parking areas and wide routes giving access to the downtown district.
A tour of the old downtown should include the Omari Mosque, the Municipality Building, the Assaf and Amir Munzir Mosques, the Arcaded Maarad Street, the Parliament Building, the Roman columns on Nejmeh Square and the historic Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches opposite the Parliament. Sundays afford a special opprtunity to those who appreciate the best in horse racing. Beirut's race track run pure bred Arabians. Fans of this sport can change their dollars, sterlings, etc... on the spot to place bets.
The city was destroyed in the sixth century by two earthquakes, a tidal wave and later in the century by a fire. Beirut also fell prey to conquerors from all parts of the ancient world. But after each disaster, it was able to rise and recapture its splendor.
Beirut's 1.4 million residents want you to expect no less of their city this time. Its commercial and cultural life is already on the mend. Itshas 80 banks, countless import-export firms, port and airport and free exchange market. The city's seven universities are graduating the movers and shakers of the next millennium and Beirut's multi-lingual media take full advantage of freedom of the press.
The best way to see Beirut is on foot. A good place to rest the muscular souvenirs in your calves is the area of Raouche, where Beirut's famous Pigeon Rocks stand tall and proud in the sparkling sea. Area restaurants serve local and foreign cuisine and cliff-side cafes offer a good range of snacks.