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No Politics Or Religion Involved, Only The Beauty Of OUR Lebanon

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21.09.2011 (30.09.2011) Diamond review

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Value for Money

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SightseeingExcellent

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Why am I writing this review?

I have written about some tourist attractions in Lebanon previously, however, I must admit that I should’ve written about Lebanon in general first before writing about the attractions.

I’m originally Lebanese but I have rarely lived in Lebanon however that doesn’t mean that I will deny my origin. What made me think about writing this are two major things, first I was born abroad and sadly my parents didn’t try to educate me about my country so I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake with my children. My boys were born and bred in the UK so I felt that they must get to know something about their roots especially since they are hardly eloquent in Arabic. The second and most important reason is that I discovered that many people know nothing about Lebanon or the cedars of Lebanon; they even don’t know that this country exists. I have met many people who were interested to know about my country of origin and I was more than happy to talk for hours about it. I have to admit that Lebanon has had its ups and downs and maybe it has become renowned for being a war zone but if you bear with me and read my review you will gradually get the full picture of how beautiful Lebanon actually is.

A funny incident happened a few weeks ago, me and the boys had a lot of shopping bags so instead of taking the bus we ordered a taxi. The taxi driver was like all taxi drivers; he started talking. The first thing on his agenda was about the weather and how short the summer holidays in England are, I suppose he was just being friendly. Anyway we told him you should go to Lebanon you get 8 weeks off there, the driver looked puzzled and said “where is that???” I was shocked, how come he hasn’t got a clue about Lebanon while he spend the last 10 minutes talking about Turkey? I gave him a brief summary about Lebanon and the weather there and when we reached home he told me `“I will definitely look up LEBAMOM!” He couldn’t even pronounce the name right! Some other people that I met thought that Lebanon was in Africa others assumed that it was in the far East, people know very little about this tiny country and my mission now to introduce you to a country that has all kinds of entertainment and amazing weather, I hope I can make you say “I wish I was here”

Before I start here are some quick facts about the country I’m taking about

Lebanon is a very small Mediterranean and Arab country whose area is only 10,452 sq km (4,036 square miles) which is roughly 10% of the size of the UK. Its capital is Beirut and the population is over 4.32 million people but please note that there are millions who live outside the country. The languages spoken there are mainly Arabic, French and English. The main religions are Islam and Christianity, Lebanon is known for having the highest percentage of Christians in the Arab world with nearly 45% or more of the population. Lebanon’s economy hugely relies on tourism especially in winter months and of course summer days. Their main currency is the Lebanese pound (Lira) but during the war years they used the US Dollar and they still using it equally with the Lebanese Lira.

Airport

There is one and only main airport in Lebanon named the Rafic Hariri international airport (R-H-I-A) and it was made in 1954 to replace another airport which was called The Bir Hassan airfield. However This was all short lived as after around 14 years a first blow was dealt to the airport by none other than Israel itself. The Israeli’s bombed the airport in 1968 destroying around 13 aircraft which caused the airport to become bankrupt and it sent waves of disbelief through the aviation industry of Lebanon. In 1975 the 15 year civil war did nothing to improve the facilities of the airport as all of the airlines left albeit 2. However glamour and parity was restored by the late Rafic Hariri as he revamped and rebuilt the airport in a 15 year plan. It was finally fully completed in 2005. Middle East Airlines aka MEA are the official Lebanese airlines with brilliant hostesses and superb service. It will take about 5 hours direct to get to Lebanon which is not very long compared to some very long flights. If you are on a tight budget take a transit flight. The airport is very close to the capital city and the main hotels.

Lebanon Geographically

Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country bordering Syria and Israel and its coast is on the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon is in both the northern and western hemispheres and is in the south west of Asia.

Main cities

There are 851 cities in Lebanon, quiet a lot for a very small country methinks.
The main LARGEST cities are:

Beirut, Tripolitania, Sidon(Saida) Zahle, Tyre (soor), Jounieh, Baalbek, Byblos (Jobil) and Nabatieh in south lebanon.
Of course are many other important cities which are historic cities which I hope I can review them in the future.

The National flag

The Lebanese flag consists of three main stripes, two red strips placed horizontally on the top and the bottom of the flag while the middle is white with the famous evergreen cedar tree placed in the middle
Pictures of General: Lebanon
General: Lebanon Cedar of the lord - General: Lebanon
Cedar of the Lord
of the flag. The red colour of the flag mainly chosen to resemble the blood of the martyrs that sacrificed themselves to gain their independence from France in 1943, the white stripe in the flag symbolises the peace and the snowy mountains in Lebanon while the green cedar is a symbol of ever green Lebanon.

