Monumental Lebanon

Lebanon's periods of greatness under the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Crusaders, have left their marks in a series of astonishing buildings and monuments. These architectural remains coupled with the country's dramatic natural features make Lebanon an ideal destination for the romantic traveller with a sense of adventure and curiosity. 

North Lebanon                                    Mount Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon 

Qadisha Valley

One of the deepest and most beautiful valleys in Lebanon, is indeed a world apart. At the bottom of this wild-sided gorge runs the Qadisha River whose source is in the Qadisha River at the foot of the Cedars. And above the famous Cedar grove stands Qornet es Sawda, Lebanon's highest peak.

The word "Qadisha" comes from a Semitic root meaning "Holy" and Wadi Qadisha is the "Holy Valley". Filled with caves and rock shelters inhabited from the 3rd Millennium BC to the Roman Period, the valley is scattered with cave chapels, hermitages and monasteries cut from rock. Since the Early Middle Ages generations of Monks, hermits, ascetics and anchorites found asylum here. These religious men, who belonged to the various confessions that grew out of medieval controversies over the nature of Christ, included the Nestorians, Monophysites, Chalcedonians and Monothelites. Even Moslem Soufis were found in this valley. They prayed in many languages: Greek, Arabic, Syriac and Ethiopian.

At the town of Tourza the valley divides into two branches, each named after a Monastery: Wadi Qozhaya leading to Ehden and Wadi Qannoubin leading to the Cedars. A path goes along the bottom of the valley through an area called, "Bain an-Nahrain" (between the Two Rivers) where Wadi Qannoubin meets Wadi Qadisha. From here trails lead to the various sites. You can also start from the top of the valley and take one of the numerous paths to the bottom.

Bcharré (Bsharreh)

The trip to Bcharré and The Cedars, about 30km (19mi) inland from Tripoli, passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Lebanon. The road winds along mountainous slopes, gaining altitude and winding precipitously above spectacular gorges. Villages of red-tile roofed houses perch atop hills or cling precariously to the mountainsides and there are vistas of olive groves, vineyards, lush valleys and mountain peaks at every turn. This village at the head of the Qadisha valley is noted as the birthplace of Gibran Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet and other famous works. One of Gibran's last wishes was to spend his final days there and to be buried in the small Monastery of Mar Sarkis at the entrance of the town. The first part of his wish was not to be, but Gibran's tomb lies in the Monastery, which today serves as the Gibran Museum. Here his paintings and manuscripts are on display.

In Winter the Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except Mondays. In Summer, it is open every day including Mondays.

Above Bcharré the road climbs to Lebanon's last remaining forest of Biblical cedars, known as Arz Ar-rab, The Cedars of God. Some of the trees are over 1500 years old, and the site is classified as a world monument. Below Bcharré, the spectacular Qadisha Valley holds the tombs of the early Maronite patriarchs, as well as rock-cut monasteries. The gorge is a hiker's paradise, with paths along the top and bottom.

An interesting tour can made of the villages around the horseshoe-shaped rim of the Qadisha Valley. If you are driving to The Cedars via the village of Qnat, the first village you come to on the south side of the gorge is Hadeth Al-Jubbeh, a town which goes back to at least the early 6th century AD. Then comes Diman, the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch since the 19th century. The site ovelooks the Monastery of Qannoubin, an early seat of the Patricarchy. From Diman a steep path takes you down to the gorge. Not far from here is Hasroun, a red-roofed town that hugs the edge of the Qadisha Valley. This village is known for its picturesque dwellings, old churches and gardens. Bqaa Kafra reached via a turn-off from Bqorqacha, is the highest village in the country at 1,600 metres. This picturesque town is also the birthplace of Lebanon's famous Saint Charbel, born in 1828.
Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya  (Monastery of St. Anthony Qozhaya)

This popular hermitage is one of the largest in the valley. Continuously in use since the Early Middle Ages, according to accounts, monastic life there had already been established by the mid-12th Century. The structure was most recently renovated in 1926 and the Church, partly carved from living rock, was repaired in 1864. A new Museum, completed in 1995, houses a collection of sacred and ethnographic objects, as well as an old printing press. The printing press, purchased in 1871, replaced the original older one imported from Rome by the Maronite Monks in the last quarter of the 18th Century and installed in the Monastery in 1815. Even earlier, the Monastery had portable presses imported from Europe, which were used to print the Book of Psalms in 1585 and 1610. Near the entrance of the Monastery is the Grotto of St. Anthony, known locally as the "Cave of the Mad". Here one can see the chains which were used to constrain the insane or the possessed who were left at the Monastery in the care of the Saint.

