LEBANON - DOC by taoyni

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									                                             LEBANON

Lebanon is a tiny country with a vast history of ancient civilizations, modern conflict and
rebirth. Following the ravages of war the country is currently enjoying its renewal as an
attractive tourist destination, with the varied beauty of its landscape and people more striking
than ever.
Lebanon's history reaches back to Byblos, the world's oldest continuously inhabited site, and
continues forward through the powerful, sea-going Phoenicians and a centuries-long revolving
door of invaders and conquerors. This has left it with a feeling of cultural diversity unmatched
in the rest of the Middle East. Lebanese people and their culture have always been a melting
pot, incorporating the traits of a wide variety of influences.
The country's landscape is equally mixed, from the dramatic sweep of Beirut, perched on the
Mediterranean, to snow-topped mountains and towering cedars. In hours you can go from the
magical fairyland of Jeita Grotto to the serene beauty of the Bekaa Valley, and there are many
other sites that are not to be missed.

VISA: The visa is to be obtained prior to arrival in the country

LOCATION:
Situated on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon is bordered by Israel to the
south and Syria to the east and north. Most tourist destinations are located along the coast,
specifically Beirut and the ancient cities of Byblos, Tripoli and Tyre. However, it is in the
northern part of the Mt Lebanon range that you will find the famous Lebanon cedars, and the
spectacular Roman temples of Baalbek.

CLIMATE:
Lebanon has the mild climate of the Mediterranean, with cool, wet winters (snowy in the
mountains), warm summers, and plenty of sunshine.
Lebanon enjoys a surprising variation in climate across its small expanse. The coastal region
enjoys what is predominantly a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers (Jun-Sep) and warm
winters. Humidity is rather higher than in the Northern Mediterranean. The interior in contrast
is very dry during this period.
For both regions summer is the peak time for visitors, although ironically the country is
probably at its best in the May. October is also a good time to visit.

HOW TO GET AROUND:
Beirut International Airport is located 8km from the centre of the city. In good traffic it
should only take around 15 minutes to get to the downtown area.
By Bus: Buses are the only public transportation available in the city. Two operators provide
services, LCC (red vehicles) and the government owned OCFTC (blue buses). Buses are
extremely cheap, costing LBP500 for almost any ride, and they service all parts of the city. Bus
stops are available everywhere but even public buses will sometimes allow people to board
outside of these official stops.
In the cities taxis bearing red license plates are easily available, and short trips within the city
centre should run between LBP5000 and LBP10000.

Points to consider:
- Service taxis which carry up to five passengers at a time, are the easiest and most popular
way of getting around the country, and for travelers on a budget it is an ideal option.
- Service taxis ply fixed routes from short hops to national connections, for an agreed fare. The
tariff is divided between however many passengers are in the vehicle.
- Service cabs can be found at specific taxi stands around the city - ask at your hotel for the
nearest one.
- Outside of Beirut you can usually flag down a service taxi with little trouble. If there is extra
space they will gladly take you along.
- A taxi rented out just for you and your party is obviously more expensive but can be worth
the cost. Just be sure to negotiate a rate for the trip before you start and remember that the
more driving is involved the higher the day rate will be.
- Drivers will expect tips as well so factor this into your thoughts when agreeing the price.
- Although taxis are extremely handy having a car of your own can be convenient, especially
considering everything in the country is within a comfortable driving distance - if not a
particularly comfortable drive.
- If you decide to drive yourself, you will need a valid International Driver's License.
- The wearing of seatbelts is not compulsory but is heavily recommended.
The following table provides approximate driving distances from Beirut to selected cities.
                      From Beirut to        Km Miles
                      Jeita                 20 12
                      Jounieh               20 12
                      Byblos                35 22
                      Tripoli               85 52
                      Kadisha               100 62
                      The Cedars            126 78
                      Beit Eddine           40 25
                      Sidon / Saida         43 27
                      Tyr                   83 51
                      Baalbeck              85 52
                      Anjar (border)        55 34
                      Dabbousieh (border) 110 68
                      Masnaa (border)       58 36
                      Joussieh (border)     150 93

CURRENCY:
Lebanese Pound (LBP). LBP1 = 100 piastres

TIPPING:
Tipping is expected although most restaurants do include a service charge in their bills. You are
expected to leave 5-10% on top of this however. Taxi drivers will expect a similar tip, and you
should allow for this when negotiating your fare.

