Want to avoid the crowds? Head to a city or country on the State Department watch list. Want to avoid crowds and stay safe? Head to a city that used to be.
History moves faster than the travel industry and the best places to visit are often yesterday's war zones. The main reason the pendulum swings so far so fast is that tourists are a tremendous boon to struggling economies and are generally welcomed with open arms in places where unrest has led to instability. That makes traveling to formerly dangerous places smart for both selfish and humanitarian reasons.
Why You Didn't Want to Go: Beirut has been consumed by violence on a regular basis since Lebanon achieved independence after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The latest full-scale conflict was the 2006 Lebanon War, which saw Israeli lobbing missiles at the city's southern suburbs. The bombing has ended but terrorist attacks have continued to be a consistent problem.
Why You Want to Go Now: "The Paris of the East" got its nickname for a reason. The city is cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and – as if that wasn't enough – on the beach. Beirut is famous for its clubs (check out La Plage) and it's beautiful women, but the real selling point is its neighborhoods, which feel intimate and welcoming. Also the food. Everyone likes Lebanese food.
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