Deir Mar Elishaa (Monastery of Saint Eliseus)

Built into a shallow cave where the hermits' cell were fashioned, this hermitage was known to travellers in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The Church is set in a cliff, and includes four small chapels fitted into the rock. Beneath the Church is the tomb of a local Capuchin, Father Francois de Chasteuil, who died in 1644. While the Monastery cannot be dated precisely, it is known that a Maronite bishop lived here in the 14th Century and that it was here that the Lebanese Maronite Order was founded in 1695.

Deir Qannoubin

This is the Monastery that gave its name to this part of the valley. Qannoubin. A model of simplicity and austerity, according to local tradition this is a very ancient site. As the Maronite patriarchal seat from the 15th to 19th Centuries, it has long been part of the valley. The Monastery's Church, half built into the rock, is decorated with frescos dated from the beginning of the 18th Century. Near the entrance lies a vault with a naturally mummified body, allegedly that of Patriarch Yousef Tyan. Not far from there is the chapel cave of St. Marina, celebrated Saint of the valley, where the remains of 17 Maronite patriarchs are buried.


In the 19th Century Diman succeeded Deir Qannoubin as the residence of the Maronite Patriarch. Today it is the Patriarchal Summer residence. The Church is famous for its frescoes by the Lebanese painter Saliba Doueihy.


This village, which goes back to the Middle Ages, is known for its old souk and picturesque main square, or "Midan", where the entire village gathers on long Summers evenings. The village Church preserves the mummified body of Yousef Karam, national hero of the 19th Century. A little further on, Deir Mar Sarkis has several small chapels, the oldest dating to the 13th and 14th Centuries. There is also the chapel of Mar Mema, (Saint Mamas) built in 794. The village is dominated by Sayadet el Hosn (Our Lady of the Citadel), which was probably built upon the remains of an ancient building. From its terrace is a magnificent view of the Cedar Grove and the valley extending all the way to Tripoli and the sea.

Horsh Ehden, one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Lebanon, protects rare of trees, plants, flowers and animals.

Qadisha Grotto

Not far from the top of the road between Bsharreh and the Cedars, a long path on the side of the cliff leads to this cave and waterfall. Here one can admire the small grotto with rushing waters, stalactites and stalagmites.


Hasroun is a red-roofed town that hugs the edge of the Qadisha Valley. This village is known for its picturesque dwellings, old churches and gardens. From here a path leads to the valley of Qadisha, past the old Church of Mar Mikhail (Saint Michael) and the Monastery of MarYaaqoub (Saint Jacob).

Bqaa Kafra

The highest village of Lebanon, Bqaa Kafra is 1750 meters high. With its rustic old houses and narrow streets, this village is famous as the birthplace of Lebanon's Saint Charbel, whose father's house was transformed into a Church. St. Charbel's feast is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of July.

Qornet Es Sawda

At 3088 meters, this is the highest peak in Lebanon. The view from the summit stretches West to the sea and East to the Beqaa valley and Anti-Lebanon Mountains.


86km (53mi) north of Beirut, Tripoli is Lebanon's second-largest city and the main port and trading centre for northern part of the country, it is also famous as the sweet capital of Lebanon. Although more modern than the rest of Lebanon, Tripoli has an important medieval history.
There are two main parts to Tripoli: Al-Mina (the port area), which juts out into the sea; and the city proper. The city centre is Sahet et-Tall, a large central square. The Old City sprawls to the east and is a maze of narrow alleys, colourful souks, hammams, khans, mosques and theological schools. It's a lively place where craftspeople continue their work as they've done since the 14th century. It's also home to some fabulous Mameluk architecture, including the 14th century Taynal Mosque, the Al-Qartawiya Madrassa and the intricate mihrab of the Al-Burtasiya Mosque & Madrassa.  In Al-Mina can be found the Lion Tower, the only surviving example of a group of structures built by the Mameluks to defend the city.

Most impressive od all is the St-Gilles Citadel which towers above Tripoli.Originally built in 1103 by Crusaders, it was badly burnt in the 13th century, partly rebuilt in the 14th, and has been altered many times since then, but it's still an imposing monument.

Just offshore is a string of small islands. The largest, known as the Island of Palm Trees or Rabbit's Island, is now a nature reserve for green turtles and rare birds. Declared a protected area by UNESCO in 1992. This Island also holds Roman and Crusader remains. Qalamoun, south of Tripoli is known for its brass industry. The roadside is lined with small workshops and showrooms where brass bowls, candlesticks and other objects are hammered out in the old tradition

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Mount Lebanon                            North Lebanon  Beirut  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon


This untamed spot 55km from Beirut is is where the Adonis River emerges from a huge cave which opens half way up a high cliff. The waters drop into a pool, then flow under a Roman bridge and then fall into another near perfectly circular lake.  Facing the cliff are the ruins of the temple of Aphrodite (Venus) and is the spot were Adonis was killed while out hunting.


