Yala habibi, let’s discover Lebanon
As I begin to write this piece, there is one song that is constantly playing at the back of my mind. A song that I honestly have to admit that I don’t seem to understand all the words apart from the chorus. I am talking about Ragheb Subhi Alama’s song yala ana esmi habibak which freely translates to ‘come on, my name is your love’.
You should see us wake up to dance along during friends’ night out. You know, there is something interesting with the Arab way of dancing. First you have to lift your right hand, gracefully place your right foot forward and then swiftly swing your hip simultaneously following your steps and oh yes, don’t forget swaying your palm and fingers like royalty. There is something about Arab world that ooze royalty, so when you wake up to dance, (if you are my age) forget everything else that is not close to royalty and resist all dancing temptations related to the popular twerking!That aside:-) please make a point of listening to it-I love it!
So,have you ever wanted to visit Lebanon?
If Yes, wait no longer!
I had the chance to live in Lebanon for some months and I had the opportunity to visit many places. I almost became a local I would say.-)
If you don’t have much time as I did,here is how to spend seven days in Lebanon:
The mornings in Bekaa Valley are breathtaking. Watching the sun rise above the Syrian mountains every morning is a an experience you wouldn’t trade for nothing .The first place you can visit for a dining experience in Zahle is a restaurant called Kallas. It is a sea food joint with the most delicious and mouth watering grilled shrimps I have ever tasted. Every time we go for dinner at Kallas, the next day I will be waking up asking why in the Lords’ name we didn’t carry some take away. That’s how good they are. They specialize in a variety of sea food and you are able to choose your favourite fresh fish from the crates and they will prepare it for you as desired. Kallas restaurant is located near Stargate Cinema just after the main boulevard.
Stop 1:A visit to Baalbeck ruins which is also one of UNESCO’s world heritage centers. Baalbeck freely translates to Baal ‘God’ and Beck ‘Valley’ thus ‘God of the Valley’. As you walk through the ruins, you notice one of the most enigmatic holy places of ancient times built before Christ. There are two outstanding temples; the temple of Jupiter-the sky/sun god, also known as the central deity in those times and that of Bacchus (my favourite), which is quite smaller compared to the Jupiter temple. Our witty tour guide who has been working at the ruins for over 50 years, jokingly told us that the temple of Bacchus is where all the parties used to take place. It was dedicated to Bacchus, the wine god. If I was living during this period, I would have always hanged around this temple for sure:-)
Stop 2: Chateau Kefraya- awesome place for Lunch. The road to Kefraya has very beautiful pine trees lined up probably welcoming you to the majestic Chateau. The hospitality at this place is commendable. The service is top notch and as you are welcomed to the buffet area you can’t stop noticing the variety of Lebanese delicacy’s prepared. Buffets are not really my thing but with this kind of buffet, I would stay for hours sampling all the foods; from haloum cheese, hummus, tabulleh, fatoush,grilled meat to lemon chicken. Everything is tasty- let’s not forget the unlimited wine. Kefraya, widely known in Lebanon for its vineyards, is one of Bekaa Valley’s producers of red and white blended wines. After lunch,you can hop onto one of the trains for a trip to the vineyards followed by the cave tour to experience how the different wines are made and blended.
Don’t you forget to visit Lake Qaraoun (located 15km away from Kefraya )
If you visit at the right time,you may be lucky to experience the annual HORECA (Hotel; Restaurant and Cafe’) Exhibition. The stroll along Gemmayzeh street sampling the best HORECA that Lebanon has to offer is a must do experience. From indigenous to exotic food and drinks displayed for sampling and purchase, to the very creative items, equipment, art pieces and music, you will be in awe. You also have to visit, Zaitunay bay for an apperitive.It is built on the prime waterfront land and extending along the waterfronts of Beirut high end streets, it offers seventeen restaurants and cafe’s. On a normal day, I would choose Moti Mahal-an Indian restaurant for dinner or lunch.
Stop1: Visit to Al-Shouf Cedar reserve and Masser Cedar Forest.
This reserve is home to the cedar tree that adourns the Lebanese flag. It is said to be more than 3000 years old and that it will take sixteen men to be able to cut it down in a day (I think this is arguable though).The reserve is well marked and you can either decide to go for half an hour walk (which we opted for) ,one hour or the quite long four hour walk.
