Beirut’s iconic Hotel Phoenicia reopens
By Noemí Jabois
Beirut, Oct 26 (EFE).- The iconic Hotel Phoenicia in Beirut has reopened after it was closed for over two years due to the severe damage caused by the port explosion that devastated the city in August 2020.
The five-star hotel opened 193 guest rooms and will host a vast array of cultural offerings.
It makes for a new beginning for this historic building that has survived the explosion, a civil war and a terrorist attack on its premises.
Inaugurated in 1961, the hotel was the first of the multinational InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to open in the Middle East. The building became a landmark in Lebanon.
On August 4, 2020 the city was devastated when hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate being stored in poor conditions at Beirut port exploded.
The blast killed over 200 people and wounded more than 7,000.
In the Phoenicia Hotel, there were no fatal victims, but the building suffered extensive damage and needed to be reconstructed.
Initially the damages did not look very serious, general manager Manrique Rodríguez told Efe in an interview, but after the reconstruction work started by the end of 2020 they realized all the facades needed to be changed.
Rodríguez, who was at the hotel when the explosion happened, refused to leave, even as the hotel suite where he lived with his family was left in shambles.
“I took the suite that was less damaged, we moved in for two nights there and then I asked the hotel’s technical team to clean everything, put wood in the windows and within three days we were back at our suite, sleeping there again,” he tells Efe.
He wanted to remain faithful to the hotel and the company, because for him “this hotel is not just the Phoenicia, it’s an institution in this country.”
He adds: “For the country, this hotel is very important.”
The hotel has had two reopenings in the past. The biggest one was in 2000, after it was completely destroyed during Lebanon’s civil war from 1975 to 1990.
Then in 2005, after it was damaged by the shockwave of the carb bomb explosion that killed former prime minister Rafic Hariri, and 21 others.
“The hotel also had to be closed for several months to be rebuilt, but the damage was not as severe as this time. In appearance they were very similar, but this one (the 2020 explosion) was stronger, because there was more internal damage than with the assassination of the prime minister,” said Rodriguez.
Another 253 rooms are still being reconstructed and are expected to be finished by April 2023. EFE