TIME:
Lebanon is behind India by 3.30 hrs.

DIALING CODE:
International dialling code: 961
Area codes:                  Beirut: 1, Tripoli: 6, Zahle: 8

CITIES:

BEIRUT:
In the middle of the 20th century, Beirut was considered "the Paris of the Middle East", a
cosmopolitan and elegant city with a style and flair all its own.
Despite the damage wreaked by 15 years of civil war, the city and the country are bouncing
back. Beirut is now a wonderfully hip, modern city with a pulsating energy. During the day you
can visit a variety of museums, go shopping or tour the archaeological sites scattered among
the city's modern buildings. That mix of old and new is a theme throughout Beirut, where you
can either stop by an ancient hole-in-the-wall shawerma restaurant or head to Starbucks for a
latte within a few paces of each other.
Be sure to take a walk along the ocean on the wide promenades where families go for
afternoon strolls. You should also explore the Hamra district, which is always busy with student
and arty types. The nightlife throughout the city is vibrant with plenty of packed restaurants
and bars - particularly on Monnot Street in the Achrafieh district.


MUST SEES:

Beirut National Museum:
The Beirut National Museum will give you an overview of the nation's fascinating history with a
vast collection of impressive objects from many eras, starting with prehistoric times. This is a
good place to visit before you head out to see the ancient sites throughout the country, such as
the cities of Byblos and Tyre where many of the artefacts were sourced.
The highlight is undoubtedly the sarcophagus of King Ahiram, a stone coffin over 3,000 years
old discovered at Byblos.
Open: Tue-Sun 09h00-17h00.

Sursock Museum:
The Sursock Museum is housed in a pristine example of early 20th century architecture and
contains permanent collections of Islamic and Asian art as well as modern art exhibitions.
Open: Mon-Sat 10h00-13h00.

American University:
Located on a hilltop looking down at the Mediterranean, the distractions afforded by such a
setting make you wonder how the students get anything done. The Archaeological Museum
here is extremely well respected and houses a variety of objects from Lebanon's lengthy
history.
Museum open: Mon-Fri 09h00-17h00 except during exam time and university holidays.

Beiteddine Palace:
850m above sea level in the Damour valley, around 40km from Beirut, the Beiteddine palace
complex is a marvel of architecture and history.
Built in the early 19th century, the palaces housed the dynastic royal family that ruled Lebanon
at the time. The palace was the brainchild of Emir Bechir Chehab II and although the entire
complex took three decades to be completed, the first stages of construction were carried out
with lightning rapidity, as every able person in the country was ordered to work on the palace
for two days a week.
Today, many of the buildings have been painstakingly restored to their original glory and there
is much to see in the complex. The inner apartments (Dar El Harim) of the Emir are the most
spectacular rooms. The audience chamber and waiting hall where petitioners would gather are
designed to display the wealth of the Emir through their intricate mosaics and sculpted
decorations. The upper and lower harems and private courtyard of the Emir can also be visited.
Don't neglect to visit the several museums at the site. The Rashid Karami Archaeological
Museum in the outer courtyard contains a valuable collection of artefacts from various periods
of history while the massive stables are home to the Mosaic Museum.

Excursions from Beirut:

Jeita Grotto:
Also near Beirut, Jeita Grotto is a cavern of breathtaking wonder that shouldn't be missed.
Discovered in 1836, the cavern is today divided into two levels for tourists to visit.
The upper level is a magical sight, as you walk through the huge subterranean world of
stalactites and stalagmites, including one of the world's largest stalactites, which measures
8.2m. The formations are enormous and so varied that your imagination will find all sorts of
shapes and creations amongst them. The lower level includes a lake that you travel across by
boat, surrounded at all times by the spectacular rock configurations.
Jeita Grotto
open: 09h00-17h00 (open until 18h00 or 19h00 at weekends Jun-Aug). Lower level closed: Nov-
Feb, or whenever the water level is too high for visitors.


Byblos:
Easily combined with Jeita Grotto on a day trip is the ancient city of Byblos, which was already
an old city even at the time of the Phoenicians who developed the town into a major port. It is
estimated that the earliest settlement was established here over 7,000 years ago, making
Byblos one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth.
The charming modern city boasts shops and restaurants alongside the glistening Mediterranean,
but Byblos is better known for its ancient sites of interest. The Crusader Castle dominates the
excavated historical site, but the surrounding complex includes ruins that date back many
millennia before the Christians were here in the early 13th century.

