• Population: 3.8 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Beirut
  • Area: 10,452 sq km (4,036 sq miles)
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religions: Islam, Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Lebanese pound (or lira) = 100 piastres

    The Mediterranean land that is Lebanon is the freshest and trendiest holiday escape to date, recently having received the prestige as New York Times’ #1 Tourist Destination of 2009. No surprise there as Lebanon has been gearing up for this for some time now. From the pristine beach country that it once was, to the uber-modern country-wide attraction that it has become, more than 2 million tourists come here each year for some of this Lebanese glow. There are simply no words to fully describe how even more beautiful this country has evolved to be. One can’t even put a label on this country in any way for Lebanon is a European country, but referenced to the Middle East. This is CNN’s best party city.

    However, Lebanon is more than a temple for sun-worshippers, more than a place to catch some sun. Lebanon is originally the home of the Phoenicians, an eight millennia-ancient maritime civilization who is historically known for their contribution of the phonetic alphabet- the ancestor of modern alphabet, notwithstanding its deeper layer of history that reflects not only the story of Lebanon, but of the entire humanity. This here is a nation truly rich in culture and heritage which up to the present times bequeaths pertinent and vital inspiration to its modern descendants like designer extraordinaire Elie Saab and Hollywood icon Keanu Reeves. And as Lebanon encounters gunshots and bloodshed, the Lebanese never remain still, friendly, and fun-loving, as their traditions have made them to be. Lebanon is the place to celebrate life.


    The Lebanese Republic (33 50 N, 35 50 E) is located in the Middle East with a total area of 10,400 km 2 and 210 km of coastline. The terrain of Lebanon is naturally mountainous with the exemption of the narrow coastal plains of El Baqaa. Of these majestic mountain ranges, the Qurnat as Sawda’ towers over the Lebanon skies at 3,088 metres above sea level.


    In contrast to most Middle Eastern countries, Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate where the summers are stinking hot, while the winters cool and calm. The Lebanese mountains experience some heavy snowing during the winter, but beside that, it snows nowhere else. The beach season is alive from spring to autumn, that is April to October, but the tourist lot parties in Beirut during the summer months from June to August. The ultimate suggestion remains to visit Lebanon through the beach season, except for summer moths June and August, to avoid dense tourist traffic. Eitherway, you’ll still catch some sun.


    Lebanon is a triad cultural melting pot of Asia, Europe, and Africa, whence sprung a wide variety of ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The Lebanese are an amicable, hospitable, and sophisticated bunch who embraces and celebrates diversity, facts successfully masked by the political cliche. But this is the tourism industry’s point of view, as it does what it should to reach out and connect to the outside world. Regardless, the political situations here or elsewhere in the world should not be downplayed or disregarded. The international media conveys what it deems to be genuinely significant and serious, and politics is like that.


    The Lebanese are a marvelous union of 95% Arab, 4% Armenian, and 1% others, but, as being Arab connotes Islam, the Christian populace so much prefer to address the ancient Phoenicians as their ancestors. Lebanon’s population is 4.4 million, not including the geographically displaced 7 million Lebanese people in Brazil, 270,000 in Australia, and 100,000 in West Africa, which sure enough includes Keanu Reeves. As such, the languages in the country are a mere reflection of the ethnic groups in existence here. ARABIC is the official language and is most widely used in any national transaction or conversation, though quite unintelligible to other Arabic-speaking groups in the Middle East. FRENCH is the colonial language, but is highly restricted to a select few, and while most street signs are advertised in French, te Lebanese are a largely ENGLISH-speaking nation.


    The diversity of religions is ubiquitous to the tiniest corners of Lebanon. The major religions are Islam and Christianity, but all in all, along with their divisions, 18 religious sects are recognized by the state. Religious practices are freely exercised in Lebanon, but religious discussions still call for intense discretion or, if possible, restraint. Not to take the fun out of things, this diversity of all sorts only endowed the Lebanese if anything of the best bits of everything Asian, African, and European. The only downside is that Lebanon might be moving too fast that its traditions are quickly fleeting past.


