The two Beiruts (Beirutein)
Beirut, more than ever, has become a city of contradictions. South Beirut has long been densely packed, poor and religious, home to Lebanese Shia and Palestinian Sunni. Downtown and adjacent Christian neighborhoods are bastions of European-inspired secularism, high-end dining and conspicuous consumption. Today, the contrast is yet more stark, after Israel’s 33-day war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that draws its support from South Beirut and South Lebanon. Destroyed apartment blocks lie in rubble, or have already been cleared away by Hezbollah’s fast-acting contractors. Cars weave around tangled ruins of highway overpasses, apparently, one of Israel’s favorite targets. Billboards announce in English, “Made is USA,” below photos of the destruction. Indeed, the United States made the bombs and Israel dropped them.
Just a few kilometers away, affluent Lebanese promenade on clean sidewalks, untouched by the war. All 12 Starbucks locations have reopened, as has TGI Friday's, the sushi restaurants and the wine bars.