October - December 2001
In today's cities, entertainment, shopping and window-shopping, or the sheer pleasure of walking among beautiful buildings and landscaped areas, serve as relaxation to an active population and are part of the visitors' sightseeing experience. The city center epitomizes this urban phenomenon.
Day and night, rain or shine, people are flocking in. Reclaimed by Lebanese residents and returnees, downtown Beirut is being rediscovered by Arabs and reemerging to foreigners, be they expatriates, visitors or investors.
Is Beirut city center something they were all yearning for?
Is the revival due to the vitality of the people? Did the urban planning, the restored architecture and the reconstituted public domain act as a catalyst?
Around 60 restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs are already established in the city center.
Far from being perceived as a potential threat, this critical mass is constantly drawing newcomers into the business. Consequently, other projects are planned in the near future. Their evergrowing clientele is not simply drawn among people working or residing in the city center, or expatriates and tourists on a visit there. The society at large is a café society.
Intermingled with these venues are about 90 retail outlets of various kinds: stores selling furniture, decoration items and gifts; hi-fi and electronic equipment, or records and books; fashion boutiques; jewelers'; handcraft and gift shops; art and antiques galleries.
They all vie with each other in character, style, quality of design and execution, as well as in the goods and services they offer.
In addition to interior rooms, restaurants and cafés often include sidewalk extensions, balconies or roof terraces: on one hand allowing participation in street life; on the other commanding views on either city or archeological sites.