History

Lebanon was a part of the great Phoenician civilization which also had Syria, Israel and Palestine and that lasted for around 2000 years. Some long way later Lebanon was colonised by one of the greatest empires of all time which was the Ottoman Empire up to the 16th century. We gained independence on the 22nd of November 1943 however French troops did not leave until 1946. A flurry of Palestinians arrived in 1948 after their respective war with Israel and then in 1967 a second batch of Palestinians came along with the late Yasser Arafat and his liberation organisation (Al fideaiye). 1975 embarked the beginning of 15 black years for Lebanon the civil war was on the horizon. The main talking point over the last few years is the bombing of the prime minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 which resulted in the whole government resigning. Ever since then the country has been unstable and had had a 33 day war with Israel in 2006.

The people

The Lebanese people are a mixture of different bloods and descent mainly Phoenician mixed up with Turkish, Roman, French and Arab as a result of several wars and invasions. This is why a big percentage of Lebanese look European with coloured eyes etc. Lebanese people look a lot different than the rest of the Arabs and that’s why Lebanese women are the prettiest and I’m not saying that because I’m Lebanese it’s a very well-known fact and Salma Hayek and Shakira Mubarak and Miss USA Rima Fakih are just some of the famous ones off of the top of my head.

As for the nature of the people, the people are very friendly and very helpful, kind and hospitality is their main character. Lebanon is a very westernised country and so are the people. They are western by the way they dress and think, that’s why they always been criticised by other Arab countries. Ok not all of them but I must say the vast majority do so. .

Climates

The weather in Lebanon generally is the Mediterranean weather. It’s mostly sunny even in winter, has a hot and dry summer where the temperature is around 27 to 35+. The month of August is the hottest where the temperature is high and sometimes it’s very humid. Most fruits are grown in summer so you would enjoy a big selection of exotic and juicy fruits. The spring is just lovely and the temperature is between 18-24 while autumn is windy and has some dusty winds. The winter is cool in places like Beirut and coastal cities but very cold in higher places and mountains. The snow covers a big area of Lebanon especially the mountains which makes a great tourist attraction.

Politics

Before I start I would just like to single out that I WOULD NOT like to disclose any political opinion, in this review I am trying to show you the beauty of Lebanon’s nature in addition to their lifestyle, culture etc. However, I shall be able to discuss how the government is formed and what it constitutes of. Its takes the form of the republic and it has 6 administrative branches in addition to the 2 pending ones of Baalbek-Hermel and Aakar. It also follows a constitution formed by the French and later amended by the Lebanese and we have the right to vote.

Civil war

Two of my siblings and I were born during the civil war years but my parents preferred to stay out of the country for the sake of their children (us) we were lucky enough to live abroad so we didn’t experience the war besides I was too young to remember anything. However reading about the war and watching documentaries about this bloody civil war makes my heart bleed. Lebanon lost millions, people died or disabled, buildings ruined , the Lebanese economy collapsed and the Lebanese lira went from 3 Liras per Dollar to 5000 per dollar, you can imagine how the life had become. Poverty, diseases, bloodshed were everywhere and Lebanon’s name spelled out terror to the world. The war started in 1975 and thankfully ended in 1990. The first time I visited Lebanon was after the war finished in 1991 and I wasn’t pleased with what I saw.

Culture

Culture and tradition two things which define a certain country and/or ideology, what makes one country different than the other; Lebanon definitely leads by example.

Entertainment and tourism

Food and Drink

The Lebanese cuisine is one of the most amazing cuisines not just in the Middle East but in the whole world. What defines Lebanese food the most are the flamboyant colours in our foods. As a part of the Middle Eastern trend we tend to apply olive oil, Use a lot of green, root and leafy vegetables and use various seed extracts the most prominent one being sesame which is made into “Tahini”. These 3 trends I mentioned above are constantly used in the starter menu, so if you were to go to a typical Lebanese restaurant, you would find a lot of these things used there. I would advise you to eat” “Baba Ghanouj but a must have are the famous Lebanese dishes “Tabouleh” or “humus bi tehina where we hold the Guinness world record for the biggest Tabouleh and Humus bi Tehina dishes.

