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Lebanon honeymoon

Places to Visit in Lebanon

Aanjar

Aanjar, 58 kilometers from Beirut, is completely different from any other archaeological experience you'll have in Lebanon. At other historical sites in the country, different epochs and civilizations are superimposed one on top of the other. Aanjar is exclusively one period, the Umayyad. Lebanon's other sites were founded millennia ago, but Aanjar is a relative newcomer, going back to the early 8th century A.D.

Unlike Tyre and Byblos, which claim continuous habitation since the day they were founded, Aanjar flourished for only a few decades. Other than a small Umayyad mosque in Baalbeck, we have few other remnants from this important period of Arab history. Aanjar also stands unique as the only historic example of an inland commercial center. The city benefited from its strategic position on intersecting trade routes leading to Damascus, Homs, Baalbeck and to the South.

This almost perfect quadrilateral of ruins lies in the midst of some of the richest agricultural land in Lebanon. It is only a short distance from gushing springs and one of the important sources of the Litani River. Today's name, Aanjar, comes from the Arabic Ain Gerrha, ''the source of Gerrha'', the name of an ancient city founded in this area by the Arab Ituraens during Hellenistic times. Aanjar has a special beauty. The city's slender columns and fragile arches stand in contrast to the massive bulk of the nearby Anti-Lebanon mountains, an eerie background for Aanjar's extensive ruins and the memories of its short, but energetic moment in history.

Photo by heretic

Baalbak

The great temple at Baalbeck or Heliopolis has stood since the beginning of our era when it was one of the wonders of the world. It and the second temple, with its cellar almost intact, make up one of the most beautiful and famous of ancient monuments. Baalbeck is indeed a place where the visitor can still recapture the fascination and atmosphere of the past. There are legends to explain its exceptional size, its gigantic proportions and huge blocks, particularly the three which each measure between 19-20 m. by 4.50 m. by 3.60 m.

An even greater block still lies in the quarry. An archaeologist has declared that this block alone would make a visit to Baalbeck worthwhile. For centuries popular fancy connected the place with biblical figures, mankind before the flood, with giants and djinns, and even recently an apparently serious scientist attributed the platform on which the great temple stands to beings who had landed from another planet in remote times. Baalbeck suffered with the passage of time. Its history disappeared in legend and its temples became unrecognizable through Byzantine and mediaeval additions, ravages of war, earthquakes and vandalism. But now, thanks to the work of excavation, consolidation and restoration carried out since the beginning of the century, we can see the buildings of Baalbeck almost as they were in their prime with the later additions removed.

The way into the sanctuary is once more through the propylaea and hexagonal forecourt. The visitor now reaches the vast court of sacrifice, once encumbered by a Byzantine basilica, and now cleared to show its original state with the monumental altar and second altar flanked by ornamental pools for ritual washing. The court was surrounded by a sumptuous colonnade of 128 rose granite columns from Egypt set in front of a series of meticulously decorated exedrae. At the west end, the blocks of the great steps have been restored to their original position and now lead up the high platform of the temple of Jupiter. The six huge columns still standing with the entablature on top give a fair idea of the vast scale of the original building.

Nearby, but entirely separate from the temple of Jupiter, is the temple of Bacchus complete except for its roof, part of the peristyle and the altar. The decoration of this temple is of an unparalleled richness and delicacy and is extremely well preserved. Over the centuries these two temples, imposing, almost overwhelming in their grandeur, colossal and yet harmonious in design, have inspired fantasy and poetry to explain and describe their construction. Fancy has now given way to systematic examination and research which enable us to date the temples and to form a reasonably accurate idea of the spirit of the age that witnessed their construction.

Beit Edine

Just after Deir el Qamar and overlooking a terraced hill appears the palace of Beit Eddine. A delightful example of early 19th Century oriental architecture, the palace was built by Emir Bechir el Chehabi II (1788 -1840) who was for over fifty years not only the most independent and self-willed of sovereigns but whose reign was equally characterized by both justice and prosperity. Under his rule there was a boom in public works; roads were laid down or enlarged while new bridges were built and others repaired. His most spectacular achievement, however, remains the aqueduct of the Safa, a spring whose waters are regularly swollen by the melting snows. This 14-kilometer aqueduct was designed to ensure a water supply for the new capital, Beit Eddine, and for its construction Emir Bechir drafted his highlanders, each one being obliged to provide two day's unpaid labor. The resulting eighty thousand working days enabled the project to be completed in two years without putting undue strain on the Treasury.

Byblos

Byblos is one of the top contenders for the "oldest continuously inhabited city" award. According to Phoenician tradition it was founded by the god El, and even the Phoenicians considered it a city of great antiquity. Although its beginnings are lost in time, modern scholars say the site of Byblos goes back at least 7,000 years. Ironically, the words "Byblos" and "Phoenicia" would not have been recognized by the city's early inhabitants. For several thousand years it was called "Gubla" and later "Gebal", while the term "Canaan" was applied to the coast in general.

Echmoun

In the south of Lebanon lie the Phoenician port cities of Sidon and Tyre. Beyond these towns is a UN controlled buffer zone along the southern border with Israel, which is closed to visitors. Unless there is a particular security alert it should be possible to travel quite safely as far as Tyre. Our local agents are at hand to advise about this. In Sidon, the highlights are the Temple of Echmoun, a Phoenician temple built in the late 7th century BC, the Castle of the Sea, built by the Crusaders on a small promontory, the picturesque Khan of the Franks, built in 1610 for French merchants and the Great Mosque which was converted from a church after the departure of the Crusaders. The city of Tyre was badly affected during the war but the archaeological remains are impressive, most of them dating from Greek and Roman times. The best of these is the enormous Roman hippodrome with its picturesque location by the sea.

