Le Gray Hotel, Beirut

Beirut has been in the process of rebuilding for twenty years.  Once known as the “Paris of the Middle East,” the city’s center was gutted by fifteen years of civil war that dragged on until 1990.  From the ashes of downtown was born Solideire, a mixed-use development of tony addresses fathered by Rafiq Hariri.  Had he lived to see the opening of the Le Gray, he surely would have been satisfied.  Situated on Martyr’s Square, the 87 room, five-star hotel designed by Kevin Dash is both welcoming and luxurious.  With a facade of traditional Lebanese limestone, the bespoke interior is an elegant counterpoint of late-century modern with Levantine flourishes of cedar.  Valerie Boy’s dragonfly and flower laser-etched-steel light box embraces the lobby.  A host of international artist’s works populate the walls and invite exploration.

I spent ten days in Beirut shooting an assignment for New York Times T Magazine and visiting friends.  Rita Saad at Le Gray was gracious in affording me ample time to walk the entire property, and photograph anything of interest.  The shoot took place over two days, with the bulk of the exposures situated in the early evening.  On the second day, we sprinted from the fourth floor master suite to the roof-top infinity pool to catch a reflection of Gemayzeh at dusk.  At the last minute my model bailed, otherwise there would be a young Lebanese woman in the pool, looking down on the traffic below.

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