    But if there’s one thing the traveller hopes to never change, that is Lebanon’s fantastic beach party scene in resorts or beach clubs such as the exquisite Oceana, Laguava, Edde Sands, and Janna Sur Mer. As varied and many as the beaches and coasts, Lebanon makes available to the traveller-slash-adrenaline junkie all sorts of beach activities like jet skiing, diving, and paragliding. Lebanon has truly beautiful scenery and some great skiing. From space, the snow covers on its mountain ranges are incredibly visible.  If Lebanese culture is your indulgence, visit one of the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Lebanon. The Baalbeck Roman Temples are one of the most spectacular and preserved Roman ruins. The Al Bass Archaeological Site, also a heritage site for its unbelievably conserved Roman necropolis and hippodrome to date. The 8th century Omayyad City ruins in Begaa Valley also run the list.

    Or perhaps the Qadisha Valley, the home of the legendary Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran, author of the legendary text, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Also called the Holy Valley, the place was declared a Heritage Site because of its countless and unique golden caves and sophisticated chapels and monasteries set in a backdrop of lavish flora. The Jeita Grotto, on the other hand, sates the traveller’s yearning for the serene and tranquil of Lebanon, with plush foliage, running waters, and sweet-smelling air, away from the party scene. How about Byblos, a contender for world’s oldest continuously inhabited city? Furthermore, Lebanon’s 2009 hotel project gives the world another reason to look forward to, that is the new instalment of the Lebanese facelift, the 10-star hotel to allegedly beat the Burj Al Arab. But, it is even more important to know that wherever your Lebanese adventure takes you, a feast awaits.

    While the Lebanese are bursting with pride for a new resurgent westernized Beirut, these sophisticated people maintain their culture at the table. All the partying ways of the Lebanese are suddenly offset when it comes to food, food-centric as they. Food, almost instantly, becomes the centre of the universe as they sit around on their table and watch or sniff in amazement the pleasures of Lebanese cuisine that they never tire to feast on.


    Lebanese cuisine, to characterize, is a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle-Easter cuisine. It is rich and aromatic, and the flavours they have created from this synthesis resulted to an end product of a totally individual culinary tradition. A typical meal in a Lebanese meal is little meat and a liberal amount of vegetables from leafies like spinach or kidney beans. The traveler can start off or fill up with mezze dishes or appetizers like fattouch, tabboule, warak anab, hummus and moutabal. Grilled or barbecued meat is made like no other in Lebanon. Just try the shish taouk (barbecued chicken), lahm mishwe (grilled meat), and kafta (minced seasoned grilled meat). Shawarma is infectious and addicting, especially with the Lebanese tarator sauce that sets it apart from the gyros you may have been known. Home-cooked meals essentially come as stews or yakhnehs eaten with rice vermicelli or pita bread, which is like an edible ladle. Be more festive like the Lebanese by accompanying a meal with the world-famed Lebanese wine. Just a warning, like in Spain, dinner is never earlier than 9 pm.

    After the meal is a sweet after-party and bakhlava is the run-of-the-mill Lebanese dessert. The local ice cream here is also delectable, and a perfect company to the bakhlava. Kenafeh, karabige, and maamoul are also among the favourite after-meal desserts in Lebanon. Some dishes and desserts are more festive than others, however, like meghli, which is served to celebrate the arrival of a newborn baby into a family. Tripoli is the sweet tooth’s destination, as the country’s capital of sweets, while Anjar City is perhaps one of the best places in Lebanon for an authentic Lebanese gastronomic experience. Absolutely no guilty pleasures at all with a Lebanese feast, for at the end of the day, the Levantine diet is one of the healthiest in the world, but sans the compromise to the taste. And although world cuisines as Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese and Thai are at hand, nobody would wish to miss out on Lebanese food, because the traveler will realize that it is a reason in itself to be right here. Really now, do you have to eat Chinese?





    Josh Boorman


    Backpacking Addictz



    Twitter: @backpackaddictz

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    Joshua Boorman

    Joshua Boorman

    Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
    Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
    Joshua Boorman

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