A piece of canvas barely conceals the sign for the new Hilton Hotel in downtown Beirut. A grand opening is planned for this month according to an industry report–and it’s just in time. Lebanon is finally expected to have a peaceful summer. Thousands of tourists are reportedly on their way: flights are packed and accommodations are increasingly hard to come by. The country’s beleaguered tourism industry is hoping for a major comeback after two consecutive summer conflicts.
If all goes according to plan, this will be the first Hilton to open its door in Beirut, but not the first built in the city. The original Beirut Hilton was built in the 1970s and scheduled to open just before the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. Instead of a grand opening for tourists, the new hotel was overrun by militias who quickly turned the Hilton, the Intercontinental and the just-built Holiday Inn into bullet-riddled battle positions. By the early 1990s, the central part of town and its luxury establishments were gutted. When reconstruction began at that time, investors decided that the old Hilton, although never used, was beyond repair. A video of the demolition can be found here.
Today downtown Beirut is again poised to be hot destination on the Mediterranean. The new Hilton is flanked by a number of other luxury hotels and apartment towers that are quickly being readied for business.