Lebanon once shaded by ancient Cedars trees breathes history. Every civilization from the Phoenicians to the French left their mark on the country, its culture and cuisine. In this blog entry I will give an overview of my ten day trip to Lebanon in October 2018 and a shorter trip in April 2019 when on my way to Syria. I was based in Beirut and did day trips to all the places describes in details in each link. Those who still think of Lebanon as a war torn country: the Civil War ended in 1990. Not one tiny second did I feel unsafe, not matter where I went.
In the 60s the rich and famous partied and gambled the night away in Beirut. The parties did not even stop during the Civil War and now neighborhoods like Hamra or Gemmayze vibrate with life.
Beirut needs to explored on foot. The link below this paragraph explains what you see when joining the Beirut Alternative walking tour. It takes you to various neighborhoods, explains how Beiruts’s downtown was turned into a soulless Disney World by massive real estate fraud and speculation, which has a name, Solidere. It also provides a glimpse into my visits to the National and Sursock Museum and the many hours I spend walking along the Corniche, Beirut’s waterfront.
Only 30 minutes from Beirut is ancient Byblos, it has been inhabited for 5000 years which makes it the oldest city in the world. The nearby Jeiti Grotto and the gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the Bay of Jounieh makes it a perfect day trip from Beirut.
An hour south of Beirut is ancient Sidon with its pretty harbor, an authentic souq and most picturesque Crusader Castle built into the sea. A bit further south is Tyre with Al Bass, an extensive Roman funerary complex , Roman archways towering over Roman roads, a gigantic hippodrome and much more.
Another trip took me up the hills to the Quadish Valley, this is Christian territory, houses are marked by crosses and churches dominate the scenery. The landscape is spectacular, highlights are the small town of Bcharre , the nearby Cedars of God, one of the few remaining Cedar groves in Lebanon and the monasteries perched into the stepp cliff. Certainly a place that deserves more time and just a day trip.
Baalbek, an enormous Roman temple complex and Anjar, the ruins of 8th Umayyad architecture are a must-see. The trip from Beirut takes you through the Bekaa Valley, the agricultural heartland of Lebanon. Don’t leave without some wine sampling in one of the wineries.
Traveling around Lebanon should be easy due to the short distances, but the lack of good public transport, like trains, street cars has turned Beirut into a constant traffic jam. Leaving the city takes for ever and this is why day trips from Beirut, like I did, may not be the best idea. I truly can recommend the two hotels where stayed, if you travel solo like I did the Meshmosh Hotel is the place to meet other people and traveller. This was actually the reason why I based myself in Beirut, to find travel compaignons for the various sights.