The Escape | Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon

BY Harper's BAZAAR Interiors / Oct 23 2019 / 15:46 PM

The historic Phoenicia Hotel recalls Beirut’s most glamorous days as the Paris of the Middle East

The Escape | Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon
Courtesy of The Phoencia Hotel, Beirut
An interior view of a presidential suite at The Phoencia Hotel

As soon as you step inside Beirut’s Phoenicia Hotel you’ll get a whiff of the old school Oriental glamour that once made it a celebrity magnet. Built in 1961 by Lebanese businessman Najib Salha, who founded La Société des Grands Hotels du Liban (SGHL) in 1953, the building’s glittering hallways and opulent décor hosted the A-list in utmost style - think Kings, Queens, prominent businessmen and statesmen.

During the city’s golden pre-civil war years, this was the place to be and be seen. Its idyllic location, positioned a five-minute walk from the sea and city corniche, is also nearby to Hamra, with its many art galleries and cafés.

An interior view of a penthouse at The Phoencia Hotel

Courtesy of The Phoencia Hotel, Beirut

The hotel’s original design is by the noted American architect Edward Durell Stone, working alongside architect Joseph Karam and local architects Ferdinand Dagher and Rodolphe Elias. It is filled with Levantine influences found in its sweeping staircases, large palatial pillars and elegant high ceilings. The original interiors were enlisted to Neal Prince of the New York’s William M Ballard firm while the magnificent presidential suite, with its crisp blue accents and lavish décor, is the work of Martin Hulbert Design.

As is the case of most of Beirut’s most eminent landmarks, the hotel was destroyed during the civil war (1975-6) and became the battleground during fight that was known as the Battle of the Hotels, which left it burnt-out and severely in ruins. It was then abandoned for nearly 25 years until the late 1990s when Mazen and Marwan Salha, sons of the owner, decided to restore it to its former glory.

The grand staircase of the Phoencia Hotel

Courtesy of The Phoencia Hotel, Beirut

In 2000 it opened once again as the Phoenicia Intercontinental Beirut after a $100m restoration by architects Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum. A third tower was opened in July 2003 consisting of 35 luxury apartments. But again, in 2005, it was damaged as a result of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in the street directly in front of the hotel.

The hotel has stood the test of time. In 2011, it underwent a $50m revamp coinciding with its 50-year anniversary. Today you’ll find 480 guest rooms and luxurious suites filled wonderful amenities decorated in an old Hollywood style with touches of Mediterranean glamour.

An old photograph  of the exterior of the Phoenicia Hotel

Courtesy of The Phoencia Hotel, Beirut

There’s nothing quite like spending a day out by the swimming pool, surrounded by its arched colonnade and magnificent fountain and artful mosaics covering the floor of the pool or relishing in the Arabic feast for breakfast in the Mosaic Restaurant.

Then there’s the art collection that dresses the hotel in masterpieces by international Arab and international artists, including works by Howard Hodgkin, Sam Francis, Paul Morrison and Richard Long. This longstanding Beirut landmark gives a nod to the country’s beautiful past just as much as it stands steadfast in the present, preserving the beauty, glamour and art that set Beirut apart from everywhere else.

Suites start at Dhs 2,200.