The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Sights & Travel

Cairo to Beirut: Everything You Need to Know

Cairo to Beirut: Everything You Need to Know
    written by
    Nour Motawa

    As much as we love Cairo, a visit to Beirut will have you
    asking why you weren’t in on the secret earlier. The truth is, Beirut is the
    closest place to heaven available in the Middle East; not only is it much more
    manageable in terms of size, traffic and population; but its charming streets
    are also packed with more shopping outlets, amazing restaurants, cultural
    venues and nightlife options than anyone could need in a lifetime. Just an hour
    and a half’s flight from Cairo, Beirut
    is the perfect city to get away from it all and enjoy the best that the Middle East has to offer.

    Getting There

    Middle East Airlines flies to Beirut from
    Cairo International
    Airport twice a day every day and
    Egypt Air flies to Beirut from Cairo two to three times per day. Prices for
    flights average at 2000LE round trip, depending on the day and season. Air
    offers discounted flights priced at about 1300LE from Alexandria’s Borg El Arab International Airport
    several times a week. Once you’re there, your sole mode of transportation is
    via taxis. Ordering a taxi through your hotel’s reception may be ten times
    more expensive than it should- and you will have to haggle a lot. To avoid this,
    ask a local for a cheaper taxi service: we recommend Queen Taxi.

    Where to Stay

    Although it’s much smaller than Cairo, Beirut has a wealth of distinct neighbourhoods
    offering diverse experiences for visitors. If you are a die-hard party-goer,
    consider staying in Gemayze, a hip Beirut
    quarter swarming with amazing nightlife, stylish cafés and beautiful people.
    For proximity to Beirut’s
    huge shopping mall, ABC, get an address in the Achrifiyeh neighbourhood: we recommend the very reasonably priced Golden Tulip Hotel De Ville. Or choose one of the fabulous luxury hotels in Beirut’s recently revived
    Solidere area. For a more relaxed atmosphere, choose a hotel in Hamra, which is
    home to the American University in Beirut
    as well as some of the city’s best restaurants. If you are a group of girls on
    a budget, try booking a room at the local YWCA in Ain Mreisse near Hamra, where
    clean and secure rooms come cheap.

    Dining Out

    It is nearly impossible to spend time in Beirut without gaining multiple kilograms, as
    the food is far too delicious to resist. Must-try items include mana’eesh,
    local ice cream and salads and grilled meats of all varieties. Mana’eesh should
    be eaten fresh from the oven at street stands: try the zaatar with labnah or
    halloumi cheese; you won’t regret it.

    For a cheap meal, try Kebabji, a local chain with branches around the
    city serving up succulent shish tawouk, kofta and kabab. Be careful when
    ordering, though: in Lebanese, Arabic kofta means kabab, and kabab means kofta!
    If you’re in Solidere, definitely eat at Al Balad and try their lahmah bi ajinah. For a modern twist on Middle Eastern classics visit Café Blanc, a funky café in ABC Mall and Hamra. If you enjoy brunch, try
    Hamra’s City Café, a cute local hangout that serves a delicious Sunday brunch
    in a relaxed setting.

    Things to Do

    If you visit Beirut during the summer,
    plan for poolside lounging at one of Beirut’s
    glamorous beach resorts (such as Edde Sands), or head to the mountains to escape the summer heat as
    well. Also check out the Palace
    of Beit El Din
    , where an
    annual summer concert series features some of the best-known Arab musicians from
    Marcel Khalife to Fairouz. Other attractions include the Jeita Grotto, an
    amazing area of caves, and the Church of Our Lady of Harissa at Jounieh, which can
    be reached by cable car and features sweeping views of the city. If you have
    time, consider taking a day trip to the breathtaking ruins of Baalbeck, a three-hour
    drive from Beirut.

    Head down to the Corniche for a long and leisurely stroll by the sea or to
    Downtown, where old buildings that survived the recent civil war mingle with
    the newly built area and Solidere. A spin around Hamra will reveal adorable
    shops and cafés. Check out Artisanal, a shop carrying locally made handicrafts,
    and Al Inaash, a collective that sells gorgeous Palestinian embroidery produced
    by women from Beirut’s
    refugee camps.

    Culture aside, shopping at ABC mall and the shops in Downtown’s Solidere
    area is not to be missed, where everything from Armani to Marc Jacobs is on
    offer. Aishti in Solidere houses the best of designer clothing all under one
    fabulous roof. If you are looking for gold jewellery; consider stopping in at
    one of the shops in Hamra; Beirut’s
    jewellers offer delicate pieces crafted with a chic subtlety.

    Nightlife options in Beirut
    are extensive. Famous hot spots include the original Skybar, an open-air
    rooftop overlooking the sea that seems to have been replicated almost exactly
    in its Egyptian North Coast
    branch. There’s also White, a local classic frequented by the city’s hottest
    people, and B0-18, a dark yet trendy underground club. Head down to Monot Street in
    Gemayze, where a plethora of bars and clubs beckons, including Alkazar, Gem and

    However you choose to spend your time in Beirut,
    you will be begging to come back for more: this city is beyond amazing and so
    close to Cairo;
    that a long weekend in Levantine heaven is never out of reach.