One of the first things you notice about Beirut is the plastic surgery – everyone’s had it. Some wear it well, others don’t. Some of the creaselessness is subtle. Some are 30, some 45, yet all look related. Or of their own species. “We are a society that every day thinks it could be the last day of our lives,” posits Rouhana. “So we’re emotional. We show off and exaggerate the way we look. We smoke cigars, wear beautiful sunglasses and are jealous of each other. If a man likes [Lebanese popstar] Haifa Wehbe, then we want to look better than her.”
Dr Tarek Husami, Lebanon’s most celebrated nipper-tucker and (legend has it) the artist behind Wehbe’s celebrated chest, joins me at Le Gray, sporting a silver-buttoned navy jacket and dark dress jeans, the uniform of a chic gentleman dressing his age. Husami specialised in plastic surgery at NYU and returned to Beirut after the war. “My field has evolved tremendously here,” he says. “Plastic surgery started as something to do in the shadows, but then we became freer. And it’s linked to our economy, being a luxury not a necessity. The Lebanese like to show off, dress well and look perfect. Even a secretary will go to the best hairdresser and sit beside an heiress. It’s a high cost for her but she still likes to do that. And part of looking good, for her, is plastic surgery.” Also a beneficiary of medical tourism, in the past decade Husami’s split of patients has gone from 70 per cent local to 60 per cent foreign, mainly from Arab states and Europe.