Tripoli:
The Phoenicians and Romans both ruled here in the past and the city was for centuries a centre
of trade and culture, closely tied to Egypt. A marker of just how influential the city was is that
it is the source of the earliest form of the Phoenician alphabet, which evolved into the
alphabet we use today.
Further north along the coast is the city of Tripoli. This ancient city by the cliffs is well known
for its traditional souks.
In the rabbit warren of the old town, where the narrow alleys form shadowed tunnels, you'll
find all manner of merchants and stall holders peddling everything you could imagine. Most
famous is the Jeweller's Souk, where fine pieces of filigree gold jewellery or bejewelled
pieces set with rubies or other gems can be found.
Leave the temptations of the market behind to explore Tripoli's other historical attractions
including the Great Mosque and the Tower of Lions, a beautiful example of Mamluk
architecture. The undoubted highlight is the medieval Saint Gilles Citadel, built by the
Crusaders during their time in the region.
Heading south from Beirut you come to Sidon and Tyre, two cities that are full of history.
]
Sidon and Tyre
Sidon, surrounded by fruit orchards, can boast several sites of interest. Although much of the
ancient city was plundered by less sensitive archaeologists in the 19th century and the modern
city has encroached on a lot of the remainder, the Sea Castle is an impressive reminder of the
strength and wealth of the medieval Crusaders. Other sights, such as the Great Mosque, built
on 13th-century walls, and the Necropoli, the cities of the dead, which lay outside the ancient
centre, shouldn't be missed.
Tyre was renowned in the ancient world for exporting purple-dyed textiles. It was variously
ruled by the Romans, Byzantines and the Crusaders, before the Saracens took over the city in
the 13th century. Wandering around the old city it is easy to see how one culture overbuilt the
ruins of another. The most notable ruins are the ones left over from Roman times. The ruins of
the aqueduct that served the city, the triumphal arch that has survived extant and the ancient
necropolis, where there are elaborate carvings on the tombs, can all still be seen.

Hotels in Beirut:
Hamra has plenty of variety with everything from basic but comfortable two and three-star
hotels in low level buildings to massive modern five-stars. Downtown you'll find more of the
latter, gleaming internationally-owned highrises hiding luxurious modern hotels. Prices all over
the city are reasonable considering the location and service you receive. Head for the Corniche
if you want to escape the city without leaving it completely, west of Hamra and Ras Beirut the
beaches and bays around Pigeon Rocks hide resort hotels, offering more space than in the city
centre.

For the ultimate seaside location, head for the Sheraton Coral Beach, a large, resort-style
hotel right by the sea with excellent amenities and comfortable, modern rooms.

A little closer into town, the Sheraton Four Points is a short hop from the sea, while being
within fairly easy reach of central attractions and restaurants. Again, the Four Points is
extremely comfortable and offers the best in modern amenities including a pool and well-
equipped gym.

If you'd rather get away from the bustle of the city, the Movenpick Resort offers a magnificent
coastal location just a few minutes' drive from the centre. With its own private beach and
swimming pools and a good choice of restaurants and sports facilities, this too is an excellent
five star hotel.

FOOD:
Walking through the mainly pedestrianised downtown area of Beirut, Solidaire, the variety of
different cuisines is overwhelming. For a true Lebanese experience drop into one of the many
cafés that are liberally scattered on the streets. Many here offer the nargileh, the large,
shared waterpipe that is the favoured accompaniment to the strong coffee pick-me-ups. Cafés
will also often serve a range of snacks, from finger food nuts and sweets to more substantial
pastries. Any of several around the Place d'Etoile's spokes is a good place to find an authentic
Lebanese café. Asia, a fusion restaurant in the area, is a beautiful spot in the summer. It is
situated on a top floor with an open roof overlooking the city and has sushi nights on
Wednesdays.

In Gemaizeh, a colonial period area just a two-minute walk east from downtown, there are
several very good international restaurants that are more suited to dining. Head for Rue
Gouraud, the boom location for young restaurants, with popular names including Food Yard, La
Streza (a good quality Italian), Chez Paul (a French bakery with excellent pastries) and the
more traditional La Tabkha, which serves delicious home-made Lebanese cuisine at affordable
prices. Le Chef is probably the best known Arabian restaurant along here, and is extremely
popular with locals (note that there's no alcohol served). Alternatively, if you're not that
hungry, drop in to the Gemaizeh Café, previously the meeting point of political firebrands, but
now reinvented as a modern café, that still serves the traditional nargileh pipes and strong
coffee. This is widely tipped to be the next big area in the city, and new contemporary
restaurants are opening here week on week.

