Rawshe Rock, Beirut © Lebanese Global Information Center
Lebanon is a country immersed in history. Lying on the
Mediterranean Sea, at the junction of Asia, Africa and Europe,
Lebanon's cities and harbours were once major outposts in
Phoenician and Roman times. The Békaa Valley, known in the
1st century BC as the 'granary of Rome', is still the country's
main agricultural region - and one of the leading wine-producing
areas in the world.
One of the highlights of visiting Lebanon and its cosmopolitan capital city Beirut is the constant reminder of the country's long-standing role in the history of the world. Evidence of Phoenician and Roman occupancy is best seen at the pre-Roman historic site of Baalbek, known as the largest and best-preserved Roman ruins in the world; and in the coastal cities of Saida (Sidon) and Jbail (Byblos), where tourists have the rare opportunity to snorkel amongst submerged Phoenician ruins.
Lebanon has a remarkable natural landscape, especially when one considers how much desert surrounds it. There are four main geographical regions in Lebanon, that can easily be identified on a map. From west to east, there is the coastal plain; the Mount Lebanon Range; the Békaa Valley; and the Anti-Lebanon Range. Each region varies in topography and climate, and in what it can offer a visitor. However, because Lebanon is a small country (about the size of Cyprus), day trips to historic coastal towns and lovely mountain villages can easily be made from Beirut.
From 1975 until the early 1990s Lebanon endured a bloody civil war, which deeply scarred the country and its inhabitants, but which has resulted in some reconciliatory efforts towards rebuilding the nation, and a burgeoning atmosphere of open-mindedness and tolerance. These days, although it still features on consular warning lists, Lebanon remains a popular travel destination - and as long as travellers remain vigilant and aware of the socio-political situation at any given time, they should enjoy a safe and pleasant passage through the 'Land of the Cedars'.
The ancient cities, ski resorts, impressive architecture and striking landscapes of Lebanon are, however, just the tip of the iceberg. The country is also known for its wonderful food, internationally-renowned wineries, incredible shopping districts, red-hot nightlife and skilled artisans. Beirut, sometimes called the 'Paris of the Middle East', is a trendy and highly cosmopolitan city, where a variety of languages, nationalities and religions come together in perfect harmony. This melting pot of cultures is apparent in the colourful contrasts of the Mediterranean city, where modern life plays out in the midst of ancient buildings, where churches and mosques sit adjacent to one another, and where foreigners and locals mix easily in the dusky streets.
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