The Heartbreaking and Surreal Times of ‘Anthony Bourdain in Beirut’

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  08.22.06 | 8:18 AM ET

imageThe Travel Channel aired Anthony Bourdain in Beirut last night, the story of what happened to the “No Reservations” host and his crew when they were stranded in Beirut, Lebanon last month during the early days of the war between Israel and Hezbollah. “It’s not a hard-news account of what happened to Lebanon or what happened to Beirut,” Bourdain says at the beginning of the show. “I think at best it’s a little bit of what Beirut was and could have been. What it felt like to be there when things went sideways. This is not the show we went to Lebanon to get.” Nevertheless, Bourdain returned with one of the more compelling travel shows—or any television show, for that matter—of the year.

Bourdain took some heat early on when he gave an interview to the New York Post from Beirut, stating that, among other things, “The mojitos here are great.” This show puts the comments in context. His crew had the cameras rolling from before Hezbollah’s kidnapping and killing of the Israeli soldiers, and last night’s program captures gunfire as it breaks out in the city and Hezbollah supporters as they drive the streets, waving flags from the windows of their cars. Still, some citizens put on brave faces, drinking their way through the first night. Bourdain was just acting like the people around him.

The next day, however, it becomes apparent that the situation has drastically worsened. Bourdain’s local handlers flee, and he and his crew are evacuated to a safer hotel. Most of the show captures the surreal and heartbreaking days that follow as Bourdain, his crew and the hotel’s other guests literally watch the war unfold from a swimming pool that overlooks the city. To Bourdain’s credit, the show captures him in both good and bad moments, and his narration makes clear that, though this experience has deeply affected him, he knows he’s a lucky one. He’ll live to broadcast more “happy” travel shows. The people he left behind in Beirut have uncertainty and danger ahead of them.

Bourdain told the Washington Post that he would like to return to Beirut someday. “If anything, the great unfinished business in my life is to someday go back to Beirut to show the world what I saw for two days before the bombing.”

I hope it happens, and I hope the Travel Channel puts “Anthony Bourdain in Beirut” into the regular broadcast rotation.

For more about the episode, check out the New York Post’s rave review and a lively conversation on the Travel Channel message boards.

Photo: Anthony Bourdain in Beirut

Related on World Hum:
* Anthony Bourdain in Beirut
* Anthony Bourdain Evacuated from Beirut
* Bourdain: “I’m Feeling a Little Pessimistic About the World These Days”
* Bourdain in Salon: “Watching Beirut Die”


17 Comments for The Heartbreaking and Surreal Times of ‘Anthony Bourdain in Beirut’

Tammy 08.20.07 | 12:01 AM ET

My husband and I watch Mr. Bourdain all the time..  And we would like to thank him and his staff for showing us what is realy going on over seas.  world news could never come close to what we saw when he was in Beirut.  The realism of what is realy going on is very scary.  Mr. Bourdain do not appologize for not showing us the ” HOT SPOTS” Thanks for showing us the real world. We have many friends in Iraq. And our News stations come no where close to showing us the truth.  thank you again!!

Deedra Daniels 08.21.07 | 11:31 PM ET

Anthony Bourdain in Beirut was one of the best television shows I’ve ever seen.  The honesty, the intimate view of Beirut’s reality, the emotions as they were and the commentary by Mr. Bourdain could not have been done better.  Perhaps because Mr. Bourdain and his crew are not news journalist, I fealt like I was with friends in a sticky situation.  I have always enjoyed “No Reservations”, but Mr. Bourdain’s professionalism, concise assessments, and the crews maturity in this situation were exemplary. Last but certainly not least - thank you for showing our Marines and what they do.  Watching them handle the situation so perfectly brought tears to my eyes.  Thank you.  Thank you.

jennifer b 08.26.07 | 1:56 AM ET

i love no reservations and was pleased by the beirut episode. i am fortunate to have incredible friends whose lives were impacted by the 2006 war. i found the episode incredibly moving and i am thankful that americans were able to see how the lives of the lebanese are impacted by war and the beauty of the kindness and friendship that is always extendend even to strangers.

Allan Valverde 08.31.07 | 1:43 PM ET

Tony rocks, me and my girlfriend watch your tv show every episode, you are such a cool chef!!

Keep that good attitude, please come some day to the beautiful and tropical Costa Rica, we got good food here also!



Carmen 10.01.07 | 12:12 AM ET

I don’t know what Anthony Bourdain intended his series to be when he first began to outline his concept, but what it has become is one of the most remarkable synergies of travel, food, culture, commentary, reality and humanity that I have ever seen. The Beirut episode was incredible journalism injected with just enough personal insight to give all of us something to identify with. I absolutely love, love, love No Reservations.

sanu 10.26.07 | 2:48 AM ET

want a heart breaking pic

Me'Cole 01.17.08 | 4:28 PM ET

Today I found myself watching the travel channels show Anthony Bourdain in Beirut. I was astounded by how much evastation in ones prospective is consider the norms of everyday life in anothers. it’s inspiring to watch people with so much determenation and will to go even though things are falling apart around them. I’m truely moved by that and wish them nothing but hope for hte best and one day things will change and peace will be granted

Ellen T. Broome 01.17.08 | 10:53 PM ET

I watched (1-17-08) this episode of No Reservations Beruit and was so moved
by Bourdain’s comments.  The segment which showed the US Marines moved me to tears.  The insight of Bourdain’s comments was right on target.  As someone who has traveled extensively I certainly could relate to his assessment of the situation. Thanks to
the Travel Channel for airing this insightful presention. When will it be aired again?

