WHY TO VISIT LEBANON
Finally leaving behind its troubled past, Lebanon offers travellers its natural treasures, the imprint of several civilisations and a warm welcome.
Beirut, although still marked by years of conflict is a contrasting spectacle of diverse architecture, perfumed gardens, buildings under reconstruction, ancient alleys and constant bustle. Visit the National Museum, the Sursock Museum, the Grand mosque and the nature site, Pigeon Rocks.
Byblos to the North constitutes one of the oldest known constantly inhabited towns, its first known inhabitants date from the Neolithic period. It has seen the Persians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs and you can see traces of these times when you visit the Baalat Gebal Temple, the Royal Tombs and the Roman Amphitheatre. The Souk and magnificent beach are also popular with visitors amongst many other points of interest.
Modern Tripoli possesses a historical old quarter that is very charming and lively too with it surprising Mamluk style architectural buildings.
Do not miss a visit to Tyr and its Roman ruins, the Gibran Museum at Bsharri dedicated to the artist who was born here, the Kadisha Gorge with its monasteries built into the rocks, the Roman ruins at Baalbek and the tourist centre at Zahlé on the shores of the Birdawni River.
WHAT TO SEE IN LEBANON
Top destinations in Lebanon are:
- Beit ed-Din
- Quadisha Valley
WHEN TO GO TO LEBANON
Best period to visit Lebanon is from May to July.
The climate is variable according to the seasons although it is generally classed as Mediterranean with lots of sunshine. Rain is just about non-existent between June and September; winters are generally mild along the coasts but harsher in the mountains which can experience heavy snowfall: There are actually several ski stations in Lebanon.
In summer the heat at Beirut can be difficult to cope with. The month of May, when it starts to be pleasant for bathing, and October, after the heat wave, are definitely the best months to visit this country.
Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Lebanon.
- Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts: Kicking off the year’s festivities with a bang is the Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts. Held annually in Beirut in February, this Lebanese event is a musical celebration that takes over the entire month. Spanning five weeks, everything from orchestral concerts, opera performances and ballet shows are on offer for the enjoyment of the public.
- Workers’ Day: May 1 sees the observation of this public holiday which is recognized as Labor Day elsewhere.
- Byblos Festival: Every year in July, the usually sleepy town of Byblos hosts one of the most popular music festivals in Lebanon. Bringing together a diverse range of international and local artists, including the likes of Moby and jazz musician Jamie Cullum, the festival appeals to all genres. Over the course of a few weeks, concerts are held in venues all over the town.
- Baalbeck International Festival: Located in the breathtaking Roman Baalbeck ruins, the Baalbeck International Festival is yet another music festival held in July centered around jazz. Both Lebanese and international artists perform for a few weeks in the unrivalled. During evening shows, the ruins are lit up to create a truly magical atmosphere.
- Zouk Mikael International Festival: Also in July is another international music festival which takes place at the spectacular amphitheater in the charming town of Zouk Mikael. Everything from classical and opera to blues and jazz can be heard drifting from the stage. While the event is not as heavily publicized as some other musical events in Lebanon, the atmosphere is electric, with most concerts starting at sunset to enjoy music under the stars.
- Tyre and South Festival: In a celebration of Southern Lebanese culture, the Tyre and South Festival is held annually in July at and around the ruins of Tyre. Activities include dance shows, poetry readings, musical performances, crafts fairs, and lectures on the region’s culture and history.
- Beiteddine Arts Festival: July is a busy month in Lebanon, festival-wise, and one of the most anticipated events in the country is the Beiteddine Arts Festival. Set against a backdrop of the Beiteddine castle, the festival spans three months and is a feast of music, drama and art.
- Eid al-Fitr: Taking place annually around August and September – the exact date is determined by the lunar calendar – Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the end of the Islamic fast. This public holiday is characterized by food, gift exchanges and shopping for new clothes.
- Lebanese Independence Day: Observed November 22, Independence Day marks the date in 1943 when the country gained freedom from France after a 23-year period of rule. This nation-wide celebration sees most people enjoy a day off work, military parades, and locals displaying the Lebanese flag outside their homes.
- Beirut Holidays Festival: is a series of summer concerts and shows held in Beirut Souks. The festival brings together diverse musical performances by talented local artists and international performers who mix various genres and styles.
