Lebanon- Unexpectedly Breathtaking

Arabian Nights, culture, language, the civilizations and a rich atmospheric experience are the things that can lure anyone to visit Lebanon. This tiny country which has a rich culture and also a war history is a gorgeous natural beauty. Don’t listen to the media about the country being plagued by terrorists and how dangerous it is, because not going to Lebanon would be a tragedy in itself!

Lebanon
Lebanon (Pic courtesy: http://www.emirates.com/english/destinations/flights-to-lebanon.aspx)

I visited my Lebanese friend in March last year and spent 5 days in this unexpectedly breathtaking and beautiful land with rich culture and ancient history.

The excitement for my trip to Lebanon began even before I went there. Considering all that I have heard, I went shopping for pants and fully sleeved tops to make sure I don’t disturb the local cultural modesty and beliefs (Who better to respect that than an Indian girl :-P). But, was I in for a surprise or what? On landing we drove past a beach before reaching our hotel and I spotted beautiful bikini clad girls jogging to the beach. The next few days were eye opener to say the least.

So, the country is really tiny as you are probably already aware and hence I had Beirut as my base and my friend and I would head out to explore various different places around the capital city. Beirut reminded me a lot of India from the way the people drive, there was hardly any car I came across that did not have a scratch. That was the only India resemblance 🙂

On my first day, we headed straight to Downtown Beirut, where you can spot the rich and famous of Lebanon. It houses luxury designer stores, boutique hotels, restaurants and a selection of bars. After spending some time near the Martyr’s Square and exploring the area which has some Roman ruins and a large mosque, we headed straight to my friends favorite bar, met some new friends and had a gala time. Lebanese know how to party! We had some interesting conversations about our cultures, the yoga trend in Lebanon and many more things. All in all, it was a night well spent with some lovely people.

Lebanon
Lebanon

The next day, we headed to visit the main attractions of this city situated on the coasts of Mediterranean Sea. Although, it has nothing much but there are a lot of museums to discover, restaurants to enjoy Arabian cuisine, great people to share with and lots of other things. One day can be a good enough time to visit this city. Another place in Beirut to check out for the vibrant and young culture is Hamra.

Post that, we headed to visit the ancient archaeological site- Baalbek where Temple of Bachhus welcomes and astonishes the tourists. It is in the best of its preserved condition. Temple of Jupiter is impressive enough. I found myself lucky to visit the Baalbek when the Baalbek International Festival was going on. I had a pretty good time there.

Lebanon
Temple of Bacchus (Pic courtesy: http://www.pbase.com/bmcmorrow/image/26821926)

The next day I planned to visit the famous caves, the Jeita Grotto which is about an hour from Beirut. On the same day, on my way back, I got to know about a zoo and didn’t miss the opportunity to visit it at the same time. The caves of Jeita Grotto are now open for the international tourists although previously they were closed due to war. Jeita Grotto was really one of the most beautiful natural caves I’ve ever seen. This cave is covered completely in Limestone that has been formed over thousands of years, filled with stalagmites and stalactites. On paying some money, you can travel in a boat through the natural waters. I have heard from others that they managed to illegally click some photographs but the rule abiding me did not. Having said that, it is the most beautiful structure I’ve laid my eyes on. This was where I almost came very close to my soul, the peace inside the cave- the sights, oh my god I’m lost for words on how beautiful the whole experience was.

Lebanon
Lebanon

We then headed straight to the beach- Ramlet el-Baida- Beiruts only sandy beach. You can lounge on the beach, hit the waters, play some sports and just relax. The sight is beautiful and the whole experience is thoroughly relaxing. I also went back to my hotel that evening and booked myself a massage- did I tell you this was the best day in Lebanon J

The next day was spent outside the city. First I headed to Harissa (Our Lady of Lebanon). The statue of Our Lady of Lebanon overlooks the city of Jounieh and one of the most touristy sites. If you are adventurous you can trek it up to the top of the mountain, but I took the cable car and it was a fun experience. Also, the view from the top is just breathtakingly beautiful. The pictures are unable to do justice.

Lebanon

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The next on my itinerary was the famous city of Byblos which is quite famous for being one of the oldest cities of the world. Byblos hosts buildings, ruins and artifacts dating back to many thousand years. The city also houses the most beautiful pubs, clubs and modern restaurants who know how to deal with your crave for Arabian food (Arabian + Sea food= heaven= Byblos). The place has such a beautiful old school feel to it, with cobblestone paved walkways, flea markets, street art, street performers, churches. The vibrancy of Byblos will keep you excited and entertained while etching lifetime memories in your head.

Lebanon
Byblos

I spent a lot of my time in Lebanon hitting grungy ruin bars, heading to Armenian Street in Beirut, shopping and stuffing myself with Baklawas and just soaking everything this beautiful country has to offer. Lebanon is one of the more naturally beautiful places I have ever visited and the memories will stay a lifetime. Can’t wait to visit the country again.

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