A Symbolic Exchange

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BEIRUT: "It's not Wall Street," says TIME's Lara Marlowe of the Beirut Bourse, which reopened today after almost fourteen years of war-induced silence. "The trading floor is smaller than my living room, about 20-by-25 feet, they have four computers, ten employees and three companies listed. But it's significant because it shows the world, much of which still doesn't realize that the war here is over, that Lebanon is well on the way to regaining its position as the business center of the Middle East." Beirut was devastated by a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, draining the once-bustling and cosmopolitan city of life and money. The Beirut Bourse, founded in 1920, had struggled to stay open, but eventually had to shut down in 1982 when its traders were being robbed at gunpoint. Today, says Marlowe, Beirut is so safe that it's considered a refuge from other war torn regions of the Middle East. "Unfortunately, Americans are still banned from coming here," she points out. "That means that they are missing out on a reconstruction business that is worth some $60 billion."