Lebanon, a small, roughly rectangular rugged land in the central eastern Levant, looks out onto the Mediterranean Sea and shares borders with Syria and Israel. Perhaps no other land has as many contrasts and contradictions. Civilised since before 3,000 BCE by the sea-faring Phoenicians, it was a link between the trade-routes through the eastern hinterland and those that crossed the sea to the West.
Home to approximately 3.5 million people of 17 different faiths, Lebanon has not had a tranquil past, but today the country is looking to the future: rebuilding its cities and economy; encouraging the rebirth of the banking and business industries that made it a Middle Eastern hub; and welcoming tourists to its resorts and glittering urban scene.
Once again, Beirut is earning its epithet ‘The Paris of the Mediterranean’. With its service centred economy based on banking and trade, the city is a vibrant setting for commerce and night-life. A total reconstruction of the downtown area has taken place with sleek hotels and office blocks, restaurants, cafés and night spots, an archaeological park, and many other attractions. Meanwhile, Beirut’s vibrant arts scene plays host to performances, exhibitions, fashion shows and concerts in the museums, theatres and public spaces throughout the city.
Tourists come for the shopping, for the culture, for the history and the food. In the winter they come for the skiing and during the spring and autumn for sightseeing. Summer is the season for beaches or long lazy lunches high in the mountains. It is also the season for summer festivals against the dramatic historical backdrops of Byblos and Baalbek.
Eco-tourism has become more popular in Lebanon with locals and with foreign visitors. Several companies offer day excursions from Beirut, or longer tours by bike, on foot, or with four-wheel drive as an alternative to traditional sightseeing. These tours are designed to have a low environmental impact; to introduce people to the wonders of nature, and Lebanon’s rich historical, artistic, and cultural heritage while benefiting small communities in remote areas.
From its souks to its palaces, it churches to its mosques, its mountains to its shores, Lebanon offers an unparalleled chance to glimpse a land between East and West, between Arab and European, between the past and the future.
Things to do in Lebanon
Lebanon offers visitors a range of things to do and places to visit. Below are some of the best.
One of Lebanon’s most famous attractions, just 18 kilometres from the capital, is the Jeita Grotto. A six-kilometre labyrinth on two levels, the cave includes an underground lake where visitors can enjoy a boat ride, and an upper gallery with impressive geological formations.
Some of history’s most famous men, among them Ramses II, Nebuchadnezzar, and Marcus Aurelius, left inscriptions and bas-relief sculptures in the limestone cliffs of the Dog River.
The Baalbek Ruins
In the northern Bekaa Valley you’ll find the great Roman ruins of Baalbek. Huge temples dedicated to Jupiter and Bacchus dominate the 1st century site and are some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Middle East.
Some 70 kilometres outside of Beirut is the city of Byblos, which has been continuously inhabited for more than 7 000 years and gave its name to the Bible. The remains of the 12th-century Crusader castle, the Phoenician temple and tomb chambers with the oldest alphabetic inscription ever discovered, and a Greco-Roman amphitheatre overlooking the sea, make it a destination worth visiting for visitors to the area
Another great place to discover is the mountain town of Bcharre. Situated at an altitude of some 1 450 to 3 088 metres (4 760 to 10 131 feet), this town is the birthplace of Lebanon’s famous artist and author Gibran Khalil Gibran and is close to Lebanon’s last remaining cedar forest. Some of the trees are more than 1 500 years old. In the winter, the area becomes a ski resort with facilities for cross-country and downhill skiing as well as snowboarding
Several international festivals are held in Lebanon, featuring world-renowned artists and drawing crowds from Lebanon and abroad. Among the most famous are the summer festivals at Baalbek, Beiteddine, and Byblos.
Business in Beirut
In addition, Lebanon`s strict financial secrecy and capitalist economy—unique in its area—have given it significant economic status among Arab countries. The thriving tourism and banking activities have naturally made the services sector one of the most important pillars of the Lebanese economy
If you’re looking to do business in Beirut, you’ll find the city’s central business district — known as the Beirut Central District (BCD), or Centre Ville — on the northern coast of the city. The district is home to the regional headquarters of trade and finance organisations such as The World Bank, the Union of Arab Banks, of the Beirut Stock Exchange and of the international organisations the United Nations and the International Labour Organization.
The main airport in the country is Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport. The airport is situated a mere 5.6 miles from the city centre, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which makes it fairly straightforward to access. The airport was previously known simply as Beirut International Airport.