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A Trip To Lebanon

A Trip To Lebanon

Old Jun 7, 15, 12:06 pm
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A Trip To Lebanon

My trip to Lebanon, getting to experience the cool vibe of Beirut at a Street festival in Al Hamra, sampling some fine Lebanese wines at Château Ksara in the Beqaa Valley, seeing the worlds tallest Roman pillars of the Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, and taking in the views of the city of Tripoli from the old strategic Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles.

My previous trip report's can be found below:

A Trip to Afghanistan
A Journey Through Kyrgyzstan
A Trip Around The Arabian Gulf
A Trip To Yemen
A Trip To Jordan & Israel
A Southern African Adventure
Road Trip to Saudi Arabia & Qatar
Five Days In Japan
Underground In New Zealand
A Trip To Iran
A Trip Around The Mediterranean
A Long Weekend In Paris
A Trip To Ukraine, Belarus & Russia
A Trip To Kenya & Tanzania
Beautiful Thailand
To Muscat For A Travel Magazine
Everest in Full Picture
A Trip To Bali & Dili
A Trip To Northern Iraq
Winter Trip To Europe
Christmas In Mogadishu
A Trip To Sudan
A Trip To DR Congo & Rwanda
Twelve Days Across Africa
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Old Jun 7, 15, 12:07 pm
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Day 0.

Arriving at Terminal 2 at Dubai Airport on Thursday afternoon after work.


Grabbing some carrot cake air side for afternoon tea.


This evenings flight was a simple non-stop to BEY (Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport) on flydubai. It cost a very reasonable $180 return during one of their sales back in January.


Boarding through the rear cabin door for the 6:45pm departure.


Turkey & Cheese sandwich combo for 25 AED (~$8).


After immigration at BEY with my 30 day visa on arrival. After hearing all the stories about checking every page on your passport for any signs of Hebrew / prior visit to Israel, I was still amused when they actually inspect every single page with exacting detail. Luckily no questions though apart from one visa which wasn't too legible (DR Congo).


Outside my hotel for the next three nights, the Mayflower, after meeting up with my pre-arranged driver for the ride into town.


The Mayflower Hotel was in the middle of Hamra, and described by the Lonelyplanet as an "old-fashioned Beirut institution". Only $55 a night and although it was just me, I got 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a big lounge to spread out in.



Day 1.

Turkey & Cheese baguette with an expresso to fuel me through until lunch.


Snacks. After breakfast I went exploring the streets of Beirut.


Coffee.


Avenue.


Shoeshine.


Cop.


Blast walls.


Daughters.


Harley.


Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, built between 2002 and 2007 by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.


Hariri, killed by a truck bomb purported by Hezbollah in 2005, is now buried beside it.


The bullet ridden Martyrs' Square.


Cigar.


Nijmeh Square. There was heavy security and all traffic was blocked off which gave it an eerie, empty feeling.


Blonde.


I then had lunch at Café Hamra and had some tasty Lebanese Makanek (sausage).


i then walked down to Raouché to see Pigeons Rock.


Family.


Southern Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah, with the airport middle-right.


Namaste.


After resting at my hotel for a bit, I then walked down to the American University in Beirut and grabbed a double cheese burger and fries at Urbanista.


And couldn't resist a piece of their mouth watering chocolate cake for dessert.



Day 2.

Breakfast at the hotel on the morning of day 2.


After a bit of a false start (I forgot my passport for the police/army checkpoints), I headed off with my driver, Khalid, for a day trip to the Beqaa Valley.


The plan for today was to take the main road to Damascus, before heading north to visit the Roman ruins at Baalbeck and the vineyards and winery at Ksara.


The Beqaa valley on a cool morning. The temperature got down to 12C with an elevation of ~1200 meters. The hills in the distance are the border of Syria.


On the road to Baalbek.


The Beqaa valley is where Hezbollah originated from and enjoys wide support. There was numerous posters and billboards of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, and I even spotted a couple of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran and of Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria.


About 2 hours after we left Beirut, we arrived at Baalbek.


Baalbek, known as Heliopolis during the period of Roman rule, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Roman empire and contains some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon.


The Temple Of Jupiter, with the highest (~20m) Roman pillars in the world, with 6 out of an original 128 remaining.


The well preserved Temple of Bacchus, built in 150 AD and is now a world heritage site.


The on-site museum which had some magnificent Greek sculptures.


After a dose of ancient history it was time for lunch. Chicken escalope, drink and salad for only 11,500 LBP (~$7).


After lunch we then drove down to Château Ksara.


Château Ksara is a winery in the Beqaa Valley founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests.


