Lebanon, nestled in the heart of the Middle East, is a small country of 5 million inhabitants, with a sulfurous reputation. Lebanese people are warm, multilingual, and help the travelers to immerse themselves in the culture and make them feel welcomed right away. Here is our list of 10 things to (absolutely!) do If you come to Lebanon.
The national museum in beirut
Through its history of resistance (some masterpieces were cast in concrete to avoid bombing during the civil war) and the wealth of its pieces, the National Museum is the perfect example of the immensely rich history of Lebanon. The « mathaf » is a large Roman building of several floors where you can discover Roman sarcophagi, Greek mosaics and even mummies! All perfectly displayed. It is essential to stop by to understand the Lebanese history.
The museum of minerals
Located not far from the National Museum, this museum is a collection of 2,000 private minerals from over 70 countries. Impressive stones that will make you travel around the world. This is one of the largest collections in the world, it would be a shame to miss it ! In addition, the museum is located in the basement of the USJ campus (Saint Joseph University), which can give you a glimpse of Lebanese student life.
Located in the heart of Ashrafieh, the museum was founded by members of the Sursock family, one of the richest in Lebanon. It houses modern art, but also temporary exhibitions. Everything is completely free, at the request of its founder Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock. Formerly the family’s private home, the building was transformed into a museum in the early 1960s.
A stroll in downtown Beirut
You can go from Gouraud Street Gemmayzeh district to go to the Al Amine Mosque,a huge mosque close to martyrs Square, a very famous square of the capital. This mosque dazzles with its immensity, and the interior is fascinating. Islamic art is well represented and is well worth the detour. Inaugurated in 2008, it is the former Prime Minister, killed in 2005, Rafiq Hariri who financed it.
One of the most beautiful caves in the world. Located about an hour from Beirut, you will not see one, but two caves at the same price. The « upper grotto » is a labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites carved by water and time. Then you will take a small train to go down into the « lower grotto » where you will embark in a small boat for a ride in the natural lake formed by the infiltration of water. The cave is a natural jewel, perfectly preserved.
A small coastal town north of Beirut, you can get lost in the meanders of its citadel, then in the souq. Then you will then come across the small fishing port, where you can walk along the water and finish with a dinner at the famous fish restaurant Chez Pépé. You choose your fish, and they prepare it grilled or fried!
Located in the north of the country, this little village will bring you your dose of daily nature ! The Cedars of God, a reserve where you can admire many ancient trees, and an engraving of Alphonse de Lamartine who spent time in the region, and would have been strongly inspired by it. You can then walk along the souvenir shops that sell honey, but especially decorations made of cedar wood.
Further north, you will arrive in Tripoli, second biggest city of the country. This city is full of surprises. You can stroll through the souk, get lost between the shops of clothes, souvenirs and local sweets, and visit the citadel Saint Gilles, which was built during the crusades. Tripoli is a crowded city but quite poor. It is also a predominantly Sunni city where you have to avoid going out in miniskirt or skimpy tank top.
In the extreme south of the country, this city is known for its splendid ruins that overlook the sea, but also for its beaches and cultural diversity. Tyr is a perfect example of the diversity of Lebanon, you meet women in bikinis next to niqabs, and this is not a problem for anyone! In Tyr, you can stroll through the streets, alongside it’s different shops and taste local fish at the city’s harbor.
Saida (or Sidon)
Located between Beirut and Tyr, this city is known for its soap. Located along the sea, the fish restaurants are numerous, the good addresses too! Get lost in the dark alleys of his souk, do not hesitate to go to the soap museum and purchase pure natural olive oil soap! Its citadel located on the sea is a must for the city, and offers a superb view of the city.
Have you ever been to Lebanon or do you plan to go ? Leave us a comment below.