Phoenicia Hotel: A legendary landmark of Beirut

Karen Athwal
Editor Made in Beirut
12th November 2013

In 1961, a luxurious five-star property opened in the heart of Beirut. A place that welcomed the rich and famous; Royalty, celebrities and an elite Intrnational crowd had raised its standards as the place to see and be seen in. However, nobody saw the turmoil that lay ahead for the city and this beloved establishment...

From the moment the Phoenicia Hotel opened it became an instant hit with the elite of Lebanese society. It was indeed the most fashion address on the Mediterranean and one that attracted an exclusive International crowd.

From royalty to International celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale, everybody wanted to join in the extravagant parties that took place inside the walls of the establishment. During those early days, the hotel was Beirut's star attraction, the place where stars like Shirley Bassey came to entertain the crowd, who sipped on cocktails and danced the night away. 

A country at war

Then, the civil war in Lebanon broke out in 1975, unleashing violence and bloodshed that would go on for 15  years. The city was in turmoil and although the hotel remained open for the first year of the war, in 1976 it was forced to shutdown as the violence around it only worsened. 

When the war finally came to an end in 1990, the hotel was in a severely damaged state and badly burned, but the structure remained. In the late 1990's, the board of directors decided to restore the hotel to it's former glory days. So, in 2000 the Phoenicia Hotel re-opened it's doors under the management of the founder's grandson Najob Salha. The new decor created a chic and modern feel to the hotel, with Middle Eastern touches throughout the interiors of the hotel. Luxurious rooms, gourmet restaurants, hip bars and night-clubs and high-end shopping returned the Phoenicia to it's former high status. 

Another tragedy

Unfortunately, five years after the re-opening, another tragedy struck the hotel. A car bomb was detonated outside the hotel, killing the Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and once again, damaging the building. The devestation did not last for long this time, the city has risen above the tragedies that has marked the country for so long, restoring peace throughout.

As for the Phoenicia, as history has proven, nothing can stop it from claiming it's rightful status as the most beloved hotel in the city for very long. 

It may not be 1961, but the true essence of the hotel still remains and the Phoenicia lives on in exactly the same place it has stood for 50 years. 

Text Karen Athwal


Karen Athwal
Editor Made in Beirut
12th November 2013

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