The winery has ~2 kilometers of underground caves to store and mature their wines.


Getting to taste a very nice red.


Blanc De Blancs, made from a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay.


Sampling a very tasty sweet Moscatel. "The nose is floral with citrus aromas, ripe melon and honey. It goes perfectly with foie gras, Roquefort and puddings". I also got to sample some Arak, a spirit made from grape alcohol and aniseeds.


In the wine shop, where I picked up a bottle of the Moscatel to take home for a very reasonable 8250 LBP ($5.50).


A view of Beirut from the hills on our way back.


After having a rest back at my hotel, I went out to dinner to a Lebanese restaurant recommended by the Lonelyplanet, Walimat Wardeh, and had the Chicken Msakhan.


I then went for a evening walk on Al Hamra Street.


I was still a bit hungry so went to Gustav's, a recommended Beirut Pâtisserie.


And had some heavenly white chocolate cake.



Day 3.

After checking out of the hotel on my third and final day in Beirut, I headed off again with my driver Khalid for the drive north to Byblos and Tripoli.




We arrived at Byblos at about 10am, and teamed up with a British couple and a local guide to see the ruins of Byblos, a Mediterranean city first occupied between 8800 and 7000 BC.


A small amphitheatre.


Looking south towards Beirut.


After another good dose of ancient history, I grabbed an espresso at the old souk, complete with a big piece of cinnamon as a stirrer which was a new thing to me.


Saint John-Marc Church.


The small and picturesque marina.


After meeting up with my driver again, we headed further north to the city of Tripoli, Lebanons second biggest city with a population of ~0.5 million.


At the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles.


There is sporadic fighting between various militia in Tripoli, and then was a heavy army presence around and in the Citadel (note the APC bottom-left).


Soldiers were also set up inside the Citadel, with an array of mortars set up.


Looking to the west of Tripoli from the Citadel. In contrast to the south, the large majority of people of Tripoli are Sunni Muslims. Lebanon's small Alawite community also mainly inhabits Tripoli.


We then walked down into the city to see Hamman Ezzedine, an Ottoman-era bath house.




Next was a walk through the old city.


Souk.


Sandals.


Made in Syria.


OJ.


Ithnaan.


Soap.


As in the Beqaa Valley, posters of various politicians were very prominent.


The gates of the 700 year old Al Mansouri Al Kabir Mosque, which was unfortunately closed for prayer.


Stopping at the Tripoli restaurant, Abdul Rahman Hallab, at 2:30pm for a late lunch.


And had some tasty Pistachio Rosto with potatoes and vegetables.


On the way back for the ~1 hour drive back to Beirut.


We arrived back in the capital just after 4pm, and I got my driver to drop me off at the Corniche so I could have a stroll.


Walking the dog.


Hanging out.


Taking a dip.


Surfcasting.


Relaxing on a Sunday afternoon.


I then walked up to Al Hamra Street, which had been blocked off for a street festival.


Pepsi-Cola.


Up on the roof-top Sama Café, which had a great view of the festivities below.


And had some dinner of Beef Fajita's.


And an ample serving of 'Oreo Madness'.


Back at Beirut Airport for my 22:55 flight back home after farewelling my driver Khalid and thanking him for the great trip.


And back in Dubai after a great few days in Lebanon.
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Old Jun 7, 15, 1:39 pm
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Wow. Very nice report...lebanese are known for their food, I would have went to leilas, karam, and barbar...to name a few, I go every year and this year in August again, just gets me excited to see these pictures
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Old Jun 7, 15, 2:55 pm
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Nice report and great pictures.

I stayed at the Mayflower a couple of times 15 and 17 years ago on trips to Lebanon and Syria and the rooms look exactly the same! Do they still have that awful Scottish-themed bar on the ground floor? Beirut has changed almost beyond recognition but the other places you visited seem as they were.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

Paul
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Old Jun 7, 15, 2:57 pm
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Always a treat to read another DanielW report. Thanks for posting great pics of your fascinating trip to Lebanon.
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Old Jun 7, 15, 3:51 pm
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Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
Always a treat to read another DanielW report. Thanks for posting great pics of your fascinating trip to Lebanon.
Coudn´t say it better! So simple +1
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Old Jun 7, 15, 3:51 pm
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As always, a very enjoyable and interesting report. Thanks for taking the time to share.
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Old Jun 7, 15, 5:23 pm
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Excellent report! I wished I had left Beirut and explored further...perhaps even into Syria! FYI, every page of my passport was very closely scrutinized in BEY. Took about 20 minutes!
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Old Jun 7, 15, 5:59 pm
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Tremendous trip report! Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and great pictures with us.
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Old Jun 7, 15, 6:38 pm
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What a great TR! Thanks for sharing. When I lived in London I had always wanted to take a trip (back when BMI flew there) but it never happened

