Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

The shadows that lie behind Beirut’s glitzy façade

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Jouneih beachIn downtown Beirut, resurrected from the rubble of the 1975-90 civil war, one is spoilt for choice of smart restaurants, trendy bars and lively clubs. Performances by sexy Lebanese divas and belly dancers contribute generously to Lebanon’s gross domestic product by attracting Gulf Arab tourists enchanted with Lebanese talent and beauty — not necessarily in that order.

There is isn’t a single international designer who has not found his or her way to Beirut’s elegant boutiques and jewellery shops. On the other hand, Lebanese designers such as Elie Saab are dressing Hollywood stars these days.

On the streets of Beirut one can see the latest Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs jostling with Maseratis and Ferraris, even before they appear in Europe. Appearances aside, Lebanon has one of the best-educated peoples in the Middle East, with its young men and women having a global reach into the worlds of business, banking and academia.

It was comforting to see downtown Beirut teeming again with tourists enjoying the delights the city can offer. Beaches were packed with Beirutis in bikinis and hotels were overbooked with returning visitors who left during the crisis that erupted between the pro-Iranian opposition led by Lebanon’s influential Shi’ite Hezbollah and the U.S.-backed Sunni-led Lebanese government after the assassination in 2005 of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. This crisis has been put on hold following a Qatari-brokered agreement in May.

Has Syria come in from the cold?

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assad.jpgThe European-Mediterranean summit in Paris might have produced grand projects ranging from cleaning up the Mediterranean sea to using North Africa’s sunshine to generate power. But that is is not what it will be remembered for.

It will be remembered for the glorious welcome it bestowed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until yesterday was persona non-grata in the West, an autocrat leading a pariah regime, which many believe orchestrated the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.  

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