Lebanon: Paris of The Middle East
Why Lebanon is more than just a war torn country.
Because I’m half Lebanese, I have had the opportunity to spend a couple summers in Lebanon. Because of its location between Israel and Syria, Lebanon gets the world wide reputation of being an unsafe, third world country that only makes the news because of the latest car bombs or war threats. It’s just another middle eastern country that will never know peace. However, I know Lebanon differently. I know it as my beautiful second home filled with the kindest people, best food, top notch beaches, and hottest night clubs. My summers there were hands down the best summers of my life. Although it may not be the typical stop on a college tourist’s trip around the world, it will definitely surprise you.
Reasons To Put Lebanon On Your Radar:
1. The People
Pretty much everyone you are going to run into in Lebanon speaks either English or French in addition to Arabic, so you will have no problem finding your way around the country. I have yet to meet people as friendly as the Lebanese. Especially as a young woman, there are always people who are willing to help you. For example, one night when some friends and I decided to go out, we took a cab to the clubs and as we were getting out the elder, male cab driver gave me his number and told me to be careful and call him if we need anything. He immediately used terms of endearment with us, taking on a grandfather or uncle role. This is completely standard in Lebanon, you will feel comfortable around people in minutes. Everyone treats each other like family. The young people are full of life and always out at night. Restaurants and malls are always full of happy people and the night clubs are never empty. These are people who know how to live.
2. The Food
Lebanese food. There are really no words to describe it. From kafta to arish to manoushi. Your taste buds will be in heaven and your diet will be out the window. My favorite food there is manoushi. This is a breakfast food (but I have it any time of the day). It is flat bread with a lebne (white, thick yogurt texture) spread on it with Zaatar (a time of herb or spice) spread on the top with tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley. There are many different ways to customize your own manoushi, but that is how I do it. The best place for these is a restaurant called Zaatar W Zeit. It is a fun and casual restaurant chain in Lebanon that is known for its Manoushi. Another place that comes to mind is Le Galet. This is located in the town of Tabarja on the water. It serves great Lebanese food and seafood. The service and cooking is excellent. These are only two of the many, many restaurants that are a must see.
3. The Beaches
So, the beaches in Lebanon are completely different that the ones in America. They are mostly all private. You pay a small fee to get in. Why? Because you are entering paradise. At most beaches like Edde Sands, Pangea, and Orchid there are pools, restaurants, waiters that walk around and serve you food and drinks poolside, and music playing. It is as if you are at a 5 star resort for the day. Then there is the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. It is warm enough to swim in, happily! During the summer, most people spend their entire days here.
4. The Night Life
Because of the constant threat of war and violence, the Lebanese make every moment count. And that includes from hours 1am to 5am. Not only are there the crazy night clubs like Buddha Bar, Sky Bar, and BO18, but the beach resorts mentioned above turn into night clubs at afterdark. There is no shortage of clubs in Lebanon. Buddha Bar has a giant Buddha in it, a dance floor, a cool bar, and some great food. Sky Bar is on a roof top overlooking the ocean and Beirut. And BO18 has a retractable roof that opens at around 5am so that you can party while watching the sunrise.
5. The Views and Religious Sights
Harissa is a mountain village where a large statue of Our Lady of Lebanon overlooks the whole city. The Teleferique is basically a ski lift that heads up and down this mountain in order to get to the statue. During the Teleferique ride and you overlook the city and sea and once you reach the statue you can climb the steps to the top. Inside of the base is a small cathedral, as well. It is a famous Lebanese pilgrimage built at the end of the nineteenth century.
Mar Charbel was a hermit of the Lebanese mountains who performed many miracles and was later named a saint. You can visit his home in the highest village in Lebanon. You are able to walk through his home and read about his miracles. It is the most quiet and peaceful place I have ever been. If you are religious or not, it is hard not to find a connection with something greater than you. This is somewhere you are going to want to return to when life gets crazy.
Baalbek is the historical sight of one of what used to be one of the largest sanctuaries of the Roman Empire and today has some of the best preserved Roman ruins. These are places that were built during the first century. If you want to literally walk through history, this is one of the oldest places you can go.