Love affair with everywhere--BEIRUT
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like many other places in the world, beirut has long since been on my list of places to see. it has been very close to the top for a few years now, but unfortunately due to the supposed volatility of the region (and travel warnings from the state dept (blah), i was not able to come...until now!
i cannot explain to you just how amazing this metropolis is. the city is situated on the mediterranean sea and surrounded by mountains.. the views are absolutely breathtaking, the people among the friendliest (and trendiest), the food is phenomenal (lebanese cuisine outside of lebanon..wow...lebanese food IN lebanon...ouf! the best!) and the city has a soul with a deep history, rich culture and is the most religiously and ethnically diverse country in the region.
the city is said to be over 5000 years old and the country over 7000 years old
i am here on business just for 2,5 days..no where near enough time to actually see and do everything here since im tied up in meetings all day, but still, i got a peek into what the city has to offer, and that is enough for me to declare that i WILL be back here and next time even if for business, i will add a couple days to explore the other parts of the country, although i really prefer to come on holidays...
i had a little time after meetings finished on Monday, so the driver kindly offered to show me around the city a bit before heading back to the hotel. in case any of you reading this end up here and are looking to hire a driver for the day (which I highly recommend), shoot me a message and i will give you the info for Mr. A (we will call him here). He is a sweet old man and an overall lovely person. he will gladly show you around the city he calls home and if you let him, he will tell you all about lebanon, beirut, the war, its history and his wife and children, who he speaks about with a great deal of pride. as i have said in many posts before this, there is nothing better than finding a local to tell you about his/her city. Mr. A told me so much about the city, its history and its people that a lonely planet, any other guidebook, or even google could not have
our first stop was the to the virgin mary on the top of the hill (well, mountain I guess). the whole way i just could not get over how beautiful this place is. on one side the coast and above the mountains...for some reason, it was hard for me to believe it is bordered by syria to the north and israel and palestine to the south. you can get there by car or teleferique.
we then headed off to byblos (or jbail), an ancient city about 40km from beirut. it is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world. historically it was known as byblos, which is a greek name, but now it is called by its arabic name, jbail. we took the local road for a bit before hitting the highway so I could see some more of the town along the coast. we arrived at byblos and started at the port, which in the old days was the gateway to the phoenician city. we then headed into the ancient city and wandered around the old city and the souks. unfortunately due to time, i couldn't go into the ruins, but mr. A showed me an abbreviated version and gave me a brief history of the site. fun fact: it is the birthplace of the arabic alphabet.
the high season is over, so it was pretty quiet everywhere we went
i stayed at the movenpick. a fabulous resort property situated ON the water with gorgeous views of the sea, the city and the mountains. i would definitely recommend this place for both business and tourist travel. there were enough restaurants on the property to try, but if you decide to leave, it is connected to the corniche, where you can wander to some other cafes/bars/restaurants around the area and enjoy some delicious lebanese cuisine or just a coffee, tea, arguile (shisha/hookah) or almaza (local beer) also overlooking the sea. my lebanese friend recommended le petit cafe just up the road.
after our morning meeting and before heading off to the airport the next day, Mr. A stopped at pigeons rock, a must see and popular stop for tourists and locals. if you are there long enough, you can take a boat ride and some people even climb up to jump off...it is said to be the largest solid rock formations in the world. was a beautiful sight, but more impressive, was the clarity and color of the water that surrounds it
i am so glad i did not listen to people or the travel warnings for this place. i would have missed out on a truly breathtaking place. it is generally safe here, but like everywhere, you have to be sensible and aware of your surroundings. i highly recommend visitng beirut and exploring other parts of lebanon.
i have posted some pictures...mostly of the sea, sunset and views..hope you enjoy.
i cant wait to come back here next spring!