Beirut Express

This post was previously published on Sketchbook magazine's blog on 17 May 2010. For the original post, please click here.

Memories flood back at my old campus’ empty classroom at the American University of Beirut.

The Charles W. Halston Students Centre at AUB, designed as a smoke-free area in the campus, is practically unheard of in all of Beirut - much like banning smoking in a bar in Paris.

One of the best baklawa shops down the corniche area of ROUCHE, Beirut.

Military presence around all corners of Lebanon is second nature.

DE PRAGUE is one of the fairly new bohemian haunts in Hamra frequented by AUB students and faculty, hosting independent film nights and gigs.

Lebanon has by far the largest proportion of Christians of any Arab country with approximately 40% Christians and 59% Muslims.

Summer weddings happen by the dozen everyday - while a Christian wedding was about to begin, two steps down, a Muslim bride was just walking out of her own.

SAIFI VILLAGE, an artsy commercial residential area in central Beirut featuring modern French (Lebanon previously being a French colony) and Spanish architecture, hosts the boutiques of product designer NADA DEBS and other local designers and artists’ galleries.

The juxtaposition of the old and new that is quintessentially Beirut can best be seen in its architecture. Several old buildings in Beirut, including these in the popular pubbing and lounging area of Gemayzeh, are still covered in bullet holes from the war.

Taking parts and making fake duplicates is a popular ‘pastime’ in the outskirts of Beirut. You can get yourself a good deal on certain car parts..

Practically anything and everything in Beirut can be delivered to your doorstep. Here’s a place that delivers Sheesha or ‘Argileh’, including a change of coal, for less than $5.00.

One of the most famous sandwich shops in the American University of Beirut’s neighborhood of Hamra, ABOU AFIF SANDWICHES, has become a favourite stop for all students and alumni. Call it serendipity but I managed to bump into the older brother of architect ZAHA HADID (Hadid is a fellow AUB alumni) while waiting for my order.