A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Travel Lebanon: touring the country in 1965

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 21, 2007

This may come as a surprise, but I love books. I love getting lost in a story, and I love learning from what I read.

While I do not collect old books in the classic sense – first editions, signed copies, etc. – I do collect certain types of old books.

I love old travel guides – seeing the way in which countries I know today were presented for visitors’ consumption 20, 40, 80 years ago.

When I arrived home on Saturday, my latest guide (a very welcome Ebay purchase) was waiting for me:

 

 

travel-lebanon-ii.JPG

Travel Lebanon was published in 1965 by the Librarie du Liban. 42 years ago the country was very different: no civil war, no Hizbullah, no Israeli occupation. Its difficult for me to even look at the country map provided without “reading” the names of towns (Sidon, Jounieh) and regions (the Bekaa) in the context of their contemporary associations.

The book is fascinating for several reasons – not least because it is a pre-civil war guide that does not describe Lebanon as the “Switzerland of the Middle East”. Its author, Kay Showker, is an American born to a Lebanese father. She had lived in Beirut for several years by the time she wrote Travel Lebanon, and I suspect that she knew just how hollow that phrase was.

One of the things that makes this guidebook so interesting to me is the way it weights the city in terms of its interest for visitors (and expatriates – the guide addresses both).

Look at this city map:

beirut-iii.JPG

Notice where all the activity is?

 

west-beirut.JPG

All the sites of interest are on the west side – Achrafiyyeh is almost entirely blank:

east-beirut.JPG

West Beirut’s attractions go beyond the religious, of course – it has the ocean and AUB (perhaps a French-language guide would have found more of note in Francophone Achrafiyyeh).

Still, though – it brought to mind something my friend L had reported another friend saying: “Foreigners who come to Beirut always want to live with Muslims”.

Maybe that’s just because the Muslim neighborhoods are more interesting. East Beirut may have the bars, but West Beirut has the theatres (and, pre-war, the cinemas).

Travel Lebanon has many other gems to offer, such as this description of the Phoenicia Hotel:

phoenicia.JPG

 

And, of course, this lovely photograph of “Lebanese beauties in their native costumes”. So this is what Lebanese women looked like before plastic surgery and mini-skirts:

lebanese-beauties.JPG

Advertisements

5 Responses to “Travel Lebanon: touring the country in 1965”

  1. If I understand the stories I’ve heard correctly, Ashrafieh was always considered as a non-commercial, residential area of Beirut before the war. Many people have described the area during that era as a “suburb.” Even today, it is primarily residential. Few tourists visit Ashrafieh for anything other than a visit to a restaurant (I don’t think Monnot counted as Ashrafieh in that era, and Gemmayze is not considered as being a part of Ashrafieh). There aren’t even universities in Ashrafieh.

    Government ministries are spread out across the capital landscape, but notice how few ministeries there are in Ashrafieh. The Foreign Ministry is in Sursock, but that’s it. And Sursock isn’t really Ashrafieh.

    The downtown was the center of Beirut life, but Hamra was the center of Beirut intellectual life. It is not surprising that the English-speaking author would find a home for herself in West Beirut. What is surprising is that she finds nothing of interest in downtown Beirut.

    Are you going to bring the guide with you?

  2. Mmm good point about Achrafiyyeh being so residential. I hadn’t considered that.

    Of course I am taking the guide 🙂 (I think it merits some in situ comparisons) and will bring it to supper on Friday if I remember.

  3. […] Travel Lebanon: touring the country in 1965Travel Lebanon was published in 1965 by the Librarie du Liban. 42 years ago the country was very different: no civil war, no Hizbullah, no Israeli occupation. Its difficult for me to even look at the country map provided without … Posted in Lebanon | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of Page […]

  4. […] Travel Lebanon: touring the country in 1965Travel Lebanon was published in 1965 by the Librarie du Liban. 42 years ago the country was very different: no civil war, no Hizbullah, no Israeli occupation. Its difficult for me to even look at the country map provided without … Posted in Lebanon | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of Page […]

  5. […] Travel Lebanon: touring the country in 1965Travel Lebanon was published in 1965 by the Librarie du Liban. 42 years ago the country was very different: no civil war, no Hizbullah, no Israeli occupation. Its difficult for me to even look at the country map provided without … […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: