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Anthony Bourdain: “I fell in love with Beirut”

World-renowned chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain goes back to Beirut to highlight the city's food and culture. Bourdain and his TV crew were previously forced to flee the city in 2006 at the start of the Israel-Lebanon War. (Photo via David S. Holloway/CNN)

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — World-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain is no stranger to Beirut. In July 2006, while filming an episode of CNN’s No Reservations, the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out, forcing Bourdain and his TV crew to leave.

But Bourdain vowed he would be back — and promised to give Beirut a second chance.

“From the first day that I ever arrived in Beirut, it smelled like a place I was going to love,” Bourdain said. “(The war) didn’t change my opinion about the place. If anything, it hardened it.”

Bourdain and his crew were evacuated from Lebanon on July 20, 2006 by the United States Marines. When they arrived, the crew had filmed only a few hours of footage for the food and travel show, but it was enough to broadcast an episode.

The Beirut edition of No Reservations aired on August 21, 2006, and was later nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007.

“It’s something of a miracle that (Beirut) works,” said Bourdain. “Sunni, Shii’te, Christians can all live in one city and through some kind of tacit understanding maintain what is one of the most liberal environments in that part of the world.”

The season five finale, which aired on Sunday, June 21, took Bourdain back to Beirut.

During his travels, Bourdain met with freestyle artist “Double A The Preecherman” in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood, had a classic Lebanese meal with activist Joumana Haddad, and visited a Syrian community in southern Beirut with CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

“Bourdain’s Beirut episode is fantastic. One of my favorite places on Earth and he captures it perfectly,” wrote one Twitter user.

But not all viewers were happy with Bourdain’s portrayal of Beirut. Some Lebanese viewers took to social media, blaming Bourdain for missing the “Lebanese perspective.”

They say Bourdain spent a majority of the show interviewing Syrian and Palestinian refugees, who make up a third of Lebanon’s population.

“So it was basically more about politics than anything else,” wrote Rami Fayoumi on his blog, +961. “I believe he could have simply aired some recent report about the political situation in Lebanon and spared himself a trip here.”

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