A coastal town north of Byblos dating back to Phoenician times and today is famous not only for its charm but also for its fresh lemonade. Outside of the town can be found a truly amazing gothic Crusader castle built on an outcrop of rock that rises vertically out of a plateau.

The Beiteddine palace complex, Lebanon's best example of early 19th Century Lebanese architecture, was built over a 30 year period by Emir Bechir el-Chebab II, who ruled Mount Lebanon for more than half a Century.


37km north of Beirut. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The ancient site contains ruins from the Neolithic, Canaanite, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader periods including a most delightfully romantic harbour, a castle, and the cathedral of St. John the Baptist. There are remains of huts from the 5th millennium BC, the temple of Baalat Gebal from 2800 BC, an L-shaped temple from 2700 BC, two royal tombs and a temple from the early 2nd millenium BC, and an amphitheatre from the Roman period.

Other things to see in Byblos include the Wax Museum, which portrays the history and culture of Lebanon in a series of rather bizarre and sometimes creepy tableaux. The local old souk is lively, and Byblos has a great beach with some underwater ruins.

Out of old Byblos and into the town's higher elevations in the foothills are a number of very old churches such as the catacomb-like Mar Bohra cut from rock and the Mar Samaan Chapel. Just North of Byblos, Amchit sits on the coast and climbs briefly up the lower elevations of Mount Lebanon. The town is well known for its lovely traditional houses. Among others, there is the home of the French writer Ernest Renan who lived in Amchit in the 19th century.

Deir El Qamar

Deir El Qamar, some 40 km southeast of Beirut is unique . Its stone houses with red roofs are perched on abrupt slopes. This was the residence of the governors of Lebanon in the 16th-18th centuries. The main square is famed for its beauty. Fakhreddine I  founded Deir el Qamar and made it Lebanon's capital city.

Restoration work has been carried out on the square, the Baz Palace, Al-Kharje Palace (17th century) and the Seraglio of Emir Melhem Shehab, governer of Lebanon.


At an elevation of 1,550m, Faqra hosts the world's highest Roman temples, the Great Temple of Faqra, as well as the Temple of Atargatis and the remains of a Byzantine Basilica.

15 km north of Beirut the Capital of Lebanon, lies the port town of Jounieh beautifully located on the majestic Bay of Jounieh on the sea coast of the Mediterranean. This is the city of ancient civilizations and a modern business center which retains the charm of yesterday in the old stone souka rea. The area-known as "Old Jounieh"- has recently undergone an overhaul and there are outdoor cafes and restaurants mixed among boutiques, artisan shops, banks, supermarkets, hotels of all categories. But as soon as the sun sets, the daytime charm turns into night-time glitz. Scores of restaurants, pubs and night clubs line the old bay side road from Jounieh northward to Maameltein. Whatever your fancy from Lebanese cuisine with singers and belly dancers to fine French fair and shows. Jounieh can satisfy your palette and sense of adventure. The area is crowded with fun seekers every night of the week and packed on weekends.

The jewel of the area is perched atop a cliff overlooking the bay, the Casino Du Liban. The famed Casino, once on the itinerary of the international jet-set in the 60's and 70's reopened after a complete post-war rehabilitation.

Greeting sea farers to the Port of Jounieh is Our Lady of Harissa, a white-washed statue towering above the area from its 600 meter high mountain perch. The Basilica and statue are accessible from Jounieh via the Telepherique (suspended cable car), which is open all year round a. During the summer season, a night time ascent and descent gives you a remarkable sparkling view of the Jounieh and bay area. During the spring and early summer months, you can leave a clear sunny day along the cost and arrive at a fog enshrouded terminal building on the mounitian top. The mountain terminal features a gift shop and restaurant.

Before entering Jounieh on the road from Beirut, you cross the Dog River or Lycos of the ancients. Here on the rock face are a series of carved reliefs recording the passage of numerous ancient armies and rulers, among them Ramses II of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,  the Roman emperor Caracalla, and Napoleon III.

These historical inscriptions found at the mouth of the Nahr-el-kalb represent a unique combination of history and geography. In distant antiquity the steep cliffs here made it an impassable barrier. Later the Assyrians and Romans managed to overcome the difficulty by building a road and a bridge. In modern times the Lebanese blasted a tunnel through the rock to accommodate the coastal highway, changing forever the historic aspect of the site.

The Mamluke Period bridge seen today has been reconstructed several times, most recently by Emir Bashir Chehab II in 1809. The other bridge, with three arches, was built by Wassa Pasha, mutassarrif of Mount Lebanon between 1883 and 1892.

A total of 17 plaques has been traced, all on the south bank except for one on the north bank. The single stele on the opposite side of the river was the work of the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuncadnezzar II (604-562 BC). Rameses II left no less than three inscriptions between 1290 and 1224 BC, when he marched into Phoenicia. Five steles mark expeditions made by Assyrian kings, one of whom was Assarhaddon (680-627 BC). In Roman times the third Gallic Legion under Emperor Caracalla (211-217 AD) left a stele marking road work carried out here.

