National Geographic : 1958 Apr
Luxury Hotels Line the Corniche, Beirut's Sea-front Boulevard Visitors approaching by sea might mistake the skyline for that of Miami Beach. Since World War II waterfront land has increased astronomically in price. Beirutis, proud of their un spoiled beaches, permit no one to build at the water's edge. To give guests access to the water, one hotel has built a tunnel under the Corniche. This view looks east across the city to the Lebanon Mountains. Trees dot the campus of the Amer ican University of Beirut at left. intersection, framed with flower shops displaying bright stocks of roses, lilies, irises, and carnations that overflowed onto the teeming sidewalks. Then we swayed into the Place des Martyrs, Beirut's largest and busiest square. As our little street car began to empty its cargo, we were invaded by another frantic mob of commuters trying to board. We rumbled past Ara bic movie theaters showing American films with French subtitles, and on toward Furn ash Shubbak. I began to study my fellow passengers. Prosperous-looking young Arabs in French-tailored suits mingled with tattered porters. Across the aisle sat a student wearing a flowing white headcloth, the Arab kaffiyeh. He chatted with an aged priest and a pretty Pak istani girl in a bright-red sari. Opposite me rode a Mos lem woman, anonymous in her black gown and a flowing veil not quite opaque enough to hide her indulgence in Western rouge and lip stick. "Marhaba," I ventured to the man in Arab dress sharing my cramped seat. "Hello." "Marhaba! Kif hallak?"-"Hello! How are you?" he shot back in a ringing mountain accent, a little surprised to hear Arabic from an obvious foreigner. "Mabsoot, wo inta?"-"Fine, and you?" "Kuayis"-"Very well." 484 "El yom fi shamis-jamil ktir," I tried: "It certainly is a nice sunny day." I was answered with an outpouring of confusing though ob viously friendly sounds. A book-laden student, seeing my plight, smiled and offered help. "He says he has many friends and relatives in America, and he wants to go there too some day," he translated. Hardly a family in all Lebanon is without at least one member in the United States or South America.