Stop 2:After the Shouf, about half an hour drive away,you can visit Baabda palace, the official summer residence of the president.
Stop 3:Check in at Bouyouti in Beit Ed Deine,Mount Lebanon. Bouyouti is nestled in the heart of Chouf Mountains. As you drive in, you notice a paved pathway bordered by flowers. It reminds me of the charm that made me fall in love with Tuscany region in Italy.
Stop 1: Embark on a three hour drive to the coastal city Tyre. Plan to arrive arrive just in time for sunset. If you are lucky,quickly check in at Al Fanar which is fortunately at the sea front and will provide the most perfect view for sunset.
Stop 2: Dinner at Restaurant Tony.It is a very particular small restaurant solely ran by Tony who is in his 70’s , assisted by Solange, a Senegalese lady. The two make a perfect professional match. They are an efficient working pair and once you place an order, it only takes 15 minutes for the first serving to be placed on the table. Situated in the habour, both the interior and outdoor terrace offer a great atmosphere .Remember to always book a day or two in advance as this tiny sea food restaurant is always on demand.
Stop 1: Wake up early on time to visit the Phoenecian ruins in Tyre. Before heading there,I advise you take a walk to Jamaal’s by the sea to book for lunch. The ruins in Tyre have exceptional universal value and outstanding characteristics. It conserves archeological remains mainly from Roman and Byzantine times. In 1984,the site was inscribed on the World Heritage List on a basis of bearing exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.
Stop 2: After lunch break, embark on a journey to Batroun, one of the oldest cities in the world. At Batroun,remember to have dinner at Maguy’s, a beautiful restaurant with a dreamy view of the Mediterranean Sea. You will notice that by the sixth day the road trip will start taking a toll on your energy levels .Take it easy and check in at Sawary Beach hotel for a silent peaceful night.
Stop 1:Discovering Byblos city!
Known to many as the city that hosts world celebrities when they are on tour in the cuntry. As you drive along the narrow roads to find your way to the famous Byblos ruins, you notice the Phoenician influence in the architecture. Byblos was the ancient Phonecian port city of Jbeil. It is a wonderful choice for those who want a night or two out of Beirut. You can spend half of your last day sampling give away shops where you can get nice mementos for your friends.
Stop 2:Jeita Grotto located 20km North of Beirut in the valley of Nahr al-Kalb(Dog River).The crystallized caves made up of two limestone caves, is 108 metres from the ceiling to the water. The action of water in the limestone has created vaults full of various colours, sizes and shapes. As you are taken around with the boat, the guide prompts and asks what you see from the fantastic formation of rocks. Expect questions like: Can you see St.Peter? What about Napoleon? What about Romeo and Juliet?-Apparently these are images created from the formation. I can’t explain how much breathtaking the Grotto was, It is something that one has to see for themselves. I remember after our cave tour ,we all came out saying: ‘Fantastic!’
Stop 3: After one hour drive back to Beirut,check in at J-Hotel. You will thank me later for letting you in on this secret hotel,it is the affordable and above average. The view outside the window is not that inviting I have to admit. Looking left, right and centre all you will see is concrete.
Stop 4: Liza restaurant. In a way,it reminds me of Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi. At the entrance, you will see the elite catching up after work with a glass of beer or wine ,nibbling on pass around biting ,then at some corner you will notice some young lads (maybe from affluent families considering the Ferrari keys on the table),then couples here and there leaning towards each other and often giggling.
We have a tradition of exchanging holiday best and worst experience over a glass of prosecco.I would like you to visit Lebanon and exchange your experiences with me. You can adopt the same itinerary (as ours) whenever you visit. You got to trust me, it will not disappoint. All the places mentioned can be reviewed online .Also don’t forget to visit Indie and Garten (during summer) if you love a good night life. Until next time shukran* and ahla wa sahlan ala Lebnan*
Habibi-It is a tonal word which can either mean beloved or buddy
Kifak-How are you
Cava-French for How are you
and ahla wa sahlan ala Lebnan-Welcome to Lebanon
Did you know?-That Lebanese give greetings in three different languages. It is not unusual that when you walk around you hear them exchange greetings ‘Hello,Kifak*,Cava*?’
[Hello:English, Kifak:Arabic, Cava:French]
Trackback from your site.