Out of interest, did you have your driver with you the whole time whilst walking around the city? If not did you feel safe wondering?
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Old Jun 7, 15, 10:56 pm
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Originally Posted by i2ad10head View Post
Wow. Very nice report...lebanese are known for their food, I would have went to leilas, karam, and barbar...to name a few, I go every year and this year in August again, just gets me excited to see these pictures
Thank you, i2ad10head. Yes, I have been to many lebanese restaurants but was great to actually go to one in Lebanon! I was planning to visit the Barbar in Hamra on my last night but opted for the roof-top Samra to see the street festival from above instead.

Originally Posted by perryman View Post
Nice report and great pictures.

I stayed at the Mayflower a couple of times 15 and 17 years ago on trips to Lebanon and Syria and the rooms look exactly the same! Do they still have that awful Scottish-themed bar on the ground floor? Beirut has changed almost beyond recognition but the other places you visited seem as they were.

Thanks for taking the time to post.

Paul
Thanks, Paul. Yes, the rooms at the Mayflower looked quite 'original'. The bathrooms were brand new though, which was quite nice. The 'Duke Of Wellington' pub is still there, just read an interesting CNN article on it and looks like it used to be the place to be: "The pub at the Mayflower Hotel rode a wave of Anglophilia sweeping Hamra in the late 1950s and 60s."

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/19/tr...-glamor-cnngo/

Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
Always a treat to read another DanielW report. Thanks for posting great pics of your fascinating trip to Lebanon.
Many thanks, SFO777. Was great to get away somewhere close-ish and explore a new place. Only three days but was plenty to relax and do some sightseeing.

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Coudn´t say it better! So simple +1
Cheers, offerendum.

Originally Posted by halfcape View Post
As always, a very enjoyable and interesting report. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Thank you, halfcape. Lebanon was one of my last Arab countries to visit. May be a while though to visit the remaining two (Libya & Syria).

Originally Posted by MatthewLAX View Post
Excellent report! I wished I had left Beirut and explored further...perhaps even into Syria! FYI, every page of my passport was very closely scrutinized in BEY. Took about 20 minutes!
Thank you, Matthew. Yes, took a while before they finally stamped my passport and said 'Welcome to Lebanon'. Makes you wonder how long they will bother with all the checking now though that Israel no longer is stamping passports.

Originally Posted by UAL250 View Post
Tremendous trip report! Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and great pictures with us.
Thanks, UAL250. Has been quite a while since my last trip, so was good to do a bit of a travel again.

Originally Posted by SgtRyan View Post
What a great TR! Thanks for sharing. When I lived in London I had always wanted to take a trip (back when BMI flew there) but it never happened

Out of interest, did you have your driver with you the whole time whilst walking around the city? If not did you feel safe wondering?
Thank you, SgtRyan. I was just by myself in Beirut, but felt perfectly safe. In Tripoli I had my driver with me the whole time to guide me about. Didn't feel too unsafe but he was reassuring to have in case of anything.
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Old Jun 8, 15, 4:04 am
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Great trip report DanielW and brilliant pictures too!!! Thanks for sharing ^ ^ Glad you enjoyed your short visit to Lebanon. If you feel like doing this trip again, please do let me know
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Old Jun 8, 15, 5:06 pm
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Wonderful TR, DanielW ! Very simple and straightforward. good pictures. Thank you!
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Old Jun 8, 15, 5:24 pm
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Great concise captions for the wonderful photos. The ruins at Baalbek were awesome.
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Old Jun 8, 15, 11:55 pm
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Originally Posted by BEYFlyer View Post
Great trip report DanielW and brilliant pictures too!!! Thanks for sharing ^ ^ Glad you enjoyed your short visit to Lebanon. If you feel like doing this trip again, please do let me know
Thank you, BEYFlyer, always great to get compliments from a local. Yes, Beirut is definitely one of those places I would love to head back to.

Originally Posted by 1P View Post
Wonderful TR, DanielW ! Very simple and straightforward. good pictures. Thank you!
Cheers, 1P. Was a good long weekend away.

Originally Posted by lb8001 View Post
Great concise captions for the wonderful photos. The ruins at Baalbek were awesome.
Thanks, lb8001. Yes, Baalbek was definitely worth the 2 hour drive. Makes you appreciate the ancient history in the region as well as the unfortunate looting and destruction that is going on just over the border in Syria.
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