For Lunch it is the usual especially in southern Lebanon. It is the number one on the agenda of most men (and women) its barbequed meat. If you were to go to the southern parts of Lebanon I would advise you to visit Khayzaran where they provide coal barbequed fish. If you were to move east to Beqaa You would hardly resist the smell of “sephiha.” Sephiha is mincemeat with sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, onions, a bite of chilli place on thinly rolled dough, which is stone baked. A piece of advice for you, the thinner it is the better so If you were to go visit the roman ruins of Baalbek in Beqaa make sure to eat this or YOU WILL HAVE IT BIG TIME.

Traditional Lebanese foods are vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat in addition to Molokhia which are similar to spinach yet it has its own unique smell.

As for dessert, where shall I start? I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that there are hundreds of different and extremely delicious sweet dishes, some come hot, chilled or frozen, you will be spoil for choices. The very first dessert you should ask for is definitely Baklawa or Baklava, it is a dessert of filo pastry layered with nuts, with syrup or honey poured over it after baking, it is extremely calorific but who cares? Then there is Maamoul, which are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, walnuts, pistachios or almonds. My personal favourite is halawat el jebn which is a special white cheese for dessert mixed with semolina into dough and rolled very thinly with nuts which is absolutely yummy. The most famous chilled dessert is riz bi haleeb which is rice pudding but a lot different than the usual one. There is also Arabic ice cream which is very creamy and full of nuts and cream and many, many more deserts which I can’t mention or remember.

As for drinks, there is green tea, zohorat ( a mix of herbs), pomegranates juice, Liquorice drink but I highly recommend drinking my favourite drink “Jallab” which is a very famous drink in the Middle East made from carob, dates, grape molasses and rose water. Finally if you like a bit of alcohol there is Araq, a well-known Lebanese alcoholic drink but be warned it’s a very strong drink.

Restaurants and night clubs

Lebanon is full of restaurants, old fashioned ones and posh restaurants where price is not a significant problem. You can pay as little as £5 for a 3 meal course or £500 in other high profile restaurants. American, fast food restaurants and takeaways are available and will deliver your order to your place of residence but I doubt that any tourist will order fast food when Lebanese food is in available! I highly recommend visiting some local restaurants that’s sell traditional famous food (foul and falafel) you will definitely be surprised by how good it actually tastes.

Beirut is full Night clubs, the never sleeping city is fully awake all night to greet all kinds of tourists who like to have a bit of fun, Jemeyzeh is the right place to go if you like clubbing and night life.

There are some very good family restaurants and attractions so it’s not all for the single and free ones. If you love sea food, there are some lovely beach based restaurants, so you can go swimming with the family and have you fresh fish and prawn ready for you.

Beaches

How can I talk about Lebanon and not mention the sandy golden beaches?

Lebanon is blessed for having the full four seasons and for having lovely long summer days. The lovely golden sandy beaches, the amazing turquoise sea are pleasure to the eye. I have to say that Lebanese beaches are certainly a different experience from the European ones. Most of the beaches are privatised, owned by restaurants and hotel. The private beaches are very well looked after, very clean and tidy, well watched and contain all the necessary facilities. You can relax on the white sand, reading a book, building a sand castle or simply sunbathing but be careful the sun is very hot so don’t forget your sunblock. The prices are very reasonable; it can be between £5-15 per person depending on the location and the service of course. If you like free beach they are a few, you can bring your own stuff and relax on the beach or maybe do some fishing. I really like watching the sunset it’s a wonderful scene that I love to watch whenever I have the chance.

Away from the beaches but still has the view of the sea, there is a lovely place that I would love to recommend for you, it’s the Cornish and sakhrait el Roucheh or Pigeons' Rock (Raouché). People meet there, talk, jog, swim, eat, drink coffee, cycle or simply watch the sunset.

Tourism in winter?

Yeah that’s right Lebanon is a top tourist attraction in the winter because of the several mountains we have, in addition to the snow which we get at high points like Faraya and the Arz. Many people go to Faraya in order to play winter sports such as skiing, sledding and snowboarding, not to forgetting the excitement of the cable cars. Besides, Lebanese weather in the winter is much better than the summer weather in the UK.

Many places to visit

If you don’t like beaches or skiing, there are many other sightseeing attractions to visit. I’m only mentioning some of the places because there are loads to choose from but I’m only selecting the most popular places.

