Will Fighting Spare The Paris Of The Middle East?

Beirut, thoroughly rebuilt and rejuvenated since the Lebanese civil war, has been heavily damaged in the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, although there is still hope that its downtown may be spared.
July 21, 2006, 12pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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"Beirut's infrastructure -- from its bridges to its international airport -- has been badly damaged and nearly 200 people have been killed, most of them civilians.

Lebanese were stunned at how fast the clock was turned back. Many grew up amid the 1975-1990 civil war, when Beirut went from the 'Paris of the Middle East' to a no man's land of bombed-out buildings, snipers and constant fear.

Most Lebanese had been intensely proud of their country's efforts to rebuild since then. Many pointed in particular to Beirut's rejuvenated downtown with its cobblestone streets, sidewalk cafes and warm yellow-stoned buildings beside the sparkling Mediterranean.

For a while, it felt like Beirut was rising.

In the downtown area, called Solidere by many after the company formed to oversee its reconstruction, the shells of charred buildings were renovated with their original stone restored. Fancy boutiques cropped up.

Today, downtown is eerily silent although the sea still sparkles nearby. Fancy stores and restaurants are shuttered. Most Lebanese just hope the latest fighting will somehow continue to spare this heart of Beirut."

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Published on Monday, July 17, 2006 in WTOP
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