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Beirut is back… and it’s beautiful

A Beirut local explains his way of negotiating traffic jams is to take his gun out of his glove compartment, strap it to his under-arm, and if the traffic is really bad, wave it around a bit.

A whole new road system has been built from Beirut airport to the city centre. What’s more, there are new, exciting roadside accessories such as traffic lights. But it seems they’re for decoration only as no one actually obeys them.

Beirut is the Elizabeth Taylor of the Mediterranean. Or it would be if you replaced the words “alcohol” with “Israel” and “a string of unsuitable marriages” with “15 years of civil war”

On Martyrs’ Square, Beirut’s Ground Zero, the southernmost point of the old Green Line that divided Muslim West Beirut from Christian East Beirut, you’ll reel at the sight of a Virgin Megastore and practically faint when you see a Dunkin’ Donuts. Although – thankfully - the hulking Holiday Inn with its bullet holes and bomb craters is still there, as derelict and abandoned as ever.

There’s the Skybar, where a bottle of Cristal champagne costs $10,000 and they deliver it to your table with fireworks to make sure that everyone knows. It’s usually full of Lebanese ‘businessmen’ – their business, they’ll be chuffed to tell you is something involving mobile phones.

All the danger and intrigue peaks at dinner time. Middle Eastern cuisine, made from only the freshest ingredients, beautifully presented, and served in the kind of abundance that suggests it might be your last meal on earth. BMI, www.flybmi.com, has a direct daily service to Beirut from London Heathrow from £403.

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