When the beaming smiles of the doormen at Four Seasons Hotel Beirut dazzle their very first guests, the city will take another quantum step forward in its renaissance as a 21st century metropolis. There are few in Beirut who won’t share the uniformed front men’s sense of pride; ten years in the planning and five years under construction, the Hotel opens as a gleaming statement of intent for the whole country: Come experience warm, genuine Lebanese hospitality.
Nowhere is the city’s unique energy more intensely felt than through its own people – a proud culture with an indomitable spirit and an insatiable zest for life. The newest Four Seasons has filtered this energy down to its purest form, with over 300 local recruits amplifying the warm welcome found on the streets outside.
“I always look for the fire in the eyes of any prospective new recruit,” says General Manager Stefan Simkovics – a 40+ year veteran of the hotel industry, nearly 16 of them with Four Seasons – “but I have never seen such fire as I have here in Beirut. Every hotel has the flowers, the decoration, the facilities… But here it is the team that shines the brightest.”
From the moment of arrival in the pristine driveway, the welcome is as luminescent as the glittering light that bounces off the adjacent Mediterranean. Interiors inspired by local traditions are equally inviting: from the Lebanese artwork, carved screens and gilded calligraphy of the lobby to the buzzing Boulevard lounge that tempts visitors with the rich aromas of a European café and sofas designed for hours of conversation.
In the vibrant streets surrounding the Hotel, friendly faces await all visitors. A few minutes’ walk away, downtown Beirut – resplendent with its restored architecture and branded boutiques – epitomizes the city’s reincarnation. A rich maze of ochre alleys capped with red-tiled roofs reveal a muddle of art galleries and antique shops, cafés and restaurants. Brightly lit at night, magic and intrigue burst from every doorway.
Throughout the Hotel, the magic continues in the quality of details: from a prime cut of Executive Chef Ossola’s Charolais beef on the The Grill Room’s marina-view terrace (try it with a glass of Domaine Wardy, Private Selection 2004 from Lebanon’s Bekáa Valley) to the heavenly homemade truffles that accompany coffees beneath The Bar’s dramatic red and gold chandelier. Large terraces are standard in all 230 guest rooms and suites. The Spa, a cool statement of white marble and gold mosaics, has a suede-panelled couple’s suite with private terrace and Jacuzzi. And the rooftop pool – a glittering 26th floor oasis with 360 degree views – towers above the raucous cityscape like a suspended haven of tranquillity.
A crack team of concierges holds the key to the sum of 5000 years of cultural creativity: insider access to fashion shows and art exhibitions as well as the city’s never-ending programme of concerts and festivals. Elsewhere, religious architecture, Phoenician ruins, beachside bars and world-leading nightclubs are served up against the sublime backdrop of the Lebanon Mountains in areas that range from the achingly modern to the gritty and pock-marked. “I always tell people that wherever you are in Beirut, you can feel the magic,” laughs Simkovics. “It is one of the sexiest cities in the world: enticing, vain, scarred, beautiful, complex and exciting.”