There are two inscriptions in Greek. One is illegible but the other commemorates more road and engineering work. This was accomplished in 382 by Proclus, Byzantine governor of Phonecia under Theodose the Grand (388-395). Another stele commemorates the expedition that Napoleon III sent to Lebanon in 1860-1861.

Among the 20th century inscriptions, one records that French troops under General Gouraud took Damascus in 1920. Two others dated 1919 and 1930 report that the British Desert Corps took Damascus, Homs and Aleppo in October 1918. The British and French occupation of Beirut and Tripoli in October 1918 is recorded as well.

Besides the 17 steles left before Lebanon's independence, there is one marking the Evacuation of foreign armies from Lebanon on December 31, 1946, and another commemorating the French war dead.

In the vicinity of Jounieh is the Jeitta Grotto. Raindrops of more than hundreds thousands years have worked a magic wonder in the limestone of the Mount Lebanon range near the Dog River. Discovered in 1863 by an American hunter, the caves originally opened in 1958 and became internationally known for the spectacular and sometimes macabre contortions of stalactites and stalagmites, stone curtains and columns. Two caves are present on top of each other, one is entered by foot and the other by boat. With their fantastic rock formations, the caves have attracted some 10.000 visitors a week since the site was reopened to the public in July 1995.

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Beirut                                             North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Bekaa Valley  South Lebanon

This city conveys a sense of life and energy that is immediately apparent. This dynamism is echoed by the Capital's geographical position: a great promontory jutting into the blue sea with dramatic mountains rising behind it. With a venerable past the city stands on the site of a very ancient settlement going back at least 5,000 years. Its name appeared in cuneiform inscription as early as the 14th century BC. In the first century, Berytus, as it was then called, became a Roman Colony and under Roman rule was the seat of a famous Law School which continued into the Byzantine era.

But the power and glory of Berytus were destroyed by a triple catastrophe of earthquake, tidal wave and fire in 551 AD. In the following century Arab forces took the city and in 1110 it fell to the Crusaders. Beirut remained in Crusader hands until 1291 when it was conquered by the Mamlukes. Ottoman rule began in 1516, continuing for 400 years until the defeat of the Turks in World War I. The French Mandate followed and in 1943 Lebanon gained its independence.

Until recently most of the few archaeological discoveries in Beirut were accidental. The war's ending in 1991 provided opportunity for more comprehensive and scientific investigation. Beneath the ruined downtown area, which is under reconstruction, lie numerous remains of Ottoman, Mamluke, Crusader, Abbassid, Ommayad, Byzantine, Roman, Persian, Phoenician and Canaanite Beirut. The city is thus dotted with numerous medieval structures, mosques and churches.

Once known as the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut really took a beating during the war in Lebanon. Beirut is a city of contrasts, beautiful architecture exists alongside destroyed buildings; traditional houses set in jasmine-scented gardens are dwarfed by modern buildings; winding old alleys turn off from wide avenues; and swanky new cars vie for right of way with vendor carts. Beirut is still a city of vibrancy and charm.

The Hamra area, in the north-west of the city, is home to many hotels, restaurants, cafes and the post office. It's a great place to window shop and soak up the atmosphere. North of Hamra, the American University of Beirut has a beautiful campus and a small museum of archaeology, its collection of Phoenician figurines is particularly interesting. The National Museum is a wonder. The Sursock Museum in East Beirut is housed in a splendid Italianate 19th century villa whose interior is very lavish. Exhibits include Turkish silverware, icons, contemporary Lebanese art and a small but interesting library. East Beirut is packed with charming cafes, top restaurants and trendy clubs.

A visit to Downtown Beirut will give you a good idea of what the city went through during the war. Most of the area is being restored, parts have been bulldozed and others are an apocalyptic landscape of burnt-out shells. The centre of Downtown including the Place des Martyrs, is where most of the estoration is taking place and here can be found many significant buildings and streets such as the Grand Serai, Place de l'Etoile (Nijmeh Square) and Parliament, Bank Street, many magnificant churches and the The Grand Mosque which was built in the Byzantine era as a Crusader church, but it was converted to a mosque in 1291. This enitre area is known as 'Downtown Beirut', 'Beirut Central District (BCD)', and 'Centre Ville'.

Those who appreciate the best in horse racing will enjoy Beirut's racetrack, where every Sunday pure bred Arabians run. Beirut's Golf Club is also open to foreign visitors who can use the 9-hole course, swimming pool, squash and tennis courts for a moderate fee. Along Beirut's shores are many resort complexes, beaches and swimming clubs with aquatic amusements and sports on offer. You may wish to indulge in a traditional Turkish bath at the Al-Nouzha Bath, Beirut's last operating public bath. Located in Basta Tahta, it provides a real glimpse of old Beirut. Although not traditional in style, the scrub-down you get is authentic. Sauna, steam room and massage facilities can be found as well, catering for both sexes.

