The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Beirut

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After watching all the violence on television and feeling bad for the Middle East (most probably colonial guilt), after seeing the democratic protests that made you tear up and proclaim what a free people the Lebanese are (or just not caring), and after reading numerous articles about the parties, you finally decide to go to Beirut.

Congratulations for being brave and facing your friends and family’s questions and concerns: Isn’t there a war there? Why do you want to visit a terrorist hub? Don’t they hate us [if you're American]? You’ve got your ticket in hand and your bag packed.

Note: Backpacking the Middle East is cooler than just ‘traveling’ there.

Well, traveler, we’ve got the ultimate guide to make your trip to Beirut unique and unforgettable – just like everyone else’s!

First Things First: Land or Air?
You can book a flight to Beirut International Airport, renamed Rafik Hariri International Airport after the assassinated prime minister whose murder triggered the Cedar Revolution, and take a taxi to the city center (only a 20-minute drive). Or, if you want to be cooler, take a bus from Syria and arrive at the Charles Helou bus station.

Staying for a Short Period of Time?
If you’re a loaded Westerner, go for the countless five-star hotels. If you’re a poor Westerner or a Westerner who is pretending to be poor (for various reasons) staying at a hostel is the best option. There are three of them in Beirut.

Staying for Long?
Rent a room or an apartment in Hamra or Gemmayze.

What To Do?
Now that you’ve settled down in Beirut, it’s time to experience it. Meet local ‘hipsters’ and join them for an authentic experience at select Gemmayze bars or private parties.

Party. Party. Party. But first, try to break into a Lebanese social circle. Once you’re in, reaffirm your presence every few minutes by maniacally posing for photos.

Are you a smart westerner? Then you’re probably working on an MA thesis. What better place than Lebanon to do some research! You most probably even have your topic, something about Hezbollah’s weapons or its legitimacy as a political party versus its ‘terrorist’ activities. But, we must warn you; you might bump into another foreigner (or 53) who is ‘researching’ the same thing.

Out and About (When Not Partying or Sleeping off Hangovers)
On your second day, you decide to go to Dahieh, Beirut’s southern suburb and Hezbollah stronghold. What an exciting place to visit!

Look at the destroyed buildings during the 2006 war (and condemn Israeli aggression, either because you are a Westerner who believes in ‘a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian issue’ or because you are too scared to justify Israel’s actions, you are in Dahieh after all).

Compulsively take photos of every possible thing: A cat by the dumpster (you even know the caption you will add on Facebook: Dahieh persian cat), or a flower growing from the concrete bridge. And of course, take a picture of the destruction and the ‘fascinating’ people.

Now, you might do that for two reasons:

a) You are an idiot.
b) You know that you will most probably get arrested by Hezbollah’s security forces. But that would be an awesome story to tell on your Middle East blog.

Note: 100 extra points if you can Tweet as soon as you’re arrested.

- After the intense Dahieh experience, roam any street in the city and get excited by the army vehicles parked on corners. 100 extra points if you take a photo with a soldier.

- Take an Arabic course.

- Blog about your experience. Tags: Paris of the Middle East, Switzerland of the Middle East, sectarianism, party, alcohol, drugs, politics.

- Combine your blog posts (if you are blogging) or write an article about Beirut. Interesting things to write about are definitely the parties, and (a superficial view on) politics. Don’t forget to mention that the city that has been torn by civil strife is slowly being reborn, yet still on the verge of civil strife.

Beirut can be an expensive city, especially if you want that steady alcohol flow. But you can still survive as an indie traveler.

Note: You can join your state’s secret service to make some money.

Gay and Lesbian Travelers
By that, we mean gay. And by gay, we mean bears.

The gay scene in Beirut is flourishing. (For further reference: The New York Times.) So you better pack that lube and get your ass over here. Attend the exotic bear parties and the annual bear pageant. If you are not into bears, there are still places for you. And rentboys.

And what other time is better than this year to meet the diverse Arabian LGBT communities at the IGLTA Symposium taking place this week. Gay communities in Beirut have everything you need now: bars, clubs and bathhouses.

Note: Have more fun by pretending that social stigma and lack of rights do not exist.

Most importantly, have good Middle-Eastern sex. Hookup with all kinds of men on the Internet (really, all kinds) or make use of various VIP escort services (if you are loaded, wink).

More Things To Do (aside from People)
Quench your queer thirst by visiting the Mar Mikhael area and observe gentrification happening right in front of your eyes.

Post Scriptum
We hope you enjoy your visit as much as we hope you find this guide helpful. For a better travel experience, we recommend you expect a lot and come with preconceptions.

- Contributed by Raskolnikov

Guest Contributor

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