Beirut Souks: The Old and the New

The word ‘Souk’ calls to mind a commingling of experiences: the scent of myriad spices, the flash and whirl of brightly colored fabric, the cry of a street vendor. As long as history has kept record of the Arab world, the Souk has had a place in it: as meeting grounds for desert-weary camel traders, the heart of a thriving barter culture or the cerebellum of the Caliphate, where information is passed and legends are born.

The Souk is the heart of any Middle Eastern city. And in Beirut, a city of glamour, fashion and exclusivity, the Souk is the pinnacle of all these things.  Souq al-Tawileh and Souq al-Jamil where a favorite shopping destination before the civil war and were frequented by Lebanese and Europeans alike since they housed fashionable boutiques and haute-couture houses, while Souk al-Franj functioned as Lebanon’s biggest fruit, vegetable and flower market. Though they were largely destroyed during the Civil War, they have today been brought back better than ever before.

Beirut Souks, today, at an Etoile District, brings Lebanon’s capital the very best in all things wow: designer jewelers fill the avenues and shop windows of the Gold Souk, while farther down the narrow avenues a strolling street-walker can find the highest caliber of clothing and accessories. Finally one comes to the end of the line, the restaurants and cafes: trendy, tasty and fit for a break, they are ideal for the end of a long day of shopping. While a now celebrated area at the Souks is Fakhry street, a progressive new step for Beirut’s already thriving downtown, providing space for previously unseen monobrand outlets for big names such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Chloe, Jimmy Choo among others.

The whole area is a hussle and bubble of fun, entertainment, shopping, food and more… attracting visitors from different parts of Lebanon, the region as well as other international tourists.  Anyone will enjoy the architecture of the area, even if buying or eating is not on your agenda. The historical aspect of the Souks has been integrated in the new design. Building materials have been selected using the finest Spanish marble designed in a herringbone pattern to decorate the walls of the Souks whereas especially cut black basalt was installed in all pedestrian streets.

Expressing the Bronze Age, also known as the Canaanite era, of the souks in the past, the frameworks of the shop fronts were finished with beautiful solid bronze. As for the Gold Souks, French marble adorn the walls, while granite carpets the floors under imported cedar wood. High ceilings of the arches in the souks are breathtaking… allowing fresh air to breeze its way to the visitors. Although modern, heritage of the different civilizations marking the Beirut Souks historic location from the Phoenician era until the French mandate is intact.

It’s really the place to be this summer!