Achrafieh is the heart of Beirut's restaurant and bar scene, especially along Rue Monot, famous
as the epicentre of the city's nightlife. Before you hit party-town you should try one of the
excellent restaurants in the vicinity. The absolutely delicious Armenian restaurant Al-Mayyas is
a must - especially if you order Mante a local dish and speciality of the house. Yabani, also in
Achrafieh, with its bizarre Bernard Kouhy-designed architecture is the best Japanese restaurant
in the city, although you pay for the privilege. The city's predilection for Italian food is also in
evidence: Pinocchio is the latest addition to Beirut's growing roster of Italian restaurants,
serving amazing pizzas and spaghetti bolognese. At Centrale restaurant and bar, Kouhy strikes
again with an amazing installation. Start your dinner in the conference chamber of a dining
room, or the garden hot-house surroundings, and then take the elevator to the bar for drinks
and a rooftop view of Beirut.

Still in Rue Monot, Pacifico offers good Mexican food with a cosy and friendly ambience for
drinks. District provides an excellent choice of international cuisine and after midnight, the
dance music starts up.

The hub of the old city, Hamra is rich pickings for people seeking traditional café style food as
well as some Western cuisine. You'll find a mixed bag of local student hangouts, Western pubs
and restaurants. Along the Corniche (Av de Paris) you'll find city favourites such as Taj Al
Moulouk and Casablanca (this latter one of the city's finest restaurants). The local ambience is
somewhat shattered a bit further east along the same street when you happen on the Hard
Rock Café. In the heart of Hamra pubs such as The Smuggler's rub shoulders with institutions
such as the expensive but perennially popular Café Paris.

With the increasing number of all kinds of restaurants, it is almost impossible to encompass the
entire range of cuisines available in Beirut, but you're assured of plenty of choice and some
good food no matter where you go.

SHOPPING:
Shopping in Lebanon can be divided into two basic categories: city shopping and market
shopping. In Beirut and a few surrounding districts there are a variety of fashionable boutiques
and large stores selling clothing, shoes, accessories and other items.
Prices are generally less than in Europe or North America, except on items imported from
there. A large Virgin Megastore downtown sells music, videos, and books among other things.
If your taste runs to the more unique or culturally representative souvenirs, you should head to
the markets of smaller towns like Byblos or Tripoli. Available products include brass and other
metalwork, leather products including bags, shoes and cushions, antiques and wooden items.
Among the latter you will find remarkable inlay work using mother of pearl as well as
traditional mashrabeyya, carved wood in the form of furniture and screens made with
intricate craftsmanship.
Of particular interest is a selection of stores selling fossils in the Old Market in Byblos. The
fossils are from the nearby mountains, are mostly around three million years old, and some of
the species have never been found anywhere else. Fish, shells, even eels and octopus are
captured in the rocks. The shop owners will gladly give you a quick education and show you
their most unique pieces.
On your way into the town of Baalbek, across from the Palmyra Hotel, there is a lovely store
called Assila, which sells locally made products ranging from textiles and pottery to beautiful
hammered silver bowls. Highly recommended as a spot for tasteful and unique pieces.

Shopping in Beirut:
Beirut is a very good city for shopping and the locals enter into it with gusto. Generally
speaking you'll find every area of the city is a fascinating place to browse, with choices ranging
from modern mall shopping to traditional souks.
The downtown area is the central shopping district, with everything from small, tourist-
oriented handicraft shops, to bargain-priced jewellers and a selection of high fashion malls.
The most luxurious department store is Aishti. It stocks the world's best known labels from
Gucci to Nike, although prices can be extremely high for the best items (not that it seems to
make any difference to the upper class Beiruti shoppers).

Modern shopping malls can be found all over the city. Dunes in Verdun St offers several storeys
of shops along with a food court and peripheral entertainment. It's mainly clothing on offer
through various outlets, with a mixture of Western and Arabic fashions on show. Other mini-
malls in Verdun include Verdun 732 and Verdun 730, both packed with shops selling
international brands. In 732, Passion store offers funky women's clothing at reasonable prices.

