Lebanon is situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded by Syria on the East and North and Palestine to the South.
10,452 Sq. Km.
Lebanon is not a large country but within its small area there is considerable topographical diversities. A narrow coastal plane is surrounded by two mountain ranges in the North and the South.
Lebanon At Glance
Capital : Beirut
Lebanon’s diverse patchwork of Mediterranean-lapped coast, rugged alpine peaks, and green fertile valleys is packed into a parcel of land some 225km long and 46km wide – an area approximately the size of Cyprus or Connecticut. An ancient land, Lebanon features in the writings of Homer and in the Old Testament. Its cities were major outposts and seaports in Phoenician and Roman times, just two of the great civilizations that touched this important Middle Eastern crossroads.
The cosmopolitan flair of modern-day Beirut, the gastronomic renown of the country’s food and wine, and an educated and outward-looking population complement a country that is both traditional and progressive in outlook. For all the flavors of its storied past and rugged natural beauty, Lebanon is a well-kept tourist secret that begs exploration.
There are four main geographic regions in Lebanon, differentiated by topography and climate. From west to east, they include: the coastal plain, the Mount Lebanon Range, the Békaa Valley, and the Anti-Lebanon Range.
The Anti-Lebanon Range is a stretch of arid mountains that rise to the east of the Békaa Valley and form part of the country’s eastern border with Syria.
The Békaa Valley, known in ancient times as “the breadbasket” or “granary” of the Roman Empire, is still the country’s main agricultural region. Located on a high plateau between the country’s two mountain ranges, the river-fed Békaa supports the production of tomatoes, potatoes, wheat, olives, and grapes, even despite summers that are hot and dry.
Besides some of Lebanon’s best wineries (Ksara, Kefraya, Massaya), the Békaa’s major attraction is the ruins at Baalbek. Originating as a place of worship to Baal, the Phoenician Sun God, Baalbek was known in Greco-Roman times as the famous Heliopolis, or “City of the Sun.” Perhaps because of the region’s agricultural importance in feeding the inhabitants of the Roman Empire, some of the largest Roman temples ever constructed were erected at this site. The construction lasted over 200 years, and the well-preserved temples honor Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus.
The lovely Lebanese coast is framed by the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the Mount Lebanon Range to the east, its temperate climate bringing in sunny, hot summers and cool, rainy winters. The daytime temperature in the summer, which averages 30°C (86°F), encourages people to head to the beach or to the higher, altitude-cooled mountain slopes. In the coastal cities of Saida (Sidon) and Jbail (Byblos), tourists can enjoy the rare opportunity to snorkel amongst long-submerged Phoenician ruins, while excellent hiking is a mere hour away in the Chouf region of the Mount Lebanon Range.
Almost 5 Million.
The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. French and English are widely spoken. Officially licensed guides are available for all major European languages.
A multi-confessional state, Lebanon has no official religion. Muslims (70%) and Christians (30%) represent the two main faiths and are subdivided into different religious communities.
A country of all seasons, Lebanon enjoys an essentially Mediterranean climate with mild rainy winters and long warm summers. The temperature varies on average between 26 degrees Celsius in summer and 19 degrees Celsius in the winter. In winter, you can ski and swim the same day. In summer, you can escape from the hot and humid weather of the coast by going to the mountains.
Nov – Mar : GMT + 2 Hours.
Apr – Oct :GMT + 3 Hours.
Business Hours: Offices usually open from Mon – Sat noon, 08:30 – 17.00 hours. Shops opens from Mon – Sat 09:00 – 19.00 hours.
Religious and Public Holidays
Religious Holidays: Among the Islamic holidays celebrated in Lebanon are the small feast at the end of Ramadan (Eid Al-Fitr) and the big feast (Eid Al-Adha). During the eids many shops and offices close for three-four days. Due to the Islamic calendar which uses lunar months, the dates of these feasts vary each year.
Public Holidays: Sunday is the official holiday, but Muslims-owned shops close on Fridays. January 1 (New Year), May 1 (Labor Day), and November 22 (Independence Day).
