THE 44 PLACES TO GO IN 2009 - Beirut Number #1

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January 11, 2009 By The New York Times

With a recent (though perhaps tenuous) detente keeping the violence in check, the capital of Lebanon is poised to reclaim its title as the Paris of the Middle East.

Two hotels scheduled to open later this year are raising the luxury quotient - the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut and Le Gray, the latter from the people behind One Aldwych in London - and a clutch of high-profile restaurants are transforming the city's culinary scene.

Traditional Lebanese cooking finds its apotheosis at the cozy Al-Ajami restaurant, while the glitterati settles into Hussein Hadid's Kitchen, run by a nephew of the architect Zaha Hadid.
But nothing symbolizes the city's gastro-political awakening like Souk el-Tayeb, Beirut's first farmers' market. The market, founded in 2004, reconciles Lebanon's warring factions through their common love of their country's food.


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