Jewellery and handicraft shops can also be found in Hamra and Achrafieh in much smaller
outlets. These have the advantage of feeling more authentic, and you can even haggle at least
some of the prices down. Check listings for the open-air Souk al-Barghout. This occasional
market is held three times a year at various locations around downtown (Solidaire), and
recreates the feel of an old Lebanese market, albeit with some modern additions. Along the
Corniche look out for the outlet of Artisans du Liban et d'Orient, offering an array of
handicrafts including artworks, clothing and practical items.

Due to a high customs tax, imported goods are usually expensive. For cheaper shopping, Hamra
Street's many stores mainly sell Lebanese made fashion items. Zalka and Mar Elias streets are
also full of all kinds of local fashion clothes at low prices.

If you're looking for a souvenir you can't go far wrong with some local wine. Lebanon's wine
culture dates back 4,000 years to Phoenician and Roman times and the country is still an
important wine producing country. The best wine prices are in the airport's Duty Free Shop.
Don't forget a bottle of Arak, the famous local firewater made from dates.

Shops open Mon-Sat 10h00-13h00 and 15h00-21h00. Some shops may close on Sundays but those
that remain open tend to be open: 10h00-13h00 and 15h00-18h00

NIGHTLIFE:
Beirut well deserves its growing reputation as the party town in the Middle East. The nightclub
scene here is beginning to rival Western capitals such as London and New York, and arguably
can beat both for modern inventiveness and sheer energy. Visitors are now coming to the city
specifically to experience the unique nightlife of the Rue Monot and it's no exaggeration to say
that Beirut has the potential to genuinely be "the next big thing" on the global club scene.

The number one nightclub in the city, and the one that every party person worth their salt
should head for, is B018. This innovative institution is built in a subterranean bunker, in the
middle of a car park, hardly the most salubrious location for a nightspot. Ringed by floodlights
you enter through an industrial metal entrance, descending underground into the club. Inside,
the effect is modern Gothic, the plush benches on close examination resembling coffins, hinged
to be flipped shut to act as dance podiums. The entrance fully retracts, and each morning it's
opened to the dawn as people continue to party inside - an exhilarating experience. Any
resemblance to a wartime bunker is wholly deliberate: the building was the brainchild of
Bernard Kouhy and is intended as a homage to the spirit of the city that kept on partying
underground even as the bullets flew overhead. The club opens around 21h00 but don't expect
the party to end until well into the next day (plenty of people don't even arrive until 02h00-
03h00). Located 10km from the city next to Forum de Beyrouth at La Quarantaine. Tel: +961
(0) (0)3-80-0018.

The main clubbing area in Beirut is Rue Monot in Achrafieh, although this is being rapidly
caught up by downtown's new crop of venues. It isn't hard to find somewhere in the former
area. The biggest name along here is the multi-storeyed Crystal at number 243. Ultra-cool, you
need to be dressed up to get past the bouncers, as they can pick and choose from Beirut's
finest. The party doesn't wrap up until 05h00 each night but over-indulge in the nine-litre
bottle of champagne and you won't make it. Ordering this flagship drink gets you a spotlight
appearance and your named etched on the plaque near to the door, but it also empties your
wallet to the tune of USD3000.

Also around here and worth looking for are Zinc, off Rue Monot at the bottom end of the
street, and Atlantis, along the Rue Université St Joseph, which runs off Rue Monot by the
university. This latter is a truly decadent palace, famous for its huge fish tank dance floor.
Other lesser clubs and bars include Element, Mint, the Hole in the Wall and the Lila Braun
cocktail lounge.

In the downtown area check out Strange Fruit, one of the city's newest and hippest bars, in
the Starco Centre. At the vanguard of the area's revival to outdo Rue Monot, it features great
music and innovative style in a converted cinema.
SAFETY:
Be aware that you need to carry ID with you at all times, if travelling in some areas it is
possible that you will be asked for it by military personnel. Note that unlike elsewhere where
often a photocopy of your passport may suffice, in Lebanon it is advisable to carry original
documents with you. It is also advised that you listen to daily news bulletins, the situation has
the potential to change rapidly and it may be important that you are aware of significant
developments.
Respect the Muslim culture in your dress and behaviour. Public drunkenness is forbidden. In
Beirut Western style clothes are more widely tolerated, but you should still try to dress
conservatively. Religious sites require that you are modestly dressed to be allowed entrance
and in the more Orthodox Muslim areas of the country women should wear loose-fitting
clothing to avoid offending the locals

								
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