- Al-Bustan Festival: (albustanfestival.com) International Festival of Music & the Performing Arts
- Ehdeniyat International Festival (www.ehdeniyat.org)
- The Batroun International Festival (www.batrounfestival.org)
- Zouk Mikael International Festival (www.zoukmikaelfestival.org)
- The Jounieh International Festival (www.jouniehinternationalfestival.com)
- Al-Karma Festival and the Flower Feast (autumn)
- Anjar Festival: The festivities in Anjar take place in summer amidst the beautifully-lit historic Umayyad ruins and feature local and regional musical talents and singers as well as dance acts.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THOUGH LEBANON
by plane, main airports is Beirut-Rafic Hariri International
GENERAL INFORMATION ON LEBANON
country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)
health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice
local currency: Lebanese Pound
local time zone: GMT+2 (+3)
electricity: type A, B, C, D and G (220 V, 50 Hz)
mobile phone operators:
WHAT TO DO IN LEBANON
typical food in Lebanon
- Kebbeh: lamb pounded to a fine paste, often rolled into balls and fried
- Meze: a range of up to 40 small dishes served as hors d'oeuvres with arak
- Tabbouleh: salad made of bulgur, tomatoes, onions, and parsley. It’s mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, served with lettuce on the side
- Mutabbal: dip made with baked aubergines and garlic
- Baklava: a dessert of layered pastry filled with nuts and steeped in honey-lemon syrup, usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape
- Arak: a wine traditionally produced and aged for five to 10 years before being redistilled with anis seeds
- Baba Ghanoush: char-grilled eggplant, tahina, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic puree -- served as a dip
- Falafel: small deep-fried patties made of highly-spiced ground chick-peas
- Fattoush: salad of toasted croutons, cucumbers, tomatoes and mint
- Foul: slow cooked mask of brown beans and red lentils dressed with lemon olive oil and cumin
- Halva: sesame paste sweet, usually made in a slab and studded with fruit and nuts
- Hommus (Hummus): puree of chickpeas, tahina, lemon, and garlic served as a dip
- Jebne: white cheese
- Kamareddine: apricot nectar
- Shish Taouk: kebab made of meat marinated overnight in lemon juice, garlic, paprika, yogurt and tomato paste. Usually served as a platter, or wrapped in hubbus (pita bread) with garlic sauce on the side to create a sandwich
- Kunafi (Kunafeh): shoelace pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup
- Kibbeh Nayeh: raw beef or lam blended with bulgur, pureed onion, and spices
- Koshary: cooked dish of pasta, rice and lentils to which onions, chillies and tomatoes paste are added
- Kufta (Kofta): fingers, balls or a flat cake of minced meat and spices that can be baked or charcoal-grilled on skewers
- Laban: tangy-tasting sour milk drink widely used in cooking
- Labenah: thick creamy cheese often spiced and used as a dip
- Lahma bi Ajeen: Arabic pizza
- Loubia: green beans cooked in tomato sauce
- Ma'amul: date cookies shaped in a wooden mould called a tabi
- Muhalabiyyah: silky textured semolina pudding served cold
- Musakhan: chicken casserole with sumac, a ground powder from the cashew family used as seasoning
- Manakeesh: dough baked in an oven, typically served with tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mint leaves, and olives. Can be made with meat, cheese, zaatar (which is a strain of thyme), or kishik (a cracked wheat paste)
- Sayyadiya: delicately spiced fish served on a bed of rice
- Coffee is served strong, thick and heavily sweetened. It is often flavoured with cardamom
- Arak: alcoholic drink that is made from anise seed
souvenirs from Lebanon
- cutlery made of tempered steel or copper with ram or buffalo bone handles
- designed and hand engraved brass and copper goods (braziers, bowls, fluted jugs, ashtrays, swords and doorstops)
- cloth, silk and wool kaftans
- abayas (embroidered nightwear)
- Backgammon sets
- wine, Arak
- table linen
- hand-worked gold and silver jewellery
Hello: مرحبا (marhba)
Goodbye: وداعا (wadaeaan)
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (kayf halk?)
Thank you: شكرا (shukraan)
What is your name?: ما اسمك؟ (ma asmak)
How much is it?: كم سعره؟ (kam saerha?)
Sorry: معذرة (maedhira)