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Explorer Lebanon

Beirut, with its million-plus inhabitants, conveys a sense of life and energy that is immediately apparent.

 

 

This dynamism is echoed by Capital’s geographical position: a great promontory jutting into the blue sea with dramatic mountains rising behind it. A city with a venerable past, 5,000 years ago Beirut was a prosperous town on the Canaanite and Phoenician coast.


The road to Beiteddine leaves the coastal highway 17 kilometers beyond Beirut, just a few kilometers after the town of Damour.

 

From there it climbs quickly along the beautiful Damour river valley for 26 kilometers to an elevation of 850 meters at Beiteddine.

 

The most spectacular view of the palace and its surroundings is from the village of Deir El Qamar (Monastery of the moon), five kilometers before Beiteddine.

 

The Beiteddine palace complex, Lebanon's best example of early 19th century Lebanese architecture, was built over a thirty year period by Emir Bechir El Chehab II, who ruled Mount-Lebanon for more than half a century.


Byblos has become synonim with the world's oldest continually inhabited towns. Old before the great civilizations of the Middle East were even thought of, archeologists believe that the site has been occupied for at least 7000 years.

 

Byblos or Jbeil is 36km north of Beirut and about the same distance to the Mzaar ski resort. It's an unspoiled and picturesque city that used to be a favorite watering hole for the crews if visiting private yachts and people of the Mediterranean jet set.


Sidon, on the coast 48 km south of Beirut, is one of the famous names in ancient history. But out of all of Lebanon's cities, this is the most mysterious, for its past has been tragically scattered and plundered.

 

In the 19th Century, treasure hunters and amateur archaeologists made off with many of its most beautiful and important objects, some of which can now be seen in foreign Museums.

 

In this Century too, ancient objects from Sidon (Saidoon is the Phoenician name, Saida in Arabic), have turned up on the worlds antiquities markets. Other traces of history lie beneath the concrete of modern construction, perhaps buried forever.

The challenge for today's visitor to Sidon then, is to recapture a sense of the city's ancient glory from the intriguing elements that still survive.


120 km north east of Beirut, known to the Lebanese as the Cedars of the Lord, Cedars are among the last survivors of the immense forests that lay across Mount Lebanon in ancient times.

 

The most famous Cedars are in Bsharreh region where about 375 trees, some between 1200 and 2000 years old, stand on slopes 1950 meters high in the shadow of the 3088 meters peak of Qornet Essawda (the highest in Lebanon).

 

The village of the Cedars, over 2000 meters in altitude, is a very picturesque ski resort and sky lifts.


Tripoli (Trablous), 85 Km North of Beirut, has a special character all its own due to its historical wealth, relaxed lifestyle and thriving business climate, this is the 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.

 

Of the Mamluk city 195 monuments remain. The monuments include the whole range of religious, civil, and military architecture such as mosques, madrassahs, khans, and the Saint-Gilles Citadel


About 83 km south of Beirut, Tyre is the fourth largest city of Lebanon. It was an island in ages past, celebrated for its beauty.

 

Tyre emerges today from the debris of centuries. Excavations on the site have uncovered remains of the Crusader, Arab, Byzantine and Greece-Roman cities. The name of the city means "rock" after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built.

 

The adjective for Tyre is Tyrian, and the inhabitants are Tyrians. Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city and the legendary birthplace of Europa and Elissa (Dido). Today it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and houses one of the nation's major ports. Tourism is a major industry.

 

The city has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.


52km from Beirut you will find Zahle, the capital of the Beqaa, is known as "Arouss El-Beqaa", the bride of the Beqaa, and is much appreciated for its healthy climate and good food. It is also the seat of government for the Beqaa.

 

All amenities are available there, good shopping and souvenir shops. Zahle's many beautiful old houses can be appreciated on a leisurely walk around the town. The main attraction, however, is the Bardaouni River, which flows out of Mount Sannine through a wooded gorge shut in between tall perpendicular rocks.

 

Along this branch of the Litani River, there is one open-air restaurant after another. All are protected from the sun by awnings and leafy trees, while streams, fountains and pools cool the air.


Few caverns in the world approach the astounding wealth or the extent of those of Jeita.

 

In these caves and galleries, known to man since Paleolithic times, the action of water has created cathedral-like vaults beneath the wooded hills of Mount Lebanon. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Nahr el-Kalb (Dog River).

 

Located some 20 Kilometers along the highway North of Beirut, a large sign indicates the right turn from Zouk Michael village, just beyond the tunnel.

The caverns are on two levels. The lower galleries, discovered in 1836 and opened to the public in 1958, are visited by boat. The upper galleries, opened in January 1969, can be seen on foot.


Anjar, 58 km from Beirut, is completely different from any other archaeological experience you will have in Lebanon. At other historical sites in the country, different epochs and civilisations are superimposed one on top of each other. Anjar is exclusively one period, the Umayyad.

 

Lebanon's other sites were founded a millennia ago, but Anjar is a relative new-comer, going back to the early 8th Century AD. Unlike Tyre and Byblos, which claim continuous habitation since the day they were founded, Anjar flourished for only a few decades. Other than a beautiful Umayyad mosque in Baalbeck, we have few remnants left from this important period of Arab history.


85 km north east of Beirut, is Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure, which can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world.

 

Baalbeck is the embodiment of the superlative. It is one of the world's greatest historical and best preserved Roman sites; the most gigantic, largest and most noble complex of Roman temples ever built, its columns are the taller ever erected, its stones are the largest ever used.