With 6,000 long years of history, Beirut has its roots in antiquity. Its national heritage is ancient, for digging has revealed precious indications of its glorious past, illuminating a succession of great civilizations.
Precious discoveries made in the depths of its soil have opened new horizons of knowledge, bringing to light the greatness of Beirut in Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Ottoman times and finally as capital of Lebanon.
It had the world’s first Faculty of Law and was ennobled by temples, monuments, churches, mosques and fine constructions often embellished by superb mosaics. Following the recent tragic events and the massive destruction it has undergone, Beirut is coming to life again, providing itself with a modern working infrastructure, gardens in flower, open squares, streets, gushing fountains and shimmering basins of crystal water, and finally the sight of ancient buildings with their splendor restored. Once again there is life everywhere. The center of the city may be compared to the palm of a hand, from which like so many fingers streets and boulevards radiate outwards towards the residential quarters, among which must be counted Saifi, known as Saifi Village. Here a harmonious assembly of buildings have once again donned their original, traditional, Lebanese oriental aspect, the pleasant dwellings being integrated into their appropriate environment.
The triple arcades, the wooden window-frames, the arabesques, the old wrought iron, the pillars, the diverse simple but beautiful decorations display themselves under the red tiles with colors ranging from reddish ochre and yellow to white and blue. Everything is there to reveal the charm of the buildings while safeguarding their authentic local intimacy, not forgetting the many verdant spaces where banana trees, olive trees, palm trees, orange trees and others of more exotic kind embrace each other over green lawns.
The Saifi district, which once included Souq al-Najjarin, Carpenters’ Street, has now become a residential quarter. As for the shops whose fronts open on the little streets and passages, they are now art galleries, antique and souvenir shops, bookshops, cafés and restaurants. Here linger tourists, passers-by and the simply curious, flowing along by day and by night and like a swarm of bees giving life to the capital. Beirut is still the Pearl of the East, a light throwing its glow over the entire Mediterranean and the dream town of millions of holiday-makers.
Text: Joseph Matar - Translated from French: K.J.Mortimer