A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

American in Beirut

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 12, 2008

H and I walked through the Gefinor Center the other night after one of us had a craving for Sbarro.

Does that say “American Airlines”? H asked, stopping and turning for a better view.

I doubt it, I said. But I was wrong. Still, it didn’t make sense: American airlines are allowed to fly in and out of only a very limited number of Middle Eastern countries – and Lebanon certainly isn’t one of them.

On the other hand, we couldn’t quite believe that a pre-war American Airlines office had survived not only the civil war but also the past 17 years of reconstruction. The Gefinor’s businesses do seem like a step back in time, but the early 1970s is a pretty big step.

The office did look pretty old, though. And very closed.

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We peered in the windows while the Gefinor’s security staff peered curiously at us. But what we saw wasn’t particularly enlightening.

We have no idea when this office was last used: the floating staircase says 1960s, the posters on the wall could be from the 1970s, while the office furniture looks more mid-1990s. But it is definitely not open now.

However it is, or at least it was, the closest thing to an American Airlines office in Beirut. You can see the listing on “BuyUSA.gov“, the United States Commercial Service website. The airline operates through a “local representative”, Panasiatic Travel, whose address is indeed the Gefinor Center.

I never fly American Airlines – I grew up in a United Airlines-flying family. So even if the local office were still open, it wouldn’t be of much use to me.

But I would definitely stop by – one of those vintage posters would look great framed.

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