MESSAGE – Lebanon *Video*
Lebanon has a complex, multicultural population: roughly 60% Muslim and 40% Christian, and is made up of various different sects. Shiites comprise the largest Muslim group, while other Muslims are Sunnis and Druses. Among Christians, people follow the Maronite and the Eastern/Greek and Armenian Orthodox traditions, as well as the Greek and Roman Catholic tradition.
Also of the 15 million Lebanese in the world, only 25% of them live in Lebanon. Find out more about the fascinating country of Lebanon through my 7 insider tips!
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Beirut’s Cornice. This ocean-side walk is definitely the place see and be seen! We went on a morning walk (thankfully before the heat of the day) and saw a host of Beirut-ies out and about. All exercising, some in traditional attire and some in more modern jog wear.
Also walking around the trendy neighborhood of Hamra one night, we saw three people with recent nose surgery bandages. Definitely a culture of plastic surgery and the fast life, counterweighed with the more traditional cities in the north. These were my first tastes of the dichotomous Lebanese life.
EAT (Tasty Eats) – All of Lebanese food. I *heart* Lebanese food. It is now one of my top 3 favorites in the world (along with Moroccan and Vietnamese).
Breakfast was especially tasty. If you get a chance, be sure and try:
- Manonche – a bubbly-like pizza dough with thyme and cheese (zatar) = YUM!
- Labane – goat cream cheese and green olives rolled in a crepe-like pita thing
- Kanefeh – sweet crème brulee with a more cottage cheese consistency
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Baalback. Baalbeck is home to the largest Roman ruins in the world (including Rome!). This site was very complete with the outline of three temples (including one to Bacchus – God of Wine)and forum very clear.
The stonework was also amazing – very detailed. I especially liked the egg motif that surrounded much of the rooflines. The eggs were a symbol of fertility and hence prosperity.
Here’s my friend Charles explaining to us the importance of Baalbeck:
Can’t see this video? Clink on this link: Charles in Baalbeck
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Tripoli’s souk. Triopli, situated in the far north, is the second largest Lebanese city, and predominantly Sunni Muslim. There souk is a bustling place that is still used by everyday people.
Every imaginable item is for sale, but Tripoli’s souk is particularly known for its soap, which come in myriad forms. I liked the tiny vegetable shapes of eggplants and tomatoes best. They could possible be the first one to create soap-on-a-rope!
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Lebanon’s Cypress. Where’s the world’s oldest cedar forest? Lebanon, of course! (Just check out their flag!) Two trees in the forest are over 3,000 years old. We went for a lovely morning stroll in the cool of the day. Don’t miss this living landmark if you visit!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Confessional Divisions. Between 1975 and 1992, Lebanon witnessed a civil war, where the country was divided and people of different confessions were sequestered their villages.
As borders and checkpoints were dismantled, the psychological barriers in people’s minds remained and they were confined to their small towns. Many generations grew up belonging to their town, village or tribe which has a distinct confession – never venturing further.
Read how the nonprofit organization I volunteered with, Biladi, is helping to heal this deep divide.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Makmel Mountains. The highest point in Arab Middle East is Lebanon’s Makmel, meaning “Place of God” in Aramaic. At an elevation of 3088 meters (more than 10,000 feet), the mountain still had snow even in July.
We went in time to catch an amazing sunset at this spiritual spot.
Curious about Lebanon?
Curious about Lebanon? I was! While it’s not a place that immediately comes to mind as a tourist destination (especially for Americans), it is filled with historical sites, rich culture, and some of the friendliest people.
If you in the region, be sure and give it a chance – you won’t be disappointed!