|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Gods Country On Earth
Lebanon is called "God's Country on Earth" because people say that the cedars were planted by God's own hands.
The Republic of Lebanon is a small country within the Middle East region. It has a long coastline on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and shares a long land border with Syria to the north and the east, and a much shorter border with Israel to the south.
Lebanon is probably one of the world's most colourful destinations when it comes to tourist attractions. The country enjoys magnificent historical sites left behind by ancient civilisations like Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Egyptians, Greeks and other great empires.
Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers with virtually no rain between June and August, and cold, wet winters with snow in the mountain regions where there are ski resorts.
Come to Lebanon and experience the exquisite blend of cultures, climates and natural splendours and meet the very easy-going and welcoming people.
Beirut, the capital is on a relatively small headland jutting into the east Mediterranean. It is the only true cosmopolitan city in the country. Downtown has many shops, hotels and souks and is also home to many historical sites and old churches and mosques. Clemenceau is a historical neighbourhood famous for its clothing boutiques and art deco shops. Ain El Mraiseh is the seafront district with plenty of hotels and restaurants. A hive of activity and a shoppers paradise is Hamra whilst Verdun is a trendy shopping area and features cafes and restaurants.
Raouche on Beirut's western most tip is a popular area with something for everyone. Its' most famous landmark is Pigeon Rocks, a huge formation which stands like sentinels off the coast. The shores near here have yielded the oldest evidence of human existence on the sites of Beirut.
Nestled in the east between Lebanon's two mountain ranges, the Bekaa Valley has been known since ancient times as the "Bread basket of Lebanon". The valley is a chequerboard of fields, dotted with small villages testament of the region's agricultural heritage. Here you will find a centre of Lebanese gastronomy with a number of wineries producing world-renowned Lebanese wines and an array of local restaurants with mouth-watering Lebanese cuisines.
The Mount Lebanon region is an outdoor adventure-lover's paradise. With high, snow-capped mountains running north to south through the centre of the country, this region offers a rocky, rugged terrain that is perfect for a variety of outdoor sports and adventure activities.
On the west side of the mountain range, the foothills slope down to the sunny Mediterranean coast. On the east side stretches the wide, agricultural Bekaa Valley. At the height of Mount Lebanon's peaks are excellent opportunities for skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, and other winter and outdoor adventure sports.
From Beirut the road to Beiteddine climbs quickly along the beautiful Damour river valley for 26 km. Beiteddine, with its museums and gardens, is one of Lebanon's major tourist attractions. The most spectacular view of the palace and its surroundings is from the village of Deir El Qamar, five kms before Beiteddine.
At the northern edge of the Dar El Harim section is the hammam, one of the most beautiful in the Arab world. Out of the three palaces built for the Emir's sons, the palace of Emir Amine, which dominates the Beiteddine complex, was beautifully restored and converted into a luxury hotel.
Byblos is an ancient Phoenician city and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Byblos is a true microcosm of the civilisations that have populated Lebanon over the centuries. A thriving modern with an ancient heart, Byblos is a mix of sophistication and tradition. Arguably believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, the modern port city of Byblos is built upon multiple layers of ruins, dating back to as early as the Stone Age and extending to the more recent Ottoman days.
A visit to Byblos is a chance to walk through the annals of Lebanese history and experience first hand the diverse cultures that have made this area a mosaic of civilisations.
Byblos is not simply a picturesque seaside town, but has a history that has been closely tied to the Mediterranean for millennia. A must see is the 12th century Crusader Castle, along with King's Tomb, Tower Temple and the old souk. For a real taste of Byblos, stroll through the streets and byways. This part of town is a collection of old walls(some medieval) overlapping properties and intriguing half-ruins.
A red-roofed town set among the eastern foothills of Mount Sannine, Zahl enjoys a prime location in the Beqaa valley. Snow capped mountains tower above it in winter, while in summer its 945-meter elevation keeps the air light and dry. At the northern end of town is the Bardouni river valley known as Wadi el-Aarayesh (Grape Vine Valley) the site of Zahl's famous outdoor restaurants.
Zahl is also an agricultural town which produces vegetables, fruit, grains and most importantly, grapes.
Tucked away from Lebanon's busy coastal centres, the people of Zahl have developed their own brand of individualism and way of doing things. Even their spoken Arabic has a particular flair.
The Bardouni is a river that flows out of Mount Sannine and down through Zahl. It is also a name synonymous with Lebanon's famous mezze and the delights of outdoor dining. The Bardouni restaurant tradition began over a hundred years ago with a few simple riverside cafes. Today it is a virtual bazaar of tree-shaded eating places known as "casinos," every one more inviting than the next. Here you can enjoy the traditional Lebanese mezze as it is served nowhere else. To add to the sense of timelessness, delicious mountain bread is baked before your eyes and a man in baggy trousers and fez is on hand to pour Lebanese coffee.
The Souk al-Blatt, or "tiled market" is a market street leading to one of the oldest parts of the city. A large part of Zahle's history was written in this souk, where in former times travelers to and from Syria, Baghdad and Palestine bought and sold their goods. The Monastery of Saint Elias at-Tuwak, which dates to 1755, was renovated in 1880 after a fire. Today it remains one of Zahl's most venerable monuments Our Lady of Zahle and the Beqaa. One kilometre beyond Zahle is the Tomb of Noah found in the village mosque.
The Holly Valley Qadisha, is one of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon and a World apart. The valley is scattered with cave chapels, hermitages and monasteries cut from rock. Since the early Middle Ages generations of monks, hermits, ascetics and anchorites found asylum here. At the bottom of this wild steep-sided gorge runs the Qadisha River.
