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Plastic surgery taking off in Beirut

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

First-time visitors to downtown Beirut’s swanky cafes might initially be surprised at the number of women (and occasionally men) sporting bandages across their noses – a telltale sign of the popularity of plastic surgery in Lebanon.

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“It’s not a taboo,” says Elias Chammas, the medical director of the Hazmieh International Medical Center in the hills above Beirut. “It’s like putting on makeup.”

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Plastic surgery has become so popular here that Beirut banks even offer special loans to those seeking to go under the knife.

Members of the industry agree that it has become a booming trade.

Companies working under programs endorsed by the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism bring in visitors from around the world on “cosmetic-surgery tours,” and Dr. Chammas estimates that about half of his clinic’s business comes from outside Lebanon.

“There are lots of people of Lebanese origin coming here,” says Chammas, “and they come because it’s cheaper and they get to see their relatives and the country is nice.”