Lebanon Destination Guide

Things to Do in Lebanon

 

Lebanon is famous for its exquisite beauty, diversity, glamour, European flavor, and hospitable people. Its rich culture and history have placed it on the “must see” list of every world traveler. Lebanese cities are among the most famous names in ancient history and majestic ruins still stand today as a testimony to the greatness of people who lived in this land.

The nature of Lebanon makes it the only country in the Arab world that embraces four seasons yearly. No matter what the season, there is always something special to enjoy. In the winter season, ski resorts offer tourists slopes that are comparable to even the best resorts in Europe. In the summer, international festivals all over the country – in Baalbek, Byblos, Beiteddine, Batroun, and Jounieh – bring together Lebanese and foreign artists to perform in stunning archaeological and historical sites. These events have given Lebanon an enviable place on the cultural map of the Middle East.

Lebanon has it all! Visitors to Lebanon enjoy outstanding service in world-class hotels and resorts, restaurants, casinos, theaters, cinemas, and nightclubs and luxury shopping centers along with advanced communication and transportation services. Lebanon also offers access to cutting-edge medical centers.

 

Beirut

A Modern Capital with prestigious past

This cosmopolitan and modern city is the home of more than 1 million people, and constitutes the very heart of the country’s economic and cultural life.

Beirut teems with a perceptible vitality and energy that are reflected through its position as the Lebanese capital from a geographic standpoint: a headland that drives through the deep blue sea while dominated in the background by the breathtaking mountains.

Daughter of Venus, Beroë mother of the laws, Lebanon’s star … all these epithets do not suffice on their own to summarize several centuries of rich history.

Legend has it that the city was founded by the god EI in homage to his beloved wife, the goddess Berout. In order to protect the city, he offered it to Poseidon, god of the sea, and to the Cabiri, the gods of navigation.

The Semite name of the city ( be’erot (“wells”)) is derived from the word “bir”, Phoenician for well. The city was given the name after several underground sweet water wells were found in it.

The city boasts a glamorous past.4000 years ago, it was a prosperous port on the Canaanite-Phoenician coast, and an important commercial center,as well as a crossroad for eastern and western civilizations. In the renowned tablets of Tell- Al-Amarna in Egypt that go back to the 14th century BC, the city was said to be well-defended under the ruling of King Ammunira.

In the Roman era, the city became a prosperous colony that was dubbed “Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Berytus” in homage to the daughter of the emperor Augustus. With Augustus at the helm of the city, the inhabitants enjoyed tax exemption according to the “ins italicum” law, since it was a Roman colony. Septimus Severus chose the city in the 3rd century to be the site of the law school that attracted students from all over the world. The school was the tribune of many prominent jurists such as Papinianus, Ulpianus, Gaius, Paulus and the praetorian prefect of Illyria Anatoly the Beiruti, and it shone over the east region. Justinian assigned many professors who taught at the Beirut law school to put forth the legislative code that was the source of western laws for centuries.

The city lived a golden era until the Byzantine epoch. Throughout a 1000 year-span, the city gradually lost its past splendor until the 18th century. Just like other coastal cities, Beirut was occupied several times, and each occupation brought along destruction and bombings separated by intermittent periods of prosperity. This is why, when walking in the city, you feel the ancient presence of Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and French; unravel a warm mixture of cultures, and communicate with a populace that mixes current tendencies with reinvented nostalgias, languages, civilizations, and disturbed rebirths of historical problems.

During World War I, the Turkish governor Azmi Pasha ordered that most of the ancient quarters and neighborhoods be demolished in order to build a new city that combines oriental style and Mediterranean charm using an urban European conception. Built with yellow stones and decked with small balconies, the ancient city’s buildings go back in majority to the ottoman era and the French mandate.

About Lebanon / General Quick Facts

Capital: Beirut

Population: Approximately 4.5 million

Area: 10.452 square kilometers

Monetary Unit: the Lebanese Lira

Flag: The Lebanese flag is divided into three wide horizontal stripes with red on top and bottom, and a wider white stripe in the middle. In the center of this stripe is a green cedar tree, the emblem of the country.

Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt 7 times (this is why it’s compared to the Phoenix.)

Lebanon is the only Asian/African country that doesn’t have a desert.

Lebanon is one of the most populated countries in its archeological sites, in the world!

There are 15 rivers in Lebanon (all of them coming from its own mountains)

There’s 4.5 Million Lebanese in Lebanon. There’s around 10 Million Lebanese outside Lebanon!

