1930’s – 1980’s
A French colonial hotel built in 1932, the Saint-George was taken over following political turmoil in Lebanon in 1958 by prominent Lebanese businessman Abdallah El Khoury, a founding partner of the famous CAT construction company, and has remained in his family’s possession ever since.
In French-mandated Lebanon, local society mingled with French officers and officials at the Saint-George in an aura of plush serenity unequalled in the Middle East. While under the management of Nadia El Khoury, wife of Abdallah who died in 1964, the Saint-George became one of the most glamorous hotels in the world; a stylish backdrop to comings and goings of film stars, royalty, millionaire businessmen, politicians, journalists and spies.
Its celebrated terrace overlooking St. Georges’ Bay was the leading social rendez-vous of pre-war Beirut. Its pool flaunted the best displays of bikinis and brown limbs in the Middle East, and its bar provided the best rumour mill for correspondents covering the political upheavals in the Arab world.
The hotel was severely damaged during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, when it became a battleground in the so-called ‘War of the Hotels’, during which rival militias seized downtown high-rises from which they blasted away at each other. Later the burnt-out shell of the Saint-George was occupied by Syrian troops attempting to pacify the warring Lebanese factions.