#6 – Beirut, Lebanon (population estimated 1.3 million)
The hardships currently faced by the Lebanese in general and the Beirutis in particular are hard to bear. The devastating explosion caused by negligent storage of fertiliser is symbolic of a incompetent, corrupt and careless regime. One can only hope that this changes very soon.
I visited the Lebanese capital in 2000 with Hamish, a mighty fine way to start our travels in the new millennium.
Beirut had been synonymous with civil war, terrorism & kidnapping but the city I visited was more akin to the Paris of the East title it had earned through being considered a Middle Eastern playground in the sixties and seventies.
There aren’t the great attractions of say an Eiffel Tower or Alhambra, yet just being in the city was an absolute joy.
In 2000 the country was still occupied by Syria on a cooperative basis and Israel in the south of the country on a hostile one as they fought to contain their sworn enemies of Hezbollah.
Amazingly the very week we were there Israel withdrew after some 15 years of conflict causing wild celebrations throughout Lebanon and an impromptu national holiday. I will never forget seeing truck loads of Hezbollah members waving rifles and flags through the streets of the capital to signal their victory.
I will also never forget our first night in Beirut as we heard what seemed like rounds of gunfire ringing out across the capital. Happily it turned out to be firecrackers set off in celebration at a Lebanese team winning the Middle Eastern basketball championships for the first time ever!
Here are a few pictorial highlights of my visit.