Restaurants specialising in Lebanese food offer a chance to sample this well known cuisine at its most authentic. A large selection of foreign restaurants serve cooking from around the world in surroundings as elegant or as cozy as you desire. Night life in Beirut is non-stop. You can sample some of the trendiest places going or opt for super-sophisticated night-clubs. Name what you want and it is almost sure to be available in the shops and street markets of Beirut. Traditional crafts, high fashion, jewelry or everyday needs, are all easy to find. Most standard shopping can be done in the Mar Elias area, Hamra Street, Rashid Karame street, Achrafieh and Furn Al-Shebback. Bargain hunters are urged to try Bourj Hammoud and Basta-Tabta.

Raouche, on Beirut's western-most tip, is a popular area with something for everyone. Its most famous landmark is Pigeon Rocks, huge formations which stand lie sentinels off the coast. These offshore rock arches are a lovely complement to Beirut's dramatic sea cliffs, and locals tend to congregate here to watch the sunset. It's a delight to wander along the Corniche, Beirut's coastal road, and just take in the sea air. Numerous restaurants in Raouche serve local and foreign cuisine, while cliff-side cafes offer a good range of snacks. But walking and jogging are the favourite pass-times on the seaside promenade.

Some of the sights of Beirut are listed below:
Pigeon Rock
At the area of Raouche, known for its many good Lebanese restaurants, are the Pigeon Rocks not far off the Seaside corniche. Raouche is also famous for its wide sidewalks where fortune tellers read the future and where and where strollers crowd the pavements in the evenings and weekends.

Maarad Street
Under the "Renovation" policy of the Turkish Governor Azmil Bey, large sections of the old town were demolished in 1915 and re-organised along European lines. New regular, wide streets like Allenby, Maarad and Foch, were built, replacing the old winding lanes. Prior to its use as the site of the Beirut fair, Maarad Street was also known as Allenby Street. ("Maarad" means fair or exhibition in Arabic). This street is remarkable for its arcaded pedestrian sidewalk and is preserved.

Martyr's Square or "Burj"
The name Burj refers to the Burj Al-Kachaf (Al-Kachaf Tower) which occupied the north-east corner of the square in central Beirut until 1874. In the 17th Century Emir Fakhreddine rebuilt the tower and constructed a palace (the Fakhreddine Serail) on the site. The headquarters of Prince Fakhreddine were demolished in 1882 to build the small government Serail on or near the site of the old tower. This Serail was laid to ruin in the 1950's, and in 1994 excavations uncovered its arched foundations. In 1884 a new public garden was built on the site of the Fakhreddine Serail gardens and dedicated to Sultan Abel Hammed II. With the declaration of the constitution in 1908, the garden was re-named Liberty or Union Square. Then in 1916 it was given the name Martyr's Square in memory Lebanese nationalists who were executed by the Ottomans. In 1921 the public garden was razed for the construction of the pavilions of the Beirut Fair and in 1925, a new square was planned here in the French style. The square acquired its modern landmark in the 1950's when a monument to the martyrs was erected. Reconstruction plan calls for Martyr's Square to open towards the water front, but the martyr's statue, its war damage repaired will remain in place.

Place de L'Etoile
Based on European urban models, the Place de L'Etoile was designed during the French Mandate period by a French urban planner to replace parts of the old city. By the early 1930's the square, with its pattern of radiating streets, was already waiting for work on the new town centre to begin. The branches of the Etoile were never completed, however, work was stopped so as to preserve the nearby Greek-Catholic Cathedrals. But while laying foundations for new buildings, the remains of a Roman colonnaded street were uncovered.

Riadh al-Solh Square
This downtown area used to be known as Sur Square. Strategically located, it was crossed by everyone who wanted to enter the old town through Bab Yacoub, one of the old city's gates. The square kept this name until 1950, when it was completely re-developed and called Riadh al-Solh after Lebanon's first Prime Minister. This square will be preserved under the master plan for the Beirut Central District.

Parliament House
Lebanon's Parliament House was built in the early 1930's by architect M.H. Altounian under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works. In the 1970's a new Parliament building was constructed near the National Museum, but it was never used due to the war. Today the old building at the Place de L'Etoile still serves as the Parliament.

The Grand Serail
In 1853, during the Ottoman reign of Sultan Abdul Mejid, the Turks built huge barracks on the highest hill in the town centre. After World War 1, the French occupied the hill, and the barracks became the Grand Serail of the French Mandate High Commissioner. During the independence period, the building served as headquarters for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Clock Tower
Designed and built by the architect Youssef Aftimous at the request of the Wali Rachid Bey in 1897, the tower was restored by Michel Medwar in 1912 after it suffered lightening and war damage. In 1992 the Tower was restored again.

