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LEBANON REAWAKING

Lebanon and Beirut are names that can conjure up many impressions, mostly unfavorable once of civil war and kidnappings. The reality in 2000 is that modern-day Beirut is trying to resume its role as the Paris of the Middle East, the sophisticated social and deal-making capital of the Arab world. Immediate impression upon arrival in Beirut are of an airport terminal built for the 21 St century and of a taxi ride through a gigantic construction site. Tower cranes clutter the skyline as the buildings damaged by 18 years of war are torn down and rebuilt to form a new city center.

Now with the withdrawal of the Israeli forces, Lebanon's economic and political situation is becoming more stable. Overseas investors return, the infrastructure of the country is restored and the country recovers from a long years of civil war. The continuos peace process are bringing hopes that a lasting peace settlement can be achieved.

Beirut before the civil war was one of the most sophisticated cities in the Middle East. At the crossroads between east and west, it was where Arabs from all over the Middle East and westerners met to do business and socialize. Leisure yachting had its place in the business and social scene. As early as 1960 the government encouraged the construction of marinas. The first marina in Lebanon was opened by the Automobile Touring Club of Lebanon. It's now full with 500 boats and yachts.

Lebanon is unique among developing boating markets in having an existing network of marinas that have survived years of trouble intact. A total of nine marinas in the Lebanon gives berthing capacity for about 2000 boats. Most are filling up, but new projects are coming on stream. New facilities are being developed near the city center, while a massive project with a capacity for 1700 berths is under construction near Beirut's airport.

Anyone who had doubted about Lebanon as a growth leisure boating market, would have had these doubts dispelled if they visited the 1999 Lebanon Boat Show. This was held at the new Le Marina Joseph Khoury. Most exhibitors rated the show as a success. With over 600 berth available by now, the marina is a good show venue. Although much of the complex is still under construction, the basic infrastructure was in place and well able to accommodate the out outdoor show. Eventually, the marina will be the central theme of a large leisure complex with hotels, apartment blocks and shopping malls. And this year the Beirut Boat Show 2000, was organized by partnership between, Germany- based Messe Dusseldorf and Beirut based exhibition company International Fairs and Promotions. The show was held late May, reported as considerable successes with 90 exhibitors from all over the world and 10.000 visitors.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Paris-based boat shoe company Read-OIP has revealed its latest project, the Beirut International Boat show, to take place in the city in 2001.

The main factor in the growth of the Lebanese boating market will be signing of peace agreement with Israel. Once this occurs the economy should surge ahead and Beirut will be on track to resuming its role as the "Paris of the Middle East".


17/9/2000

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