The It List 2009

by Ondine Cohane

Beirut, Lebanon

Poor Beirut. In 2006, it was ready for its close-up after decades of civil war, until a fresh round of trouble hit. Now the violence has subsided and a more stable government is in place. Long dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, you could also call it a Lebanese South Beach for all the young and beautiful people cramming the streets. The turmoil certainly hasn't dimmed the famed, glamorous nightlife found at sexy Sky Bar (pictured), which just relocated to the top floor of the BIEL Center, nor at Crystal, where the trendy congregate for bottle service. If nights are spent in a bar crawl in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood, by day you can tour the wineries of the Bekaa Valley. For those less liquid-inclined (and more history-minded), explore the old downtown, Centre Ville, and the seaside promenade of Avenue de Paris. But where to stay? Gordon Campbell Gray, the fashionable hotelier behind London's One Aldwych and Carlisle Bay in Antigua, plans to open the 85-room Le Gray in spring 2009. Its rooftop pool and terrace lounge, overlooking Mount Lebanon and the Mediterranean, will likely become the next nightlife hot spot. Meanwhile, the Four Seasons also has a 230-room hotel launching in mid-2009 steps from the city's marina. The crystal-clear waters and white sands of Byblos are a mere 20 minutes away, home to fabulous beach clubs like La Voile Bleue and the Byblos Fishing Club, where Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando once noshed. Of course, whenever you plan to head off to a former war zone, make sure to check for travel warnings. But remember, you can't keep a great city down.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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