Looking Beyond Lebanon’s War-Torn Past
American travelers will find unrivaled beauty and a boggling history in little Lebanon
Contrasting with Beirut’s modernity is the port city of Byblos, founded in 5000 B.C. and believed to be the world’s oldest continually-inhabited city. Meaning “inscription” or “bible,” Byblos’ almost unfathomable past is evident by ruins dating back to Phoenician, Roman, and Crusader times. The city still claims a population of 40,000 who appreciate the sandy beaches and seaside dining as much as tourists do.
The ancient Phoenician city of Tyre, fifty miles south of Beirut, prospers with souks (open-air marketplaces), lovely Mediterranean vistas, and the Sidon Sea Castle, a fortress built by the Crusaders in 1228 A.D. and reputed to be an architectural favorite of Alexander the Great’s.
Natural attractions in Lebanon include one of the recently named New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Jeita Grotto. A mere eleven miles from Beirut are these limestone caves that have stood as such for more than millions of years. The 1,000-foot upper cave can be explored by foot, while the lower cave requires a gondola ride. Another must-see is Ouadi Qadisha, or the Holy Valley, an early Christian monastic settlement which sits amidst the Forest of the Cedars of God, and where a sense of higher being can most definitely be felt.