Temples of Baalbek, a nice place especially for historians or anyone who is interested in culture and/or tradition in general, Jeita Grotto with its own breath taking underground caves in addition to many national museums such as the national museum of Beirut. Beit Eddine with the most beautiful views where all the houses have red roofing, Hamra street, Beirut Souks and Verdun are three very nice places for shopaholics, Mohammad al Amin mosque, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George and the must have visit Our Lady of Lebanon or (Virgin Mary statue) for religious sites or people who are interested in religion, Place des Martyrs with a big statue of the Martyrs of the independence and finally the Roman Baths with amazing Roman remains

Our Lady of Lebanon (Virgin Mary statue)

A phenomena going by the name of the “lady of Lebanon” was created by the French in 1907. The statue is bronze coated in white paint. This amazing tourist attraction is found in Harissa 20 km away from Beirut and it is a breathtaking 650 meters above sea level. It consists of 7 sectors all together that were put together on top of the stone base. The statue is very heavy weighing at a massive 15 tons and towering at 8.50 m. This statue is in Harissa village as mentioned above but this village is a part of Jounieh which is blessed with the most beautiful scenes around the world. A major part of the transportation from Harissa to Jounieh and vice versa relies on cable cars. There is also the church which is right below it and both of them were opened in 1908 and since then have become a fundamental element in Lebanese culture among all, the Christians the Druze and the Muslims. It also has a souvenir shop where you can buy models of the statues, postcards and many other things. Even in the United Kingdom there is a school that notices Our lady of Lebanon, which goes by the name of Our Lady of Lebanon Parish – London. I was lucky enough to visit this amazing statue twice in my life, once as a teenager and another time with my kids. The kids loved it when they held the candles and climbed up the spiral staircase and then reached the top seeing the breathtaking scenes of Jounieh.

Hotels

There are 56 hotels in Beirut alone and most of them come at really good prices. A lot of them are 4 stars and upwards some are less but they come at prices of 90$-200$ per night.

Transportation

Transportation is so easy and relatively cheap in Lebanon. You can hire a car for $20 per day which is equivalent to £12 or take a taxi for only $2 which is around a £1 to any destination around Beirut but if you want to go to the mountains or south Lebanon you need to pay between $20-$50 depending on the distance of course and you can always strike a deal with the driver. Public transportation is available too for ridiculous prices too! You only need to pay 500 Lebanese pounds (Lira) to get around Beirut which is less than 10p and for longer distances you only pay 2000 Lira = $1.25 = less than £1.

I have to bring to your attention that the airport transportation is slightly more expensive but the airport is very close to hotels and main attractions in the capital city. One thing to add, I have to say the Lebanese traffic is crazy especially the rush hours especially in Beirut and the shopping area and the drivers are crazy drivers who drive fast and use the horn a lot and I mean a lot!

Films

Lebanon was amongst the first Arab countries that entered the film making industry. The first film was produced in 1930. Not a lot of films were produced until quite recently, mainly because of the war years and many other factors such as the lack of funding.

The Lebanese Cinemas are always known for being unusually bolder than others, discussing some very private and complicated subjects. The Lebanese cinemas were and still criticised by other Arab countries in fact some of them never allow the film to be shown in their country.

If you are interested you can watch the film Caramel and you will get the whole behind the above statement.

Media

Lebanon’s media is nothing short of controversial to say the least as it allowed private radio stations which reflects how divided Lebanon has become (at least politically) and it has the most freedom in terms of interview and displaying whatever they want than any other Arab country in addition to the newspapers which also are divided to their respective political groups in addition to the news channels speaking whatever they wish to speak with ultimate bias.

Fashion

Who doesn’t know Elie Saab? Lebanese people are known for their love for fashion and are (again) criticised for their “different” taste in fashion. Lebanese fashion is very westernised and up to date.

If you go to the Dunes, Verdun or Al Hamra you will never believe your eyes! There are very expensive places though but you will definitely buy something!

Music

The Lebanese music is mainly based on Arabic music however these days it’s a lot shorter and has some western tunes. I personally prefer the traditional folk music but I don’t mind listening the newer pop generation.

And finally


Lebanon was one of the most visited countries in the 70s, it’s the pearl of the Middle East or the Middle East Switzerland, sadly 16 years of war has destroyed it however the Lebanese people were strong enough to rebuild the country again. We still face some political challenges but I know that Lebanese people are stronger than any conflicts simply because they love life; in fact Lebanese people are the life itself!

I really hope that you enjoy the review and maybe it will give you an insight about a country that most people know nothing about and if they do they only think WAR!

Looking forward to seeing you there :D

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Comments about this review »

buzios 10.05.2014 01:22

What a fantastic thorough review - I learnt a lot from that - which can't be a bad thing. Very well done.

danielclark691 22.06.2013 22:13

fantastically well covered.

brokenangelkisses 27.02.2013 10:41

Comprehensively reviewed.

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