It was a one hour flight from Amman to Beirut. After checking in to Le Patio Boutique Hotel we went for a walk around the Downtown area. We were staggered to see all the graffiti caused by the rioters. (Having been away during October and November, we were unaware of the civil unrest).
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Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque
The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque is a Sunni mosque located in Martyrs’ Square. It was built between 2002 and 2007 by late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who is buried in its cemetery. It was inaugurated by his son Saad Hariri on October 17, 2008. According to architect, Azmi Fakhuri, the blue-domed mosque is of Ottoman inspiration, copying the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. Beirut is the most religiously diverse city of Lebanon and in all of the Middle East, with Christians and Muslims both having a significant presence.
Around Martyrs’ Square
Saifi Village - commonly referred to as Le Quartier des Arts, due to its numerous art galleries, antique stores, artisan shops, and specialty boutiques - is an upscale, residential neighbourhood in Beirut. The neighbourhood was completely destroyed during the war. However, Solidere has rebuilt the neighbourhood and restored its historic, French-colonial buildings and winding cobblestoned streets. The buildings are painted in various pastel colours. However, there still remains some derelect buildings as a memory of its scarred past.Unfortunately, areas around the government buildings were shut off with rolled wire and the streets were heavily guarded so we couldn’t get to see the Lebanese Parliament buildings, the Roman Bath Ruins, the Grand Serail (Government Palace), nor the Nejmeh Square Clock Tower which is one the few historic structures that have survived the Civil War (1975-1990) without any damage.
At the lower end of Martrys’ Square are the ruins of medieval arches that are said to belong to the Palace of Emir Fakhreddine II. They were discovered after the Civil War. The site is dated to 1600.
Roman Cardo Maximus
Roman Cardo Maximus, the five Roman columns - remnants of a Roman market in Beirut - were discovered in 1963, next to the Maronite Cathedral of Saint George in downtown area. The columns are dated to the second century AD.
Martyrs’ Square, in the heart of downtown Beirut has a central statue that commemorates Lebanese nationalists who were hanged during World War I by the Ottomans. In the 19th century, the square was known as Place des Canons. During World War I, Lebanon was under Ottoman rule. In 1915, Lebanon suffered from a food shortage due to Ottoman Turks confiscating food from the local population, swarms of locust invading the country, and western blockade by the Allies, intended to starve the Turks out. A revolt against the Turks broke out which resulted in hanging of many intellectuals and nationalists on 6 May 1916 in the renamed Martyrs’ Square. Some remains of the old Cinema Opera building (now a Virgin Megastore) and the bronze Martyrs statue are the only features left of the Martyrs' Square. The statue was inaugurated on March 6, 1960. Thre are many bullet holes in the statues.
We wandered around the desserted streets of downtown. As a result of the protests there were very few tourists. Many shops and over 300 restaurants had been forced into closure. The streets in central Beirut were empty at night. There was evidence of new modern building such as the five storey North Souks department store designed by the famous Zaha Hadid. (Unfortunately, it was badly damaged by a fire on 15th September, 2020).