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Beirut

Beirut

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Published by Vani Saraswathi
A quick trip to Beirut
A quick trip to Beirut

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Published by: Vani Saraswathi on Jun 11, 2011
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11/07/2012

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Qatar Today
February 2006
100
Tr av e l
By Vani Saraswathi
B
eirut – Everything you have heardabout the city is most likely to betrue.Yes, there are military and para-mili-tary forces all over the place. There areruins of bombed buildings, some that arestill upright, but with hundreds of bulletholes. Then there are these newly re-builtareas, highways, residential districts...And then there are the people – fash-ionable, well-dressed, and so upbeat thatthey won’t let a second go by withoutadding some fun and spice to it.From the middle-aged cabbie whosays, ‘Habibi, I love you. And I take tipsin all currency’ to the gorgeous womenat the clubs who don’t think twice aboutclearing the table and dancing on it.From the executives who are partyingwell into the night on a weekday andthen turn up to work on the dot, to the84-year-old singer (Nahawand, a livinglegend, who was orphaned and startedsinging on stage at the age of 12) whoperforms at the night club and gets ev-eryone into the groove.It is not every city that can bounce back to shape and spirit so soon after a bloodywar. It takes chutzpah and sheer grit todo that.So if you are looking at getting awayfrom the humdrum of work and home,
then Beirut is most denitely the place
to go to. For one, no one will so much a blink an eyelid if you stay in bed till noonor land up half an hour late for a dinnerappointment. But whatever you do, donot go out donning a grungy look (un-less it is in fashion of course!).
So this is denitely not going to be your
regular holiday where you can make dowith two tees and one pair of jeans for10 days. That’s for Beirut and its nightlife alone. There is plenty more to do inLebanon.A city with a venerable past, 5,000years ago Beirut was a prosperous townon the Canaanite and Phoenician coast.
The City That Would Not Die
 Beirut survived a decade and a half of 
conict and so has earned the right to call
Beirut andBeyond
 
