Beirut after the explosion: is it safe to travel?

Contextualising the Beirut explosion

For a country steeped in political strife and plagued by economic turmoil, the explosion of August 4 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It has galvanised various social movements calling for top-down upheaval. The Lebanese diaspora, which amounts to three times the population of Lebanon itself, have sent resources and cash back into the country, to bolster its defence against chaos.

How will Beirut change?

It is hard to quantify how the streets of Beirut are gong to change in the coming weeks and months. For decades, there have been regional tensions in the area, between bordering nations. However, over the last few years, Lebanon has played host to millions of travellers from overseas, myself included. Some months see over half a million visitors. 7% of Lebanon’s GDP comes from the tourism industry.

The Beirut explosion through the lens of… China and Sri Lanka

In 2008, an earthquake struck northern Sichuan with a force so great that it flattened four fifths of the buildings along its 155-mile fault line. Aftershocks persisted for years. Almost 90,000 people were counted as dead, and over 350,000 more injured.

When industry meddles

What followed in Sri Lanka was not textbook, with corruption, mismanagement and bureaucracy marring the road to recovery. Officials and capitalists used tourism as a vector to accrue wealth. In this case, international tourism was used as a vessel in which to drive through certain exclusionist policies. Holidaymakers won out; travellers and local residents now have far busier streets to contend with.

Where do you fit in?

Watch this space. Lebanon will soon leave the headlines, but the effects of the explosion will be felt by the people of Beirut for years. Once the flurry of international aid dies down, and everyone turns back to their TV screens, it will be down to those who care quietly, to help.



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Bruno Cooke

UK author/journalist writing about long distance cycle trips, cultural differences and global politics. Visit