The diminutive Mediterranean country of Lebanon is a fascinating nexus point of the Middle East and the West; of Christianity and Islam; of tradition and modernity. It’s a place where culture, family and religion are all-important, but where sectarian violence can too often erupt – claiming lives and scarring both the landscape and the national psyche.
BEIRUT – POP 2.2 MILLION
If you’re looking for the real East-meets-West so talked about in the Middle East, you need look no further than Beirut. Fast-paced, fashion-conscious and overwhelmingly friendly, it’s not a relaxing city to spend time in – it’s too crowded, polluted and chaotic for that – but its energy, soul, diversity and intoxicating atmosphere make it a vital, addictive city. A couple of excellent museums are the key sights, but exploring the character of the different districts, strolling the waterfront and diving into the city’s wonderful restaurant and nightlife scene are major attractions. As Lebanon is so small, and day trips easy, I based myself in the capital for the entire visit – apart from one night in Byblos.
Highly recommended in Beirut city:-
Accommodation: J Hotel and Spa – located in the Hamra district of the city. Great location, super clean hotel with great facilities, and extremely friendly and engaging staff. Mini-bus connections, to all parts of the city, are close by.
Sightseeing: Free Walking Tour Beirut – a great way to get to know the history and layout of Beirut. Our tour guide Elisa was knowledgeable and tremendously animated. The tour itself proved to be both informative and thought provoking.
Museum: Beirut National Museum – fascinating and a ‘must see’.
TRIPOLI – POP 315,000
Captivating Tripoli (Trablous in Arabic), Lebanon’s second-largest city, is famous for its medieval Mamluk architecture, including a bustling and labyrinthine souq that is the best in the country and full of atmosphere. The city is also blessed with incredible examples of Crusader and Ottoman era architecture.
Next stage: Byblos and Baalbek.