Lebanon

Situated at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon offers the perfect blend of Eastern and Western cultures. The country embodies an assortment of cultures, traditions and religions. Much of Lebanese society has been influenced by the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman civilizations that ruled the land throughout history. This is manifested in the rich archaeological sites and historical monuments found in Lebanon.

Language

Lebanon has a population of about 4.3 million people. Though predominantly the Lebanese speak Arabic, most people are adept at English and French as well. It is polite to use the word ahlan for hello and shukran for thank you

Currency

The official currency in the Lebanon is the Lebanese pound and a pound is equal to 100 piasters. At the time of writing (September 2006), £1 is equal to 2,843 Lebanese pounds.

Weather

Most of Lebanon enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Most of Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers, and cool, wet winters. The coastal plain is subtropical with an average temperature of 27°C in summer and 14°C in winter. Heavy winter snows linger well into summer, making the mountainous more pleasant in the summer. Even though the country is perfect in all seasons, spring (April – May) in Lebanon is especially enchanting. With temperatures ranging from 0-150C in the mountains and 15-250C along the coast, it is the ideal time to combine outdoor activities with visits to the rich archaeological sites.

Attractions

Lebanon has something to offer everyone. It is characterised by vast mountains, beaches, plains, caves and has a very interesting array of shopping malls and night clubs. Northern Lebanon possesses a rugged and rocky terrain with extensive historical and cultural attractions. Mountain climbing, skiing, hiking, caving and other outdoor activities thrive. The Al-Qadisha valley houses rock-cut Christian monasteries and is a favourite spot for tourists seeking pilgrimage and retreat. Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, is filled with mosques, Turkish baths, castles and traditional market places.

The Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve in the Mount Lebanon region is a popular target for hikers, bikers and bird watchers. A visit to the Beiteddine Palace is a must to view early 19th century Lebanese architecture. The ruins of Byblos are said to go way back to the Stone Age.

Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city is known as the Paris of the Middle East. The city is stylish and vibrant with modern, Ottoman and French-style buildings alongside. There are open-air cafés, trendy night clubs, museums and cutting edge fashion boutique shops.

Nestled between the mountains is the Békaa valley. The valley is interspersed with small villages and fields. This is the ideal area to test the delicious Lebanese cuisine and world-famous wines.

South Lebanon is dotted with historical ruins and untouched beaches. The beaches in Tyre and Sidon attract tourists with opportunities for snorkelling or diving. One can also enjoy mouth-watering, exotic seafood and visit the ruins in these ancient cities.

Shopping

Shopping is an exciting experience in Lebanon. Traditional markets (souks) in the market offer precious and unique handmade items at very low prices. Cities such as Koura, Saida and Chouf are famous for the olive oil soap, traditional in the country. Unique pottery, famous for its simplicity and beautiful designs, can be purchased in Assia or Rachaiya El-Foukhar. Cutlery from the town Jezzine (South Lebanon) is one of the must-have souvenirs to bring back home. Artisans use the olive tree wood to carve beautiful boxes and furniture that are often inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It is always wise to enquire about specialty shops as one goes through the country.

Trendy designer wear and accessories can be purchased for a good bargain from the markets in Beirut. Lebanon sets the trend for fashion in the Middle East. Rue Hamra offers a fine choice of stylish everyday clothing to shoes to exquisite evening wear at amazing prices; a shopper’s paradise.

Nightlife

Beirut has been famous for its night life since the 1960s. There are restaurants, casinos, pubs and bars. Monnot and Gemayzeh are hot spots for clubbing. In nightclubs there is a variety of entertainment ranging from the traditional belly dancing to oriental orchestras and vocalists. Discos are up and running until all hours.

Driving

Hiring a car in Lebanon can be expensive when compared to other countries in the region. However, this is the perfect opportunity to practise one’s negotiation skills and with diligence, cheap rates can be obtained. Fuel, on the other hand, is low-cost and easily attainable. Caution has to be exercised when driving through the mountainous areas or the jam-packed streets.

Food and Drink

Lebanese cuisine is mouth-watering and has a splendid balance of nuts, cheese, fruits, meat and bread. The appetisers (mezzes) usually include hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush (eggplant purée), fatayer and lebneh (yoghurt dip with garlic) accompanied by hot pita bread, fresh herbs and olive oil. Rice with grilled meat or fish is followed by fresh fruit and traditional desserts such as baklava. Arak, the national drink is an anise-flavoured liquor and is usually consumed as an aperitif or with the meal. Lebanese wines are sought after. Famous wineries such as Châteaux Ksara, Kefraya and Musar are found in the Békaa valley.

Tourist Information

Lebanon - Ministry of Tourism550 Central Bank StreetP.O.Box 11-344Beirut, LebanonTel.: +961-1-340940/ 340944Fax: +961-1-343279

Airports

The Rafic Hariri International Airport, formerly known as Beirut International Airport is the nation’s only operational commercial airport. The airport is situated about 9km outside the city centre.

All car hire locations in Lebanon