Old Ottoman Hospital
This was built in 1861 by the Turks as a Military hospital, and in 1920 it was converted by the French Mandate authorities for use as law courts. In 1965 it became the School of Fine Arts of the Lebanese University. The building was restored in 1992 and now serves as the head quarters of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (C.D.R.).

The Grand Theatre
Built in the early 1930's by the architect Youssef Aftimous, this building is distinguished by its neo-Islamic style and its capitals, each of which has a different kind of fruit carved upon it. The building acts as a terminus to Maraad Street from the South.

The Municipality Building
Constructed in the 1920's by the architect Youssef Aftimous, who won a competition for its design, the Municipality Building is in the neo-Islamic style. The building is slated for renovation under the reconstruction program.

Institut Francais d'Archeologie du Proche Orient (I.F.A.P.O)
This building was erected in 1850 by Hajj Abdallah Beyhum. In 1911 the French government bought it and converted it into a home for the elderly. The French Institute of Archaeology was established there in 1946.

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Bekaa Valley                                 North Lebanon  Mount Lebanon  Beirut  South Lebanon


This site is from the Umayyad period (660-750 AD) and is a historic example of an inland commercial center. The valley and the mountains are an amazing backdrop to this charming ruin wich lies in the midst of rich agricultural land and is a source of the Litani River.

Located in the Bekaa Valley 86km from Beirut, Baalbak was originally named after the Phoenician god Baal. The town was renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks and still later it was made a centre of Jupiter worship by the Romans. During its Roman era, Baalbak was the premier city in eastern Roman Empire. This is the site were one can find the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in the world. The complex consist of the Temples of Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus, and Mercury. Greek and Phoenician ruins surround the Roman complex.

Baalbek's acropolis is the largest in the world. The main complex is about 300m (984ft) long and has 2 temples with porticoes, 2 courtyards and an enclosure. The Temple of Jupiter, completed around 60 AD, is on a high platform at the top of a monumental staircase; only 6 of its colossal columns (22m/72ft) remain, giving an idea of the vast scale of the original building. The adjacent Temple of Bacchus, built around 150 AD, is very well preserved. Outside the main area is a tiny, exquisite Temple of Venus, a gorgeous circular building with fluted columns.


10 km before the town of Hermel, a 27 meter high monument on top of a hill can be seen for miles in every direction. Three faces this Hermel Pyramid are carved with hunting scenes that suggest the pyramid-topped structure is a tomb, probably of a Prince of the 1st or 2nd Century BC.

Ain Zerqa is the "Blue Source" of the Aasi River ( the classical Orontes), is about 200 meters South-West of Deir Mar Maroun (Monastery of St. Maroun) in the Hermel region. The source, which gushes out from beneath the rock, is an ideal picnic place. The caves nearby are also worth exploring. Look for the niche facing the springs and some walls of classical masonry on the hillside above. The Mar Maroun Monastery is a rock-cut structure in three levels. It is said to be the temporary refuge of the successors of Saint Maroun, founder of the Maronite Christian sect in the 4th Century AD. Below these remains is the Aasi River, the classical Orontes, with its blue-tinted water.


This is where Lebanon’s early national leaders, including Bshara El-Khoury and Riad El-Solh, were held by French mandate authorities during the 1943 rebellion that triggered Lebanon’s independence. Their prison was an eighteenth century citadel that can be visited today.

The Lebanese Army, which is now stationed at the castle, will assign a guide to show you around the old vaulted chambers and the rooms where the Lebanese patriots were held.

The town of Rashaya, in a remote corner of Lebanon, has been only lightly touched by the modern building boom affecting most of the country. On its cobbled main street small shops sell old fashioned oil stoves, reflecting the needs of this chilly mountain town where the giant Mount Hermon (snow-covered six months of the year) looms overhead. This town is also known for its locally made gold and silver jewellery.

On the way to Rashaya from Chtaura try to take the route through the hilltop town of Sultan Yaqub, where there are spectacular views of the valley below. Turn right at Marj and continue through Khiara toward Sultan Yaqub. This town, visible for miles around in every direction, also makes a good landmark.

Qaraoun Lake and Litani Dam

An artificial lake of 11 square km, Qaraoun was created by the Litani River Dam in 1959. The Litani is Lebanon's longest river, rising near Baalbeck and flowing for 160km through the Beqaa Valley to the coast North of Tyre.

The dam holding back this major river is 60 meters high and 1,350 meters in length. A gallery of 6,503 meters carries the water to the underground station where transformers produce a maximum of 185 megawatts. The dam will eventually provide irrigation for 31,000 hectares of farmland in South Lebanon and 8,000 hectares in the Beqaa Valley. Visitors are welcome to the Litani Dam. The office is at the Southern (dam) end of the lake on the left side. The lake area has a hotel and a number of restaurant specializing in fresh trout.


