Lebanon

Beirut

Nowadays Beirut has restored its status as the Emerald of the Mediterranean. The trendy Solidere area of downtown Beirut today consists of magnificent buildings, architectural gems with yellow stonework and arabesque archways. The cobblestone pedestrian streets are lined with retail shops selling unique traditional crafts, trendy designer fashions, jewelry, and much more. There are over 70 restaurants and sidewalk cafes, which are popular places to spend a warm evening. At the center of Solidere is the Clock Tower, a popular area for children to play. Solidere is also home to several Roman ruins sites that have been uncovered and preserved, several notable mosques and churches, and the national parliament building.

Anjar

Unlike other archaeological sites which are superimposed by different civilizations one on top of each other Anjar is exclusively from one period, the Umayyad. Anjar also stands unique as the only historic example of an inland commercial center. The city benefited from its strategic position on intersecting trade routes leading to Damascus, Homs, Baalbeck and to the South. Today's name "Anjar" comes from the Arabic Ain Gerrah (the source of Gerrah) the name of an ancient stronghold founded in the era prior to Hellenistic times. The city's slender columns and fragile arches stand in contrast to the massive bulk of the nearby anti-Lebanon Mountains.

Baalbek

Located in the Bekaa Valley ("the breadbasket" of the Roman Empire), the city of Baalbek originated as a place of worship to Baal (the Phoenician sun god). Later, in Greco-Roman times, Baalbek was known famously as Heliopolis or "City of the Sun". Today, Baalbek is world renown as the site of some of the largest and best preserved Roman temples in the world.

Beit El Din Palace

Lebanon's best example of early 19th century Lebanese architecture was built over a thirty year period by Emir Bechir El-Chehab II, who ruled Mount Lebanon for more than half a century. Its arcades, galleries and rooms were decorated by artists from Lebanon and Italy. This building is considered a model of eastern architecture. It has decorated ceilings, colorful mosaic floors, luxurious Ottoman baths, and numerous glass-studded cupolas - harem suites overlooking the wonderful valley of Deir El-Qamar, water jets, and wonderful colonnades. Today the palace houses a museum of feudal weapons, costumes, and jewelry, as well as an archaeological museum and a museum of Byzantine Mosaics.

Byblos

Byblos is one of the richest archaeological areas in Lebanon. The site of Byblos goes back more than 10000 years. Its name was the origin of the Greek word "biblion" which means book, giving us hence bibliography and bible. Long before Greece and Rome, this ancient town was a powerful, independent city-state with its own kings, culture, and flourishing trade. For several thousand years it was called "Gubla" and later "Gebal", while the term "Canaan" was applied to the coast in general. In 1200 B.C., the Greeks gave it the name "Phoenicia", referring to the coastal area. They called the city "Byblos" (Papyrus in Greek), because this commercial center was important in the papyrus trade. Under the domination of the Egyptian Pharaohs in the 3rd and 2nd millennium B.C., Byblos was a commercial and religious capital of the Phoenician Coast. Byblos has several historical ruins among which are the castle and the church built by the Crusaders (12th and 13th centuries A.D.); the Roman amphitheater, the Phoenician temples, and the royal necropolis (which date back to the 4th millennium B.C.).

Cedars

The mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests; the tree is the symbol of the country. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of these forests has been markedly reduced.
Over the centuries, cedar wood was exploited by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Romans, and the Turks. During World War I, British troops used cedar to build railroads. Time, along with the exploitation of the Cedars' wood, has led to a decrease in the number of Cedar trees in Lebanon. However, Lebanon is still known for its Cedars, as they are the emblem of the country and the symbol of the Lebanese flag. Nevertheless, the trees survive in mountainous areas.

Deir el Kamar

A scenic town with many well preserved historical buildings. It played a very important role in the history of Lebanon. Deir el Kamar is famous for the mosque of Emir Fakhr Eddine and the castle of Emir Melhem Shehab. Considered a well-preserved traditional village, Deir Al Kamar's sites include the palace of a former Ottoman governor, a restored silk souk where rows of arched alcoves once sheltered merchants, a wax museum featuring historic figures in realistic settings, a late 16th century emir's palace, and many homes with two arched windows. UNESCO declared Deir el Kamar a World Heritage site.

Harissa

Located 20 kilometers from Beirut, Harissa is an important Lebanese pilgrimage site high above Jounieh. It is accessible either by a steep winding road or a nine-minute journey by a gondola lift known as the "téléférique". The main site is a huge 15-ton bronze statue of Virgin Mary, known as Our Lady of Lebanon or Notre Dame du Liban, with her arms outstretched. The statue was made at the end of the 19th century and inaugurated in 1908. Inside the statue's base there is a small chapel. Right next to the statue there is a huge modernistic Maronite Cathedral, built of concrete and glass. In May 1997, Pope John Paul II visited Harissa.


Jeita

The caverns of Jeita Grotto, one of the seven wonders of nature, in Mount Lebanon are on two levels: the lower caverns are visited by boat over a subterranean lake, while the dry upper gallery can be seen on foot. These caves and galleries are known to man since Paleolithic times. The action of water has created cathedral-like vaults beneath the wooded hills of Mount Lebanon forming magnificent caverns.


Sidon

One of the famous names in ancient history, Sidon was an open city with many cultural influences, including the Egyptian, Pharaohs, and the Greeks. During the Persian period Aegean sculptors contributed to the nearby temple of Eshmoun; (the city's god) which was associated with the Aesculapius (the Greek god of healing). The Crusader period (1110-1291 A.D.) brought Sidon new prestige as second of four baronies of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Worth visiting today are the ruins of the fortress church known as the Castle of the Sea (erected by the Crusading Knights of St. John), and the shell of the Castle of St. Louis (the land castle) which sits atop the Phoenician acropolis near Murex hill (named after the Murex shell from which the famous Phoenician purple dye was extracted).

Tyre

An ancient Phoenician city in south Lebanon jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea. The modern city's name is Sur. Tyre has a long and illustrious history. In ancient times it was the most important city of the Phoenicians, amassing great wealth and power from the export of purple dye. In the first century A.D. Tyre was the home of a Christian community visited by St. Paul. Today, Tyre is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and is a popular stop for tourists due to its ancient ruins. It was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1984.