Beirut, a battleground in the 1980s, is in the midst of a new uprising. Rather than the violence that residents became accustomed to over the past half century, the city’s foundations are being shaken by a groundswell of regeneration that is starting at street level.
The coastal Lebanese city, once the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is now being described as a “phoenix from the ashes” by property experts and global investors.
As well as the presence of large multinational companies such as the drinks giant Diageo, or tobacco distribution firm Sarkis, a younger crowd is setting up in the city centre accompanied by digital start-ups and a developing creative industry.
Once a war-torn shell of a city, Beirut is among a handful of places around the world that have rebounded quickly from devastation and destruction to become flourishing 21st-century cities.
“Beirut is becoming a centre of alternative trade in the Middle East and enjoying a new position in the region,” said Yolande Barnes, head of international research at Savills.
Property prices are starting to rise, albeit from a very low base, driven up by a lack of supply to meet the new demand.
“In the upmarket quarter [in the city centre, now regarded to be safe] a two-bedroom apartment can cost around $500,000 (£331,774).
It also possesses a historical legacy that has defied the civil war that raged from 1976 to 1990 – and has led to an underlying movement of urbanism.
“It’s a rising star on the world stage and although it is not widely or heavily invested in yet it has the potential to be,” said Ms Barnes.
Damac Properties, real estate investors in Dubai, have spotted the potential and built the Damac Tower (pictured below) in the centre of Beirut, a 28-floor luxury building with interiors designed by Versace, demonstrating the old wealth in the city.
“There is a lot of money in Beirut but also an attitude that there is no point rebuilding as it will only get knocked down again, hence much of the wealth has traditionally been channelled into partying and fast cars,” said a former British army intelligence officer.
“However, there is a growing concern about the Syria overspill,” he said, referring to ongoing unrest in the neighbouring country. There have also been examples of violence in recent years, such as a car bomb that killed 22 people in November 2013 (pictured below).
Ms Barnes sees Beirut as the new Berlin, which is far further down the line in terms of post-conflict regeneration. “Both these cities have a character that belies their past,” she said.