- 22 Aug - 28 Aug, 2020
Lebanon - The Next Destination
- 27 Jul - 02 Aug, 2019
- Travel Diaries
Do you have an automated response of crumbling cities or barren brown lands at the mention of Lebanon? There has been a long standing image of civil war, violence and things along the same line, a notion tricky to explain because the last civil war was over two decades ago and after which the country was opened to tourism. Exploring Lebanon and its vast landscapes and even better, its diverse religious groups is an interesting change of perspective that comes easy with the image of a tense Middle East. At present, one of the safest countries in the region, it’s a happening tourist destination quickly rising on the tourism ladder. Pair that with the rich Mediterranean culture, exquisite cuisine, hospitality and the hipster and underground culture of Beirut and it looks like an electrifying vacation is in the works. What was once labeled the “Paris of the Middle East” has quickly gone back to its former title and if that is not reason enough for a vacay, we don’t know what is.
For those who seek a sunny escape to wash away the blues from a stressed life, Lebanon will not disappoint. Sapphire blue waters and refreshing beaches populous with locals and tourists alike because who doesn’t need a beach day out. Wind down with music blasting, party raging on a golden sandy beach in one of the many famous beach resorts in Beirut, considered one of the most liberal capital cities in the Middle East. If you have a specific kind of beach day requirements you like, trust us, Lebanon’s got it. Lay on the clean shore of Tyre Beach, a gem tucked away on the Mediterranean coast and the inviting waters are a sight to behold. Entrance is free so it’s a favourite with locals and tourists, making it a little crowded for those with “need space and quiet” tastes. The Pierre and Friends, another pebbled shore is very famous with beach lovers mostly thanks to the wild waves crashing on the rocks, making symphonies many people enjoy.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking off a white beach, then this is your chance. A white sandy beach, unoriginally named the White Beach is a divine affair. You could spend all day looking at the deep blue waters wash over ethereal white sand shores, a kind of painting brought to life. Good food and thin crowds are just an added bonuses to indulge in. The best part about Lebanon is that it’s a small country so everywhere can be driven to in a matter of two to three hours. So when you’ve had your fill of beaches in Beirut, you can drive up the coast to Byblos. Usually famous for its historical relevance but you could get a strong dose of the sea in this region; for the best experience, check into an exotic beach club. With infinity pools and great service, there’s little else that you could ask for to complete the day.
A look at the history
The infamous Roman ruins in Baalbek you see hashtagged on Instagram cant encapsulate it all. Middle East is known for its turbulent history with Romans, Ottomans, Turks, Persians, Babylonians and anybody who passed by and spent a few years here has left their mark, surviving to this day from their occupation. Lebanon being no exception caters to those with the history bug; have an up close look at the colossal columns of the Roman Temple and marvel at their intricate stonework and the lion heads so recurringly found in ancient Roman architecture. Earthquakes have demarcated traces but in a 21st century-millennial mindset, the remains are magnificent testament of the history this place has withstood. In another region, not far from Baalbek, is the Byblos Castle, owing to the 12th century Crusaders who also contributed to Byblos becoming one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. Our Lady of Lebanon, a largely visited site by Christians and Muslims, is a 26 feet bronze statue of Virgin Mary atop a winding staircase over a monumental shrine dating from the 19th century. The view from the top is the blue sea and the panorama of the city, unfolded and marveled.
Is it safe?
There’s still a lot of stigma around the idea of solo female travellers mainly contribution of the safety factor around the world. True, there are many on the front row breaking those stereotypes and bashing the stigma head on, but in a practical world, masses would say that a woman solo traveling in Europe is far different than a female traveling solo across a politically-disturbed Middle East. The stigma is challenged with tourism in Lebanon increasing and more and more travelers making their way through the borders. Debunking the myths and horror stories are many famous solo female nomads, who have only good things and no-bounds stories to share, and establishing a common verdict that Lebanon indeed is safe, for travel as well as for women that fly solo.
This for those adrenaline junkies who like to live on the wild side of life, the ones who aren’t afraid of a little trip and fall and the bruised knees are remnants of a good day. This country has two differing topographies. The Mediterranean coastline on one side and the other side is vast landscapes of mountain ranges. What comes as a surprise is that it is a Mid-Eastern country with no expansive deserts. The Lebanon Mountains, again a very unoriginal name, is a range parallel to the coastline and is less than half a day’s drive away. The truest mountainous exploration trip is in the lesser known Qadisha Valley, a stunning canyon nearly 1000 meter deep and one of the most ancient homes to monastic Christians. Breathtaking views of gorges and mountains from caves that were once inhabited by monks and hermits, most of which are explorable so channel your inner Dora the Explorer. The famed and fabled-sounding UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Cedars of God, a landscape that once thrived with cedars in the region. Many conquerors in history practiced relentless deforestation in these regions, leaving the area deprived of its natural resources to an alarming stage. The valley is also littered with monasteries, mostly in beautifully artistic ruins, like time itself didn’t want to destruct history, are sights to be seen. These regions also have very interesting fiction-like stories attached to them for obvious spiritual, religious and historical significance that you may want to listen first hand coming from a resident in the valley over Lebanese comfort beverages. Because experiences and encounters like this one are the essence of traveling.
The Arabs of all sorts are known for setting up feasts and over-feeding their guests, without taking no for an answer. Nobody counts helpings and with food as delicious as the Mediterranean cuisine, all calorie count becomes an ignored thought, as it should be. Lebanese specifically becoming one of the best of the Mediterranean cuisines (we vouch!) has traces from all the empires that lived here, as mostly is the case when it comes to the common culture in the region, but it’s something about food here that makes it better than found in, let’s say, Turkey. Maybe it’s the labneh, a homemade yogurt with rich creamy texture and sweet traces or the minimally but richly seasoned lamb kebabs and kaftas that make it such a treat. Or the staple cold mezze which is a variety of dips and salads found all across the Middle East but varying in taste from country to country. Lebanon would take away the win and you got to try to know why.
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