Although Lebanon is a small piece of land of 10,452 km2 that has been surrounded by a war zone in recent years, my country is a friendly, safe and diverse destination with a wealth of culture, entertainment and historical monuments.
From wineries to nightlife and cultural attractions, Lebanon should definitely be on your bucket list. Here when:
THE PEOPLES OF LEBANON: FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
We like to give three kisses on the cheek almost every time we greet someone. And even though the country is full of corrupt politicians and is always somehow in financial trouble, you never get the smile off our faces.
However, we express our discomfort with black comedy and sarcasm. A lot. In fact, everyone is so used to it that we are all immune to each other’s jokes. In practice no one gets hurt anymore.
An important feature of my homeland is that it was previously occupied by both Eastern (Ottoman Empire) and Western (France) cultures. This meant that Lebanon embraced a unique diversity within its citizens. And that’s who we are today.
Most Lebanese are bilingual, if not multilingual.
Lebanon’s native language is Arabic, but most people are fluent in English as if it were their first language. And since Lebanon was a French mandate before 1943, many Lebanese citizens speak French in their daily lives.
Private schools use English or French or even both to educate young people. It is easy for tourists to communicate with locals.
NIGHTLIFE IN LEBANON
The Lebanese are known for being party animals. Regardless of the situation in Lebanon, people always find time to party.
There is a wide variety of clubs catering to a multitude of musical tastes, from deep house to hip hop and R&B. Clubs like ‘Iris’, ‘The One’, ‘Publicity’ and ‘White’ are always full of revelers.
The place might seem dark at first glance, being underground and a former Civil War refugee camp, but it’s definitely one of the hottest after-party spots, with the roof pulled back to reveal the nighttime stars.
It’s always the first option in mind when my friends and I are looking for a break after a long work week. For those looking for a quieter evening, Lebanon has about eight blocks of pubs in and around Beirut.
I really like the company of friends with good food, drinks and atmosphere. Namely, Alley Way Street in Hamra offers all this.
LOW TOBACCO PRICES
If you are a tobacco enthusiast, whether you smoke cigarettes or like Shisha, the tobacco tax in Lebanon is very low.
While in the US you can get a pack of cigarettes for $8, in Lebanon a pack of cigarettes costs about $2 and the same goes for Shisha. While it costs $20 to $30 in some countries, it only costs about $10 in Lebanon.
Low taxes and the general “coolness” of the Lebanese spirit have made the shisha trade one of the most prevalent in the country.
The 24-hour hookah shops are located a few miles from each other and are scattered all over the country.
Many people smoke cigarettes and hookahs here; Surprisingly, I’m the only person in my group of friends who doesn’t smoke. The look of shock on people’s faces every time I tell them I don’t smoke is hilarious.
What is striking about Lebanon is the diversity of dining options. Lebanese mezze is similar to Spanish tapas; they are kind of small bites put together, but the dish is definitely different.
A typical Mezza set consists of: hommos, tabbouleh, vine leaves, cheese rolls, coriander flavored chips and various meats, both raw and grilled.
While Lebanese Mezza is tasty, the great thing about Lebanon is that you can always go back to other cuisines to satisfy your cravings, such as French, fast food, Indian, Japanese, Mexican and many more.
And if you haven’t decided yet where to eat, take any street and you will find a restaurant every 200 meters.
Both the wide price range of these restaurants and the charm of their servers make the Lebanese food scene an experience not to be missed.
Humorously, the McDonalds branch in Lebanon is the only McDonalds in the world to offer valet parking.
HISTORICAL BLOOD SERVICES
In my 21 years I witnessed one of Lebanon’s many wars and it was as emotionally exhausting as you can imagine. The effects of the aforementioned occupations in Lebanon still leave their mark.
Not to mention that some of today’s Lebanese cities are among the oldest in the world. Like, for example, Byblos. The capital Beirut has been destroyed and rebuilt seven times.
Lebanon has 15 rivers, all originating from its own mountains, and the Phoenicians are said to have introduced Byblos to the first alphabet.
It is fascinating that people say that the cedars were planted by the hands of God. This is why they are called “God’s cedars”, this is why Lebanon is called “God’s land on earth”.
In addition to all this, you will find one of the biggest tourist attractions, the Jeita Grotto, which in 2012 was almost awarded as the eighth wonder of the world due to its geological significance.
It is a series of two interconnected limestone caves that are sure to take your breath away.
WINE IN LEBANON
A fascinating series of mountain peaks Lebanon is one of the most important wine-producing centers in the Middle East. A number of wineries are available, the most famous being Ksara, Kefraya and Ixsir.
I have to wash down every dinner with Kefraya’s Blanc de Blanc; it’s really great. This probably explains my reason for being a wine addict.
Many malls have well-known retailers like Zara, H&M, Mango, Topshop and many more. More importantly, Lebanon is home to international designers such as Reem Acra, Elie Saab, Rami Kadi and Zuhair Murad.
We are so proud of it. Especially when these names are featured at every other Hollywood red carpet event. We are so happy that Lebanon is getting the spotlight it deserves.
If you want to shop from global designers such as Chanel or Dior, you can also find what you are looking for in downtown Beirut. Lebanese citizens are not strange to spend this kind of money.
MODE OF TRANSPORT
For those looking for a way to save money, there is a system (one of the first carpooling in the world) where you can travel to Beirut for LL 2,000 (just over $1).
And for those who want to travel more luxuriously, there are always private taxi companies and car rental companies offering their services to one entity.
Lebanese taxi drivers are known to be real conversationalists. They update you on almost everything and that in itself has given them a great knack for reading people and situations.
I once heard a story from a taxi driver who told me that his son, an “Oxford student,” had found a cure for cancer.
SKI AND BEACH
In winter there are numerous ski resorts within 45 minutes of the capital, with runs ranging from beginner to expert. You can even cross country ski/snowboard from one trail to another.
Thanks to this easy access, I became an expert skier at the age of 11. For those who don’t know how to ski or just don’t like skiing, they can always rent a snowmobile or just spend some time playing in the snow. Snow.
Just 20 minutes from everything you can find on the beach. Rawshe public beach also offers a large number of swimming pools/beach resorts along the coast.
IN A DIFFERENT CITY
Architecture has interested me for a long time, so I can’t help but mention some aspects of it in Lebanon. The selection extends from skyscrapers to cottages and villas. To this diversity is added the presence of beautiful coastal and high altitude areas.