Sally 01.19.08 | 9:00 PM ET

Thanks so much for your show on Beruit. I am so glad that you aired it.  Many blessings to you and your crew.

Juliana Sears 01.24.08 | 6:15 PM ET

No offense, but I had never seen your show at all until for some reason I wanted to see what happened in Beruit.

For starters, you arent at all like I first suspected. I thought you were a tall ‘sensitive’ man with a cook show. Not my thing.
Anyway, the episode was the most gut-wrenching war footage I’v ever seen.
I guess it was the fact that it was
real and unfortunatley happening to YOU.
I could only imagine the urgency that you must have felt waiting there for nine days with your Quik-clot beside you
while pondering which way to secretly exit the hotel.
Thats just crazy talk.
Ok, so now I guess you’ve peaked my interest abit. Just might watch you again.
Oh, and kudos to your camera crew. They keep it somewhat artsy. I like that.

Carla Reed 04.06.08 | 11:10 PM ET

I really would love to see this episode of No Reservations in Beirut. Can it be purchased and downloaded?

Jim Benning 04.07.08 | 11:11 AM ET

Hi Carla,

The episode can be purchased and downloaded on iTunes, absolutely.


Barry Gilliland 05.19.08 | 8:18 PM ET

The Beirut episode ran today, first time I saw it. Tony you and your crew are amazing and I thank you for showing the world the reality of Lebanon. I was a Marine 1984-1988, I had friends that survived the Beirut bombing of the Marine Barracks. I have stood on the boarder of Isreal and looked into Lebanon and wandered what it was really like for those living there. Thanks Tony for showing me there are citizens there are just like us who love life and want to live in peace. Thank you so very much. It choked me up and I haven’t felt that way in many years.

Semper Fi


Bill T 05.22.08 | 8:17 PM ET

I just saw a rebroadcast of the Beirut episode.  Very well done.  I have known people who grew up in Israel 60 years ago.  The things Anthony showed have been happening there on some level for hundreds of years.  Rockets and bombs become a part of everyday life.  Here in the US there is very little sence of the difficult and stressful lives the people in these areas endure.  I spent several weeks in Northern Israel in 2004.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  When the news reports of the attacks on Haifa started to come in I knew the locations where the rockets landed and had walked those streets.  Your whole perception of life changes as a result.
Very good job of reporting what happens to the real people.

linda plourde 05.23.08 | 12:17 PM ET

My daughter lives in Lebanon and I enjoyed the Beirut segment.

When will it be aired again so I can tape it?

T. Jeff Callard 05.23.08 | 6:18 PM ET

The above comments don’t touch the fear and rage this watcher felt at the lack of an appropriate response. I was fifteen when if visited Lebanon. It was 1957 and the UAR was trying to annex Lebanon. My father and mother and sister and I were planning to spend a month there, as my parents had contacts at the American University. We asked in many places if we needed visas to visit and were told at Lebanese consulates (?) and American Embassies that we didn’t. We were met with “Where is your visa.” We answered that we were told we didn’t need one. “But you came through Egypt.” They took our passports at the gate and sat us down. Two soldiers with automatic weapons faced us. After our passport had been in another room for an hour or so, my father (the smallest man on the football team and he played both offense and defense at the guard position) stood up and demanded our passports. He walked the two soldiers over to the door and pounded on it. I don’t have much of a memory of the next hour, being as scared as I ever have been. We got our passports back and were given 24 hours to leave the country.

Anthony’s adventures brought that back in a rush. By the time he finished describing the freedom of the USMC to visit with the refugees, I was crying. This 66 year old was touched.

I had visions of Mr. B. saying, “*uck that *hit! We’re here to film and inform and by *od we’re gonna do it.” He did the job he was given in a professional manner, and didn’t lie about his feelings.

Rare, Mr. B., and I don’t remember seeing anything like it except the old films of the Hindenburg blowing up.


Leila 08.25.08 | 3:47 AM ET

I would like to thank Anthony for this amazing show. I am infact a Beiruti, I had tears in my eyes throughout the show. I love Beirut, it has an amazing buzz about it. It really is where East meets West, so many religions and cultures all mixed into one. People there have seen so much in terms of war and misery and because they love the country so much and love life, they have to remain positive and enjoy every moment. 

I really hope that one day Anthony will be able to go back and capture more of Beirut. If he does he must go eat at Barometre. A tiny pub/restaurant with amazing food!

Also the nature in the country is stunning and it is definitely worth it to drive out of Beirut and film that.

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