People say that the cedars were planted by God’s own hands (This is why they’re called “The Cedars of God”, and this is why Lebanon is called “God’s Country on Earth.”

The first alphabet was created by Cadmus in Byblos (city in Lebanon)

The only temple of Jupiter (the main Greek god) is in Baalbeck, Lebanon (The City of the Sun)

Lebanon’s name has been around for 4.000 years non- stop (it’s the oldest country/ nation’s name in the world!)

Lebanon is the country that has the most books written about it.

The name LEBANON appears 75 times in the Old Testament

Lebanon has been occupied by over 16 countries/civilizations: (Egyptians-Hittites-Assyrians – Babylonians- Persians- Alexander the greats Army- Romans -Byzantine- Arabian – Crusaders- Ottomans -Britain- France- Israel)

Entry Requirements

All foreigners must have a valid passport and visa to enter Lebanon. Passports must be valid for at least six months. Visas can be obtained in advance at Lebanese embassies and consulates around the world. Nationals of many countries can also obtain business or tourist visas upon arrival at the Beirut Airport and at other ports of entry on the Lebanese border. At the Beirut Airport, visa stamps can be purchased at a window directly across from passport control.

Currency

The official Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound or lira (LL). Notes are available in denominations of: LL1,000; LL5,000; LL10,000; LL20,000; LL50,000; and LL100,000. There are also LL250 and LL500 coins. U.S. dollars are used widely throughout the country. Restaurants, hotels, and stores often quote their prices in U.S. dollars, and many establishments will convert and provide U.S. dollar prices for you upon request.

Language

While Arabic is Lebanon’s official language, English and French are widely spoken. Most Lebanese speak at least two or three languages, and visitors will find no problems communicating. Many establishments provide signs, menus, and information in both Arabic and English.

Time

Lebanese time is G.M.T. +2 hours in winter (October to March) and +3 hours in summer (April to September), when daylight savings time is observed.

Business Hours

Shops and businesses are typically open Monday through Saturday, 9:00-18:00. Hours vary, and in summer many establishments close early. Restaurant hours vary, and many restaurants, especially in Beirut, are open late. Sunday: official shutdown (Except big stores and trade centers).

Private institutions open from 8:00a.m. to 6:00p.m.

Shops open from 9:00a.m. to 7:00p.m. except on Sunday.

Big stores and trade centers open daily even on Sundays and holidays (from 9:00a.m. to 11:00p.m.). Small shops open in local areas almost all day long.

Museums open daily from 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.

Historical sites maybe visited every day from 9:00a.m. till sunset.

Banking hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30-14:00. Working hours for government offices and post offices are typically 8:00-14:00 from Monday to Thursday.

Friday: 8:00-11:00- Saturday: 8:00-13:00
Holidays

Thanks to its diverse population and different religious groups, Lebanon has a full calendar of official holidays. Although all banks, government offices, and schools are closed on holidays, it is often possible to find shops and restaurants open for business.

Most important Islamic holidays are based on the Lunar calendar and therefore their dates are not fixed.

Holidays with Fixed Dates:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Christmas (Armenian-Orthodox) – January 6
  • St. Maroun’s Day – February 9
  • Commemoration of the assassination of PM Rafic Hariri – February 14
  • Labor Day – May 1
  • Martyrs’ Day – May 6
  • Annunciation Day / Resistance & Liberation day – May 25
  • Lady Mary Assumption– August 15
  • Independence Day – November 22
  • Christmas – December 25

Religious Holidays with Moveable Dates:

  • Catholic Good Friday
  • Orthodox Good Friday
  • Catholic Easter
  • Orthodox Easter
  • Ras As-Sana – Hegire (Muslim New Year)
  • Eid Al-Fitr (two days)
  • Eid Al-Adha (two days)
  • Al-Ashoura: in memory of the death of Hussein (the prophet’s grandson).
  • Mawlid An-Nabi (Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday)

Ecotourism

Lebanon: A destination for unique experience

Ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is a form of tourism that appeals to ecologically and socially conscious individuals. Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet. It typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.

The blue sky and the warm water of the Mediterranean Sea, the fresh air and the pleasant chill of the snow melted-fed rivers make Lebanon a perfect destination for Ecotourism.

Lebanon’s nature is outstanding, it is an outdoor adventure-lovers’ paradise. Thus most of the ecotourism activities and sports can be practiced in Lebanon.

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