Zahle is known as "Arouss El- Beqaa", the bride of the Beqaa, and is much appreciated for its healthy climate and good food. It is also the seat of government for the Beqaa. All amenities are available here, with hotels, good shopping and souvenir shops. Zahle's many beautiful old houses can be appreciated on a leisurely walk around the town.

The main attraction, however, is the Bardaouni River, which flows out of Mt. Sannine through a wooded gorge shut in between tall perpendicular rocks. Along this branch of the Litani River there is one open - air restaurant after another. All are protected from the sun by awnings and leafy trees, while streams, fountains and pools cool the air. To get to this area you drive right through the town.

Zahle is the home of the Mezza and of Arak, so in this pleasant spot one can enjoy a typical Lebanese pastime: the long leisurely lunch. The Bardaouni is just as popular in the evenings where dinners can become quite festive.

In Winter, most of the riverside restaurants are only open on weekends. A walk in the hills overlooking Zahle, leads you to Iron and Bronze Age towns. In Wadi El Arayesh are Byzantine and Roman sarcophagi.

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Just south of Sidon and 28km north of Tyre, is the site of ancient Serepta ofthe Bible. Excavations here revealed the remains of Canaanite-Phoenician structures and Roman port installations. Modern Sarafand still has a workshop where the ancient Phoenician art of glass blowing is practised.


This city, 48km south of Beirut, has one of the most famous names in history but its past has been plundered by time and by invader. Sidon was inhabited as early as 4000 B.C. and today is home to a Crusader fortress that rises out of the sea, a Murex hill formed by the refuse of the purple factories of antiquity, and ancient Necropoli.

The entrance to Sidon from the north is on a wide divided highway lined with palm trees. As you approach, the landmark Crusader Sea Castle and modern port installations are immediately visible. The busy main street is full of small shops and of every kind, including patisseries, whose oriental delicacies are stacked in little pyramids. Sidon is also famous for a variety of local sweets which you can watch being made in the old souk (market) or in shops on the main street. The particular speciality of Sidon is known as "senioura", a delicious crumbly cookie.

There are numerous sites of interest within the old section of modern Sidon. Here visitors will enjoy wandering along the sea front to the Crusader Sea Castle and looking around the old souks, khans (caravansaries) and other medieval remnants. The Sea Castle is a fortress built by the Crusaders in the early 13th century on a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway.

A government Resthouse on the waterfront next to the castle offers good food and refreshment. Situated in a restored medieval building, the Resthouse is set in a landscape seaside terrace. The interior has vaulted ceilings and medieval décor. Not far from here is the picturesque vaulted souk of Sidon, where workmen still ply their trades. On the edge of the souk is a traditional coffee house where clientele meet to smoke the arguileh (water pipe) and sip Turkish coffee. South of the souk on the way to the Castle of St.Louis, is the Great Mosque, formerly the Church of St. John of the Hospitalers. The four walls of this building date back to the 13th century.

The Castle of St Louis, or Qalaat Al-Muizz, was erected on the emplacement of a Fatimid fortress during the Crusade led by the French King Louis IX, popularly known as St Louis. Built in the mid-13th century, the present state of the castle makes it easy to observe various stages of the restoration carried out in the Mamluke era, particularly work done in the 17th century by Emir Fakhreddine II. At the foot of the hill are a dozen or so Roman columns scattered on the ground.

The Temple of Echmoun is 1km from Sidon in a lush valley of citrus groves on the Awwali River. Building of this Phoenician temple complex is dedicated to the god of healing Echmoun, started in the 7th century BC.


The town of Hasbaya is the center of the Caza and can be reached from Marjeyun across the Hasbani bridge. It is one of the most important and oldest towns of the Mount Hermon area. This mountain peak, also called Jabal al Sheikh, rises east of Hasbaya. The town is watered by a small tributary of the Hasbani River.

Hasbaya is an important historical site, but little of its ancient monuments survive. The oldest standing ruins date to the Crusader period. After the conquest of the area by the Shehabs in 1173, they fortified the square tower of the Crusader fort and transformed it into a big palace similar to Italian palaces and citadels of the Renaissance. On both sides of its main entrance is the lion, the emblem of the Shehab family. The upper floor has 65 rooms, and the largest is decorated with beautiful wall paintings. The mosque was built in the 13th century and has a beautiful hexagonal minaret.

Hasbaya keeps its traditions alive and its workshops are still producing traditional clothing such as abayas, caftans and turbans.

