Lebanon

Once occupied by Rome and Phoenicia, Lebanon is historically a melting pot of major civilisations which now boasts striking landscapes, gorgeous buildings, wonderful food, red-hot nightlife and skilled artisans.

Lebanon lies on the Mediterranean Sea at the junction of Europe and Asia. This nation forms part of the “Fertile Crescent”, a huge arc of well-watered land connecting Egypt and Iran.  One of the highlights of visiting this diverse country is the constant reminder of its long standing role in the history of the world with evidence of Roman and Phoenician occupation in abundance. With its superb natural landscape consisting of coastal plains, mountainous areas and valleys, you are constantly aware of Lebanon’s plethora of breathtaking sites. Beirut, known as “the Paris of the east”, is famed for its old world charm, mountains, beaches and incredible ruins. A stroll along the Corniche with its bustling cafes, restaurants, fishermen and coffee sellers is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon overlooking the Mediterranean.

The Pigeon Grottoes are a huge rock formation standing like sentinels off the coast. The National Museum embodies a priceless treasury of Lebanon’s history displaying only antiquities from all regions of the country. The museum gives a special place to mosaics, sarcophagi, pottery, jewellery and glass-making which reveal in fine detail Lebanon’s relationship with ancient civilisations.

Along the coastal road is the Dog River (The Nahr el Kelb), where many important armies have travelled through, leaving their inscriptions on the cliffs. Notables who have left inscriptions include Ramses II and Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeita Grotto is the tourism jewel for Lebanon and consists of two enormous grottoes containing an impressive array of stalagmites and stalactites. The upper grotto, with half a mile of galleries, leads through a series of chambers sprouting unusual rock formations where concerts are sometimes held thanks to the great acoustics. The lower grotto is filled with water and therefore only accessible by boat, taking you through a maze of colourful chambers where the Dog River originates.

Known as the birthplace of the modern alphabet, Byblos is a fascinating destination for the discerning traveller, with its ancient fishing harbour, Roman remains, Crusader Castle and beautifully restored souk. The Memoire du Temps Fossil Museum and old souks provide vivid images of a place that was a seat of worship for Adonis and Egyptian mythology. Nestled between the Mount Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, the beautifully fertile Bekaa Valley is a stunning natural landscape with wheat, its biggest crop, providing two harvests a year.

Baalbeck is a charming city and considered an important archaeological site with its majestic Roman temples and the world’s largest freestone. Built under Nero’s rule, the impressive Temple of Jupiter is a must visit, while the Temple of Venus built in the 3rd century A.D. allows you to wallow in the Byzantine period. Ksara is the oldest wine making cave in the Middle East, where Jesuit monks planted vines and started making communion wine.

The pre-Roman site of Baalbek is perhaps the best place to see the region’s intriguing past.

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