Lebanon is a true gem of a traveling destination, being home to beautiful golden beaches, the Mid-East’s most famous party-city and blessed with quite a few World Heritage Sites. Basically, Lebanon has all the ingredients for becoming a hot-spot on any intrepid tourist’s bucket list, making for a classic yet hugely understated traveling destination.
However, the understated part is relatively normal and understandable, considering the country’s troubled past and the current reality which is pretty far from being rosy, to say the least. The thing is that Lebanon is still recovering from its violent civil war which raged into the country for fifteen years, from 1975 to 1990.
Nowadays, this tiny 10,452 square kilometers country with a 6 million population is affected by its bordering Syrian conflict, which spills refugees across its borders. Not to mention the fact that Bekaa Valley, which is very close to Lebanon is a stronghold of Hezbollah, a militant group supported by Iran. The idea is that caution is required for Lebanon’s visitors.
Nevertheless, Lebanon is today a relatively peaceful country which welcomes visitors from all around the world, even if the peace is somewhat fragile. Beirut, the country’s capital was regarded before the civil war as the Paris of the Middle East and today it makes for a very friendly and warm party town, which is almost sandwiched between the foothills of Lebanon Mountain and the Mediterranean Sea.
Basically, this beautiful city is located between the sea and the mountains, which makes it the ideal place for starting visiting Lebanon. This bustling city is world renowned for its dramatic coastline, its friendly and welcoming people and, very important for food aficionados, for its delicious cuisine which is arguably the best in the Middle East.
Sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Arabia, Lebanon benefited from the best (and some say from the worst) of both regions. Influences from the West and the East abound and, unlike in other muslim countries, it’s not uncommon to hear DJs competing with the muslim call to prayer in the livelier parts of Beirut.
The city’s buildings are still marked by the past military conflicts, yet Beirut is a progressive, forward and out of the box thinking capital, where the biggest issue nowadays is not terrorism but traffic congestion.
Truth be told, if you’re a Westerner, crossing the road in Beirut may seem like an extreme sport, at least initially, before getting accustomed with the rules of the land so to speak, or the lack thereof.
Despite its tiny size, Lebanon harbors no less than five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including one of the world’s oldest Phoenician ports, the city of Byblos respectively, together with the ancient remains of Baalbeck, located in a sensitive area, the one I’ve told you previously, the Hezbollah controlled Bekaa Valley, making for one of the most representative examples of Greco-Roman pieces of architecture still standing.
Other highlights of visiting Lebanon include old and impeccably preserved Christian monasteries in the Holy Valley, because Lebanon, just like Syria and Egypt back in the day, was one of the first Christian countries in the world. After the Islamic expansion, they were conquered and submitted to muslim rule in the 9th and 10th centuries AC.
The country is also renowned world wide for its magnificent cedar forests, as well as for its ancient cities, the likes of Tripoli and Tyr, with the former being home to one of the oldest seaports in the world.
If all these historical sites are not enough for you, dear reader, you can always go skiing on Mount Lebanon, regardless how weird this may sound for you, as Lebanon is not exactly the most obvious place in the world for hitting the slopes. Regardless, Lebanon is one of those rare places where you can enjoy the sun, beautiful sandy beaches and skiing in just one day, and that’s what makes the country unique.