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Beirut, Rawsheh and Lighthouse

About what Metropolis are we talking? B’rt, Beryte, Berytus, Beirut? Bir-ut, the wells, one sees here the ancient wells and the vale carrying the water down to the sea just north of Mreisseh. Geologically speaking, Beirut is an island or peninsula of some 6km that the coastal rivers and sand-laden winds have attached to the roots of the hills.

Beirut – Phoenician, Assyrian, Babylonian, Pharaonic or Persian? Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Arab, or the present-day Lebanese embracing them all? A wonder of our planet, a miracle of Nature in this world of oriental mystery, the first law faculty in the time of the Romans, Beirut tells the story of civilization and of the gift to the world of the Phoenician values.

Palaces, temples, colonnades, cathedral, mosque, race-track once overlooking the sea, gateway of the Middle East and of all Asia, and capital of the great Lebanese nation! It stands on a geological platform six or seven kilometers long and three or four wide, a tectonic island that the sandy deposits of two rivers and of winds have brought into contact with the mainland. It reaches a height of some thirty meters at Ashrafiyeh and so offers a delightful viewpoint. Bordering the sea on one side is a narrow stretch dominated by the fine esplanade of Ashrafiyeh and to the east a background of hills and mountains that rise by stages to the soaring summits of divine Sannine with its eternal snows under a luminous blue sky.

The shore to the west and to the north is rocky, overhung by a cliff. Sandy beaches stretch towards Ramlet el-Baida towards the south, where lidos abound. This cape or peninsula of Ras Beirut is bordered on the west and the north by a parade or sea-front planted with palms and other trees which recall the Côte d’Azur. This is prolonged northward under the prestigious name of “avenue des Français”, meeting-place of all-Beirut, where in the evening people stroll, read, jog or relax in the cafés or on the benches under the foliage, each one according to his or her taste. On this front there stretch a great number of hotels, restaurants and buildings offering a maximum of comfort and luxury.

On the western extremity some rocks of great beauty and renown have been cut away by the waves. Two enormous piles rise from the water like some sphinx in the desert and recall the “Etretat” in France, having been separated from the mainland by the action of the billows. They stand like two armed sentinels before the capital, in front of an extended cliff varying between twenty and thirty meters high. One can reach these nearby towering islets by swimming or taking a boat.

The name of this site “the Rawsheh” is derived from the French word rocher, corrupted phonetically into Arabic as Rawsheh. Pigeons come to seek refuge on the walls and in a cave in these rocks, a fact which has given them the name of “grotte aux pigeons”. Popular rumor has it that here despairing individuals come to commit suicide by throwing themselves from the height. Professional sportsmen come here to show off their skills in front of a curious public. The rocks have become a picturesque subject for painters and orientalists and provide an incomparable viewpoint for tourists and passers-by.

On the seashore to the north of these rocks passing behind the American University of Beirut, or AUB, is the old Lighthouse, sticking up from among the houses and clearly visible from afar, so allowing ships and aircraft to fix their positions before coming into Beirut harbor or airport. This now has the back-up of a new modern beacon standing up from the sea, which however lacks, one must admit, the charm of the old one.

Text: Joseph Matar, William Matar, Kenneth Mortimer, André Delalande

- Beirut, Rawsheh: >> View Movie << (2004-05-01)
- Beirut, Rawsheh: >> View Movie << (2010-04-01)
- Beirut, Lighthouse
: >> View Movie << (2010-04-01)



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