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Beirut never sleeps: travel guide to the capital of Lebanon

Dal Kikin
March 19, 2019


Beirut has a difficult story. Once the sophisticated, multicultural, brilliant capital of Lebanon was called the Middle East Paris, and this was not an exaggeration. But the civil war in the 1970s – 1980s destroyed this glory and the city itself. At the turn of the century, Beirut was rebuilt. And now The New York Times advised to go there in its annual ranking of the main directions of the year. Readers of the American Condé Nast Traveler, despite the war in neighboring Syria (in Beirut, however, everything is calm, and this is not a figure of speech), in 2015, they named the Lebanese capital the best city in the Middle East and gave him the Readers ’Choice Awards.

I propose to begin acquaintance with the country not from its capital, but from Baalbek, which is only 100 km from the capital of Lebanon. Very near the border of Syria and the city of Nasiriyah and Damascus. A grand architectural ensemble consisting of several gigantic structures.



The road to Baalbek is not long - only 100 kilometers, but as if traveling thousands of years ago. After the mountain pass, on which snow was still lying, and the road was covered with dense kissel from the fog, an Armenian village appeared, and a minute later, the picturesque ruins of ancient Anjar. Once, evil was boiling with life - among all these stones and mosaics. In ancient times, the city was called Gerra. According to another version, the name of this place comes from a source of fresh water, which is located nearby: Anjar - Ain Guerra, Ain Zara - "the source of Guerra".

It is believed that it was the site of Anjar that stood the ancient Iturian city of Halcis, but so far the city has not been discovered, despite the efforts of archaeologists. But the ruins of the palace complex of the beginning of the VIII century were found. The palace belonged to the caliph Walid I and had a layout similar to that of the traditional Roman settlements.


It is believed that it was the site of Anjar that stood the ancient Ituric city of Halcis.

In 750, the son of Walid Ibrahim after a bloody battle gave way to Anjar Abbasidam. The new caliphs tried not to leave anything, which would remind of the existence of their predecessors. They destroyed everything except Anjar, they did not touch him, but they did everything to make the city fall into decay and forget about it.


Strangely enough, but from the point of view of archeology, the main value of Baalbek is not his temples, but the monolithic base of the complex or the so-called terrace on the side of the Temple of Jupiter. It is in this part of the ensemble that the legendary Triliton of Baalbek is located - three megaliths in the laying of the foundation, 800 tons each. Interest in these gigantic slabs is due to the fact that in the era of ancient Rome, to which the construction of Baalbek shrines was usually referred, there were no means of transporting megaliths of such dimensions.

iStock/Em Campos

Despite the fact that this area was inhabited long ago, no mention of the city occurs until the conquest of Phenicia by Alexander the Great. Although at that time the city was the largest religious center, where Baal was worshiped (hence the name) and Dionysus. The Greeks identified Baal, then with Zeus, then with Helium - the sun god. When after the death of Alexander Phenicia went to Ptolemy, he renamed the city Heliopolis.

During the reign of Emperor Octavius ??Augustus, Heliopolis was turned into a Roman colony and many Roman temples were built here.

Already in the XVI century in Europe, it became aware of the presence of grandiose ruins, which have become an obligatory point of visiting European travelers of the XIX century. Flaubert, Twain and Bunin left curious descriptions of their impressions of Baalbek. Full-scale excavations were begun by German scientists in 1898 and lasted five years. After the First World War, the French were engaged in clearing the site.

Ksara's Winery

Château Ksara - wine company in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and it will be on the way from Baalbek to Beirut.

Founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests. It developed the first dry wine in Lebanon and the most popular wine in the country.

Finally, having reached Beirut, you will be amazed at the intricate combination of religions, from Druze to Islam and the multitude of Eastern confessions inhabiting one beautiful, noisy and sometimes overwhelming city. Here are a few ideas to explore this amazing city.

Go to the National Museum of Beirut

In another country, an antique marble sarcophagus adorned with scenes from the Iliad, Phoenician sculptures and a collection of Arab jewels would collect crowds, and in the main Beirut museum, treasures are still missing without admirers. Keep in mind: several times a day a film is shown in the museum about what feats it was worth protecting the collection during the war, and this tape is no less impressive than ancient exhibits.

Marvel at the amalgam of crops

Reach the Maronite Cathedral of St. George: after the war, it was restored with such meticulousness that it seems as if the columns had finished polishing five minutes before your arrival. Coming out of the cathedral, turn the corner - and you will see the richly decorated mosque Muhammad al-Amin, whose blue domes are not inferior to the domes of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul. Al-Amin was built with the money of the multimillionaire Rafic Hariri, when he was rebuilt in the ruined center of Beirut when he was Prime Minister of Lebanon in the 1990s.

Become local at the evening promenade

Take a walk along the seaside street Corniche, a favorite Beirut walk. Then go past the lighthouse of Manara and up to the Pigeon Rocks - an impressive but extremely friendly crowd is going to see the sunset over them. Boaters will be invited to ride - agree: fifteen minutes of views of the sunset Beirut from the sea are worth their $ 25. And the companies on the benches will smoke hookah and invite you to join. Also do not refuse - they are from the breadth of the soul.

Try your luck

Casino du Liban in the Beirut suburb of Junia in the 1960s was considered one of the most prestigious in the world and was an important component of the image of "East Paris". Today here you will often meet rich people from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the dress code is still strict. If you came out with a win, thank heaven by climbing the funicular to Mount Haris at the foot of the monument to the Lebanese Virgin Mary Notre Dame du Liban. If you lose, the consolation will be a view from the Mediterranean Sea and mountains.

Marvel at nightlife

In the nightclub B018, the underground is visible: guests are having fun in a brutal underground bunker. Those who dance to the early morning (this is the norm in Beirut) are in for a surprise, which makes the B018 so popular. Another fashionable place is the Capitole Club on the roof of the Asseily Building shopping center (here they also feed and pour pineapple Cîroc). Or go to the Mar Mikhael area, where you will finally understand that Beirut is the most rave city in the Middle East. From the concentration of drinking establishments becomes awkward in front of the Muslim population of the city. They come to the Radio Beirut bar not only to sit down, but also to perform with their music. On the contrary, the Junkyard gastropub has recently opened and has become very fashionable, which, according to its name, has been built from scrap metal.