Leave Hasbaya and drive in the direction of Marjeyun. After 3 km, you reach Souk al Khan, which is located inside a pine forest at the crossing of Hasbaya, Rashaya, Kawkaba and Marjeyun roads. There lies the ruins of an old khan where Ali, son of Fakhreddin Maan, is said to have been killed. In this khan, a popular weekly market held very Tuesday is visited by traders and visitors from all over the area.

From Souk al Khan drive 6 km to the south-east and come to Rashaya a Fukkhar, a village famous for its pottery production. From there continue on the road to Habbariye, in the midst of vineyards and orchards. Near the village, on the slopes of Mount Hermon lie the ruins of a Roman temple. A rectangular building 17 x 9 m, some of its walls are preserved to a height of 8 meters. Continue to the village of Shebaa famous for its caves, springs and breathtaking scenery.

Eight kilometers north-east of Hasbaya is the village of Mimes. From there the visitor goes to the most famous religious center of the Druze community: the al Bayyada praying halls, where thousands of Druze believers come each Thursday night to pray and to meditate. The compound is made up of 40 halls or khalwat which have deliberately been left unrestored.

From al Bayyada, go north to the villages of al Kfayr and Nabi Shit where lie the ruins of an old temple, oil presses, stone basins and a rock-cut tomb believed to be that of the founder of the Druze faith, Muhammad ben Ismail al Darazi.


Not many people know about the Crusader castle in the southern village of Tibneen, but it's well worth the long trip to get there. The castle's commanding position on a hilltop in the center of the town gives it its name "Toron", an old French meaning "high place". From here there are views in every direction, with an especially beautiful panorama taking in the coast and mountains of South Lebanon.

Crusader Prince Hugh de Saint Omer, Governor of Tiberias, built the castle in 1105 to defend the area while he got ready for the siege of Tyre. In 1187 the castle fell to Salaheddin after the battle of Hittin, but the Franks won it back in 1229. Finally it was conquered by the Mamluke Sultan al-Zahir Baybars in 1266.

In the centuries that followed, the Mamlukes and later the Ottomans, used the citadel for their own purposes and its structure was changed many times depending on who was in control. The Governor of Acre, Zaher al-Omar, for example, fortified and restored the castle, but his successor, Ahmad al-Jazzar, did his best to destroy it.

Although the Tibneen castle has been altered a good deal, it retains the feeling of a real fortress, with its massive walls and panoramic views. The building occupies 2,000 m2 and still preserves its main features: 1) a fortification wall with square or semi-circular towers, 2) the main entrance and 3) the arches of a tower, and 4) the remains of a bigger tower to the east. The big tower consists of three rooms with standing pillars and ceilings, while the remains of other towers are scattered around the site. The General Directorate of Antiquities is renovating this historic landmark, and the Ministry of Tourism is providing illumination so visitors can admire it at night.

Tibneen, which is 112 km from Beirut, is reached by way of Tyre or Bint Jbail. This is major town with plenty of facilities, outdoor cafes and restaurants but, of course, the castle is the major attraction.


One of the most important cities of the ancient world. 83km south of Beirut, Tyre was founded after Sidon in the 3rd millennium BC. It originally consisted of a mainland settlement and an island city, but these were joined in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great with causeway which converted the island into a peninsula. The city contains three areas of great interest. The first is the Phoenician Island with remains of civic buildings, colonnades, public baths, and mosaic streets.  The second is an area consisting of the necropolis and the largest Roman hippodrome ever found here the ruins include a well-preserved road which passes through a monumental archway. It's lined on one side by an aqueduct, and on both sides there are hundreds of ornate, intricately-carved stone and marble sarcophagi. The hippodrome was built in the 2nd century AD, with seating for over 20,000 people. The third site of interest is Tyre's Crusader cathedral.

Located 6km south of Tyre is Ras Al-Ain, the city's main source of water since Phoenician days. Its artisan wells gush up into stone reservoirs that have been maintained through the ages. One of the reservoirs fed the arched aqueducts of the Roman period that once stretched all the way to Tyre. Remains of these aqueducts can be seen along the Roman road running under the monumental arch on the necropolis.

On the road to Cana (Qana Al-Jaleel) 6km Southeast of Tyre  is a burial monument.  This is the Tomb of Hiram, the celebrated Phoenician King of Tyre and the architect of the Temple of Jerusalem and the Palace of Solomon.


This is where the New Testament places the first miracle performed by Jesus Christ. On top of a hill lies a sacred building known as the Mausoleum of Galilea. It is believed that it was built on the site of an older temple because of ancient columns and ashlar blocks scattered around it. There are also basins where Christ performed his first miracle and changed water into wine.

Northwest of the village are rock reliefs representing rows of persons hewn in a very primitive style. One of them represents a group of thirteen people thought to represent Jesus and his disciples. In Cana village you can visit the Memorial of the Cana Massacre where 102 civilians died in an Israeli bombardment on a UN compound in 1996.

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