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Travel Directory / Middle East / Lebanon

Lebanon Travel Guide

Lebanon, Europe's gateway to the Middle East, has long been a melting pot of cultures amid the crossroads of several civilizations. The ancient homeland of the Phoenicians, Lebanon was conquered by Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and Europeans, each of these having left their influence on the local Lebanese culture.

Ruins and remnants of ancient and prehistoric structures dot the landscape, alongside modern and medieval buildings. From Assyrian temples to Roman arches, French colonial buildings to Ottoman palaces, Lebanon has architectural evidence of the richness of it's history.

Beirut, the Capital of Lebanon, has been mentioned in historical texts as far back as five thousand years ago. It was a Phoenician port, then a Greek city, a Roman colony, an Arab trading post, and a French colonial bastion. Beirut was the epicenter of the Lebanese Civil War, when the once thriving city center became a deserted no-man's-land. Present day Beirut is now a bustling cosmopolitan city once again, filled with exciting attractions to delight even the most discriminating traveler.

The Al-Omar Mosque in Beirut was a crusader church built in the late thirteenth century, and was converted into a Mosque when the Mamluks took back Beirut. Ruins of an ancient Roman bath complex are also found in Beirut, where the terraces and the landscaped grounds and the Mediterranean Gardens were restored after the war. These grounds often serve as the venue for outdoor performances and shows.

In downtown Beirut, the Solidere area is the place for outings, night outs, and shopping sprees. Take a walk along the cobblestone streets and enjoy the gems of modern and historical architecture, or relax with a cup of coffee in a sidewalk cafe. Shops offer everything from haute couture to local cuisine, from exotic crafts to basic necessities. The Solidere is also home to parks and playgrounds, hosting the occasional festival or street bazaar. Beirut is also knows for its colorful and energetic nightlife, with bars and entertainment centers catering to varied tastes, from classical ballet to pop concerts.

The Cathedral of St. George, also located in the Solidere, is considered the oldest functioning church in Beirut. Magnificent frescoes used to adorn the walls and ceiling vaults of the cathedral, It is currently undergoing restoration following wartime destruction. Several of the cathedral's icons that survived the war and its aftermath were restored in France, and the iconostasis of St. George which was destroyed is also being restored. In time the cathedral will be restored to its former glory.

Aside from historical sites and modern conveniences, Lebanon is also famous for its beaches. Once the playground of the European jet was set, Lebanon's beaches and water parks are again gaining their old status as international tourist destinations. It isn't only the summer attractions that make Lebanon a fantastic getaway, winter activities are just a stone's throw away. Sparkling Mediterranean waters and white sandy beaches are only a few hours away from snow capped peaks and powdery white slopes. Lebanon's mountains are also home to various ski and mountain resorts, offering world class skiing facilities and cozy chalets.

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