At the town of Tourza the valley divides into two branches, each named for a monastery. Wadi Qannoubin leading to the Cedars where a path along the bottom of the valley meets Wadi Qadish. From there trails lead to the various sites. The Qadish valley area is surrounded by many important sites and villages such as Hasroun, one of the last villages in Lebanon to preserve its traditional red-roofed houses, Deir Qannoubin built into the rock and Our Lady of Hawqa's chapel.
Of all of Lebanons's cities Sidon is one of the most famous names in history and the most mysterious. Since Persian times it was known as the city of gardens and even today it is surrounded by citrus and banana plantations.
As you approach Sidon the landmark Crusader Sea Castle is immediately visible. The main busy street is full of small shops of every kind, including patisseries, whose oriental delicacies are stacked in little pyramids. Sidon is famous for a variety of local sweets which you can watch being made in the old souk or shops on the main street.
The old town stretches between the Crusader Sea Castle, built in the early 13th century on a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway, and the Castle of St.Louis. Not far from the Sea Castle is the picturesque vaulted souk where workmen still ply their trade. On the edge of the souk is a traditional coffee house where male clientele meet to smoke the water pipe and drink Turkish coffee.
The Khan El Franj is one of the many khans or caravansaries built by Fakhreddinne II for merchants and goods. This is a typical khan with a large rectangular courtyard and a central fountain surrounded by covered galleries.
Nahr Ibrahim, 6 kilometers south of Byblos. This valley of the ancient Adonis River is one of the most wild and beautiful in Lebanon. The road leads to the source at Afqa high in the mountains, where you will find the ruins of the great temple of Aphrodite-Venus in front of the cave.
Lebanon's priceless treasures are an ancient grove of cedars, a tree synonymous for milennia with Lebanon itself. Simply known as The Cedars this resort settlement in Lebanon's highest range is one of the most dramatically beautiful spots in the country. The most exciting way to reach the The Cedars is from Dier al Ahmar in the Beqaa Valley. The road snakes up the bare eastern slopes of Mount Lebanon and as you get higher, at the crest you look down the other side into a gigantic bowl where the ski resort, the cedar grove and the Qadish gorge lie before you.
You first arrive at an assortment of hotels, night clubs, chalets and restaurants. About a kilometre on is the famous Cedar Grove where the road is lined with the inevitable souvenir stands. The same road continue to the ski resort and goes over the mountain and on into the Beqaa valley. It is a resort for all seasons.
Within this area are rivers, springs, waterfalls, caves and other natural formations as well as rock-cut churches, monasteries and interesting villages to visit. There is always the promise of a friendly welcome from the hospitable people who live there.
From the Cedars, a summer excursion takes you east over the mountain towards the Beqaa valley to Ouyoun Orghoch. Here tented restaurants cluster around a large spring fed wetland where trout are farmed. Cold waters keep drinks chilled on the warmest days.
Tripoli, 85 kilometres north of Beirut, has a special character all its own. Thanks to its historical wealth, relaxed lifestyle and thriving business climate, this is a city where modern and medieval blend easily into a lively and hospitable metropolis.
Known as the capital of the North, Tripoli is Lebanon's second largest city with a history stretching back to the 7th century BC as a port city. Considered Lebanon's most ancient city with surviving souks and mosques that were built 9 and 10 centuries ago. The souks, together with the KHANS, form an agglomeration of various trades where tailors, jewellers, perfumers, tanners and soap-makers work in surroundings that have changed very little over the last 500 years.
Overlooking the city is the imposing Citadel which has been renovated and changed many times during its history. A building unique in Lebanon is the Khanqash built during the 15th century house Muslim mystics. Khan Al-Khayyatin or Tailor's Khan is one of the oldest in Tripoli dating back to the first half of the 14th century. A unique sight is the covered 14th century Souk Al-Haraj.
Modern Tripoli, which has a population of about 500,00, is divided into two parts: El-Mina, (the port area and site of the ancient city) and the town of Tripoli proper.
The Medieval city at the foot of the Crusader castle is where most of the historical sites are located. Surrounding this is a modern metropolis which is occupied with commerce, banking and recreation.
Tyre has a colourful souk well worth exploring. Look for the Ottoman khan, or inn, just inside the market entrance. Walk along the port with the sea on your right and you enter the city's Christian Quarter, a picturesque area of narrow streets, traditional architecture, and the Seat of the Maronite bishop of Tyre and the Holy land.
Located about a 30 minute boat ride off the coast of Tripoli, the Palm Islands Reserve is composed of three small uninhabited islands. It is an important egg-laying site for endangered sea turtles and a home for the endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
Travelling is exciting no matter where you wander and part of the enjoyment is sampling the local cuisine. The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten it is usually lamb. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil. The national dish of Lebanon is kibbeh, an emulsified paste of the freshest lamb and Bulgar wheat.
Try Mankoushe, a baked pizza-shaped dough with either a mixture of local cheeses or thyme or both on top. This can be bought from bakeries, as well as Forn Kaek, a different version of the classic bagel, the most common place to buy these is from a street vendor that ride bicycles or motorised scooters.
Every religious or national event sees stalls set up on sidewalks outside churches and in public squares, where traditional Lebanese sweets are sold such as: Maamoul, Ktaef, Halawet el Jibn, Halawet el Riz,and Ashta. If you're lucky enough to come across those be sure to give them all a try, otherwise visit any patisserie where the same sweets can be purchased.