Friday, September 01, 2006

Pre-war Beirut wins high honor from travel magazine

Pre-war Beirut wins high honor from travel magazine
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: To be filed away under "oh so bitterly ironic," the globetrotting lifestyle magazine Travel + Leisure has published its annual list of the world's 10 best cities - and Beirut clocks in at number nine.

The list is based on a survey of 23,000 readers who evaluate some 500,000 hotels, resorts, cruise lines, travel agencies, airlines and more for a round of specialized awards, which serve to buttress the best city awards. This is the first time Beirut has made the cut, though obviously the magazine went to print before the bombs started falling on fabulous destination number nine. The nod from Travel + Leisure comes late in the game of glossy magazines rediscovering Beirut after the end of Lebanon's Civil War. Publications ranging from Conde Nast Traveler and The Financial Times to Wallpaper, the art magazine Frieze and the design magazine Metropolis have all run features on Beirut in recent years. These and other articles like them often follow a predictable pattern - reference the destruction of the Civil War in the first sentence, remind readers that Beirut was once the "Paris of the Middle East" or the "Pearl of the Orient" in the second, and then make clever use of the "phoenix rising from the ashes" metaphor when explaining Beirut's postwar reconstruction (at least this format will require only marginal updating next time around). Still, the Travel+ Leisure win is significant, in that is stems from actual reader feedback. It just hit the newsstands a little late.

The news footage of tens of thousands of foreigners fleeing Beirut's shores on evacuation vessels has no doubt harmed the city's potential as a tourist destination on the make, to say nothing of the damage done by 34 days of heavy Israeli bombardment and a continuing blockade that is prohibiting all air travel into Beirut except through the corridor to Amman. The top-10 list includes the likes of New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney and Rome (another Italian city, Florence, took top honors). - The Daily Star

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