Jeita

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.

Qadisha

Qadisha, one of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon, is indeed a world apart. At the bottom of this wild steep-sided gorge runs the Qadisha River whose source is in the Qadisha Grotto at the foot of the Cedars. And above the famous Cedar grove stands Qornet es Sawda, Lebanon's highest peak.

Sidon

Sidon is of immense antiquity, but few remains of the ancient city have survived the ravages of time and man. There is evidence that Sidon was inhabited as long ago as 4000 B.C., and perhaps even earlier, in Neolithic times.

Tripoli

Some 85 km north of Beirut, it shares in the long history of the Levantine coast. The center of a Phoenician confederation with Sidon, Tyre and Arados Island, its name "Tripolis", means "triple city".

Tyre

Phoenician Tyre was queen of the seas, an island city of unprecedented splendor. She grew wealthy from her far-reaching colonies and her industries of purple-dyed textiles. But she also attracted the attention of jealous conquerors, among them the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great.

Zahle

A red-roofed town set among the eastern foothills of Mount Sannine, Zahlé enjoys a prime location in the Beqaa valley. Snowcapped mountains tower above it in winter, while in summer its 945-meter elevation keeps the air light and dry.

By Serouj (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Art

The country has reached a high level of cultural achievement in the arts, with a popular form of poetry being zajal, where poets enter into a witty dialogue of improvised verse.

The national dance is the dabke, which is performed throughout the country by dancers wearing traditional Lebanese mountain costume. The theme of the dance relates to village life. Local crafts include glass-making, weaving, pottery, embroidery and brass and copper work.

Climate

Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate -- hot and dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The sun shines 300 days a year. The annual rainfall on the coastal plain is around 35in, and more than 50in in the mountains. Humidity is high along the coast in summer and daytime temperatures average 30°C with night temperatures not much lower.

Beirut in summer becomes a commuter society as families move to the mountains to enjoy the cool dry climate. Winters on the coast can be dry and mild one day and wet and chilly the next.

Winter daytime temperatures average 15°C. In the mountains summer daytime temperatures average 26°C and the nights are pleasantly cool. Winters are cold and it snows at the higher elevations. The snow ensures good skiing from December through April.

Currency & banking

The unit of currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese pound (LL), known locally as the lira. There are only notes (LL 50, 100, are rarely used), (LL 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000) in circulation.

One U$ equal to 1,500 LL. Most banks will only change US dollars and UK pounds in cash and travelers checks, but moneychangers will buy and sell almost any currency.

Education & lifestyle

Lebanon has one of the best education systems in the Middle East. The literacy rate is more than 75%, one of the highest in the Arab world.

Beirut has important universities targeted from major Arab countries seeking for certain level of education. The most notable is the American University of Beirut (AUB); others are the American Lebanese University (ALU), Beirut-Arab University, and the Lebanese Maronite University.

As in other Arab countries the traditional lifestyle of the Lebanese revolves strongly around the family, socializing and hospitality. Western influences, mainly French and American, have given the country a cosmopolitan facade, mostly in the main cities.

Outside the cities, especially in the mountains, the people retain the old customs and traditions. The Lebanese people, despite being ethnically and religiously diverse because of the country's long history of conquest and assimilation, are friendly and hospitable.

They are familiar with foreigners' ways and dress and although sleeveless tops, miniskirts and shorts are acceptable in Beirut, the rest of the country is more traditional and modest dress is recommended. This is particularly necessary when visiting mosques and other religious places.

Geography

Lebanon is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The country is 215km long, and from east to west the distance ranges from 25 to 90km. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and by occupied Palestine to the south. Lebanon Surface area is 10,452 km/sqr. There are four main geographical regions running north to south parallel to the Mediterranean -- the coastal plain, the Lebanon mountain range, the Bekaa Valley and the Anti-Lebanon range. The narrow fertile coastal plain is broken at several points by the foothills and peaks of the Lebanon Mountains. Lebanon's main cities, Beirut and Tripoli, are along this plain. The Lebanon mountains include numerous rivers which flow down to the sea, and Lebanon's highest peak Qornet Es-Sauda at 3,090 meters. Behind the Lebanon Mountains is the Bekaa Valley, an extension of the Great Rift Valley.

The 15-kilometer-wide fertile Bekaa valley is the country's main agricultural region, growing crops as varied as sugar beet, potatoes, and grapes. The Bekaa's archaeological treasures are among Lebanon's finest: Baalbeck, once a Roman metropolis, and Anjar, an Umayyad city that was an 8th century shopping center, much as nearby Chtaura is today.

Lebanon's two major rivers, the Litani and the Orontes, rise in the Bekaa Valley. The valley ends abruptly at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon range, an arid mountain mass which forms the boundary with Syria.

Shopping

Beirut is full of shops and markets selling everything from hand woven rugs to electronic equipment, including fashionable clothing. Locally produced handicrafts include pottery, blown glass, embroidered materials, caftans, copper and brass ornaments, mother-of-pearl inlaid trinkets and furniture and rugs.

Source: www.tourisminlebanon.com

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