Named the world’s number one travel destination by the New York Times in 2009, Lebanon has regained its popularity in the world of tourism as the "Paris of the Middle East". Despite all of the political instability and humanitarian hardships the Lebanese people have faced over the past couple of years, the Lebanese spirit to survive is unwavering.
Don’t judge a country by its size – Lebanon is so small in area yet so large in choice of entertainment!
During the Day
A typical summer day in Lebanon starts with a sun-kissed tan on a stretch of white sandy beaches. Choices are many, varying from an array of options starting in the North and ending in the South. For those looking for a beach party that starts from 11 am and lasts until sunset, your places to go are Edde Sands, La Guava and Oceana. For the calmer tourists looking to spend a day in serenity, beaches such as La Plage, Janna Sur Mer, Orchid and Riviera offer you the tranquility you are looking for. Most beaches in Lebanon charge an entrance fee of LBP 30,000 (USD 20) on weekdays and approximately LBP 35,000 (USD 23) to LBP 40,000 (USD 27) on the weekends; a reasonable price to pay compared to the beauty of your stay!
Over the past couple of years a new concept emerged in Lebanon. Saturday mornings are now usually spent at "Souk El Tayeb", a local market, located in downtown Saifi Village in the heart of Beirut city. Organic foods are the highlight of this specific market. Buyers and sellers from all over the country gather at Souk El Tayeb to exchange mostly homemade organic foods varying from fruits, vegetables, homemade jam and Labneh, freshly picked thyme and parsley; these are just to name a few. In addition, various artists gather there on Saturdays to sell their handcrafted products such as earrings, bracelets, paintings and at times clothing items.
For traditional artisans the place to go is definitely Hamra Street. Abayas, cigarette holders, makeup bags, magazine holders, coasters, evil eyes and so much more. You can find handmade items like these in a number of stores in various colors, shapes and sizes. Every store has different items to offer, all unique in their own way.
"Must see" touristic sites in Lebanon are many. Beirut Downtown is a tourist magnet offering both visitors and locals a variety of activities. The renowned "Place de l’Etoile" is surrounded by the classiest coffee shops and restaurants where one can either enjoy a delicately cooked meal or a cup of afternoon coffee. Also available are plenty of shisha cafes, for those looking for a casual change.
For those that want to enjoy a day out of the city, Jeita Grotto is the place to go. Nominated as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the two grottoes offer visitors an experience of a lifetime. The magical essence of the caves, along with the beauty of nature that has been preserved and untouched by man, send the soul and mind to a place of tranquility and harmony.
Of the most prominent touristic sites are the Faraya Mzar mountain resort, which overlooks gorgeous views and where in winter you can enjoy skiing in the snow; Harissa in Mount Harissa where "Our Lady of Lebanon" can be visited; and Tripoli which has a famous souk and a castle that dates back to over 5,000 years.
Festivals and Nightlife
There is a big variety of festivals that take place during the summer season. Both local and international artists from all around the world gather in Lebanon for various performances. Most of these festivities take place in the famous historical sites Baalbek, Beiteddine and Byblos (Jbeil).
For the night life lovers, places to go are endless. Famous DJs such as Tiesto, Paul Van Dyke, David Guetta and Armin Van Buren are regulars in the Lebanese music scene. The famous Gemayze strip, an old Lebanese street still preserving its essence of Lebanese history and heritage consists of never-ending mini pubs that vary in themes such as Spanish, Latino and Hip-Hop.
To beat the heat, the hottest summer social gatherings are on rooftops such as Sky Bar, Beiruf and White, offering dinner as a start-off for the night before the music begins. For trendier places that offer Arabic music and one-man shows, places such as Casino, Music Hall, Concerto and Shah should be visited. Many of them are also family-friendly.
If there is one thing Lebanese people are famous for, it's their food! Restaurant selection is the hardest thing to do; there are so many options to pick from! For the best restaurants that offer traditional Lebanese mezza, visit Karam in Downtown, Mounir in Brumana, and Burj el Hammam in the Movenpick Hotel & Resort. Other popular dining choices that vary in menu are Table D’Alfred for International cuisine, Manadloun Grill for French cuisine, Sultan Ibrahim for Seafood, Julias for the best Italian and Yabani for Japanese. Also, a visit to the Solidère, where an abundant number of cafes and restaurants line the pavement, is a must.
For shopping lovers, Aishti Downtown offers you a variety of selections of all the top international brands such as Chanel, Dior, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen and many more. Newly opened Beirut Souks and malls such as Verdun 730 and Verdun 732 hold high street brands including Zara, Mango, H&M, and Depeche Mode in addition to higher end brands like Max Mara.
Looking for a place to jump start your summer vacation? Look no more! Lebanon is your destination for the summer of 2010. Hotels are overflowing with visitors from all around the world. Book your flights now and enjoy a summer never to be forgotten. There is so much to do and not a moment to spare!
– Images: Lebanon Ministry of Tourism
By Maya Moussa