220 V – 50 Hz. Electrical outlets have two holes for rounded prongs.
Road: From Syria.
Air: Beirut International Airport, receiving regular flights from Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Sea: Major port of Beirut. No regular ferries available.
The local currency is the Lebanese Pound (L.L.), which is called the Lira in Arabic. The U.S. dollar is widely accepted at shops, buses, and hotels. Bills are in denominations of L.L. 100, 250, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 50000, 100000, while coins of L.L. 100, 250, and 500. You can exchange foreign currency for Lebanese pounds at any bank or shop. ATMs give cash advances on major credit cards. Only major banks accept traveler’s cheques. There are no restrictions on the import and export of Lebanese or foreign currencies.
Al Bustan International Festival of Music and Arts
Kicking off the year’s festivities with a bang is Al Bustan International Festival of Music and Arts. Held annually in Beirut in February, this Lebanese event is a musical celebration that takes over the entire month. Spanning five weeks, everything from orchestral concerts, opera performances and ballet shows are on offer for the enjoyment of the public.
Every year in July, the usually sleepy town of Byblos hosts one of the most popular music festivals in Lebanon. Bringing together a diverse range of international and local artists, including the likes of Moby and jazz musician Jamie Cullum, the festival appeals to all genres. Over the course of a few weeks, concerts are held in venues all over the town.
Baalbeck International Festival
Located in the breathtaking Roman Baalbeck ruins, the Baalbeck International Festival is yet another music festival held in July centered around jazz. Both Lebanese and international artists perform for a few weeks in the unrivalled. During evening shows, the ruins are lit up to create a truly magical atmosphere.
Zouk Mikael International Festival
Also in July is another international music festival which takes place at the spectacular amphitheater in the charming town of Zouk Mikael. Everything from classical and opera to blues and jazz can be heard drifting from the stage. While the event is not as heavily publicized as some other musical events in Lebanon, the atmosphere is electric, with most concerts starting at sunset to enjoy music under the stars.
Tyre and South Festival
In a celebration of Southern Lebanese culture, the Tyre and South Festival is held annually in July at and around the ruins of Tyre. Activities include dance shows, poetry readings, musical performances, crafts fairs, and lectures on the region’s culture and history.
Beiteddine Arts Festival
July is a busy month in Lebanon, festival-wise, and one of the most anticipated events in the country is the Beiteddine Arts Festival. Set against a backdrop of the Beiteddine castle, the festival spans three months and is a feast of music, drama and art.
Food & Drinks
There are about 3000 restaurants, cafes and nightclubs in this gourmet’s paradise. Most of the restaurants have Oriental and European food. The best way to start is with the ’Mezzeh’ (a meal of Lebanese hors-d’oeuvres that consists of small dishes of great varieties). Also order ’Arak,’ the potent national drink made of grape alcohol and anise.
Vaccinations and Health
For vaccinations, please check with health authorities in your home country before traveling. While travelers may experience mild stomach discomfort or diarrhea, no serious health threats exist in Lebanon. Anti-diarrhea medication may be helpful.
Beirut is known for its high-quality luxury goods: gold-leaf calligraphy and filigree, silver jewelry, traditional crafts, perfume, and intricate embroidery.
Nawafir makes it easy to rent a car, jeep, or four-wheel-drive vehicle, with or without a driver. An international driver’s license is usually required, and in high season advance notice is almost always required as demand for cars exceeds their availability.
Useful Information for Travelers
Social Conventions: Lebanon’s Westernization is reflected in its liberal attitudes towards dress and demeanor. In the big cities and along the coast, tank tops and shorts are perfectly acceptable. Both sexes should dress modestly when touring the country’s rural areas and when visiting monasteries and other religious sites.
Photography: If you want to photograph people, it is always better to ask first. Most importantly do not take pictures of any government installations, buildings, Embassies or anything else that may be considered off-limits to visitors.
Safety: Lebanon is a safe and hassle-free country to travel in. You are unlikely to encounter people whose intentions are anything less than honest and friendly.