101Qatar Today
February 2006itself “the City that could not die”.
Though the assassination of Rak 
Hariri earlier this year slowed down
tourist inow, the country has once again
 bounced back.For a visitor from Qatar, where brownlandscapes and two seasons are the stapleplatter, Lebanon is refreshing. Little won-der that over 40 percent of the visitors tothe country are from the Gulf.Bordered on one side by the Mediter-ranean and on the other by two parallelmountain ranges, the 10,452sq kms of land called Lebanon is almost suspended between the sea and the sky.Views change quickly from pine cov-ered hills to dramatic rocky landscapes,to fertile plains laid out with farms andvineyards.The legacy of the past is clear from theextraordinary variety of archaeologicalsites – from Phoenician sarcophagi toRoman temples, to Crusader castles andMamlouk mosques.In Beirut itself, Downtown is under ahuge reconstruction project.Since all we managed was a week-end, our experience of Lebanon was justa couple of sites like Jeita Grotto andMount Harisa, apart from the two nightsout in town.
But there is denitely at least a week’s
worth of touring out there, and hereare some of the sites that one shouldn’tmiss.
 Jeita Grotto
 Just a short drive away from the city isone of the most breathtaking sites onecan see anywhere in the world.Sculpted by millions of years of ero-sion, Jeita Grotto was discovered in 1836,and between 1874 and 1940 expeditions by English, American and French explor-ers penetrated the Jeita Grotto to a depthof 1,750 metres.Since 1946, Lebanese speleologists con-tinued investigating the undergroundsystem, which is now known to be atleast 9kms in length.In both the upper and lower galleries,the stalagmites and stalactites form cur-tains, pillars and the most beautiful decorone can imagine.The upper grotto is dry with stunningnatural sculpting that can turn into any-thing you imagine it to be. The lower gal-lery has lake and can be toured in a boat.Mysterious, romantic and so beautifulit humbles the visitor.
The Cedars
Simply known as “The Cedars”, thisresort settlement in Lebanon’s highestrange is one of the most dramatically beautiful spots in the country.Its centrepiece is an ancient grove of cedars, a tree synonymous for millenniawith Lebanon itself.The Cedars is a resort for all seasons.In summer, the high elevation makes ita wonderful escape from humid coastwhile in winter skiing is the favouriteactivity.As remote as they are, the cedars arenot untouched by history. The grove wesee today descends from an immenseprimeval forest of cedars and other treessuch as cypress, pine and oak that oncecovered most of Mount Lebanon, includ-ing part of its east facing slopes.The Cedar is an historical entity men-tioned often in the Bible and other an-cient texts and it played an importantpart in the culture, trade and religiousobservances of the ancient Middle East.Serious exploitation of these forests began in the third millennium BC, incoastal towns such as Byblos. Over thecenturies, Assyrians, Babylonians andPersians made expedition to Mount Leb-anon for timber or extracted tributes of wood from the coastal cities of Canaan-Phoenicia. The Phoenicians themselvesmade use of the cedar, especially for their
merchant eets. Solomon requested large
supplies of cedar wood, along with ar-chitects and builders from King Hiram of Tyre to build his temple. Nebuchadnez-zar boasted on a cuneiform, inscription:“I brought for building, mighty cedars,which I cut down with my pure hands
Getting There
Qatar Airways flies daily to Beirut
Staying There
Four Points by Sheraton Le VerdunThe hotel is a brand new boutiquehotel offering personalised service ina sophisticated atmosphere with dis-tinctive attitude. Located in the heartof Beirut’s most exclusive businessand shopping district, it is easily ac-cessible from the Beirut InternationalAirport and only minutes away fromdowntown Beirut.Ideally situated for business andleisure travellers, the hotel has 132elegantly appointed guest roomswith panoramic city views, 22 suites,and one stylishly deluxe Presidentialsuite.Verdun, Boulevard Saeb Salam,Beirut, Lebanon. Phone: +961-1-803804.
Qatar Today thanks Starwood Hotel& Resorts and Qatar Airways for theopportunity to experience a weekendin Beirut.
 
Qatar Today
February 2006
102
on Mount Lebanon”. Prized for its fra-grance and durability, the length of thegreat logs made cedar wood especiallydesirable. Cedar was important for ship- building and was used for the roofs of the temples, to construct tombs and othermajor buildings.The Egyptians used cedar resin for
mummication, and pitch was extractedfrom these trees for waterproong and
caulking.
Byblos
Byblos is home to a major archaeologicalsite that reveals one impressive ruin afteranother, displaying traces of the civili-sations that have occupied Byblos overhundred and hundreds of years.Facing the sea, the archaeological siteincludes several Canaanite and Phoeni-cian temples, the foundations of StoneAge houses, ancient city walls and sev-eral Roman remains.Most imposing is the Crusader castle, built in the thirteenth century.Byblos is celebrated as the birthplace of the alphabet. In fact, the sarcophagus of the Phoenician King Ahiram, discoveredon the site and now on display at the Na-tional Museum, bears the oldest knowninscription of the Phoenician linearalphabet.
Baalbeck
Yet another heritage site, Baalbeck cameinto glory after the invasion of Alexan-der, who elevated it to the rank of He-liopolis, City of the Sun. With the Romanconquest and the construction of majortemples, the town developed into an im-portant religious site.This monumental sanctuary is madeup of three main temples. A visit beginswith the largest one – the temple of Ju-piter. Built during the reign of EmperorAugustus towards the beginning of the
Christian era, it was nished a half cen
-tury later under the rule of Nero. Thetemple, 88mts long and 48mts wide, wasoriginally supported by 54 columns, of which only six remain.The gods worshipped at Baalbeck,the Triad of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury,were grated onto the indigenous deitiesof Hadad, Atargatis and a young male
god of fertility. Local inuences are also
seen in the planning and layout of thetemples, which vary from the classicRoman design. Over the centuries Baal- beck’s monuments suffered from theft,war and earthquakes, as well as fromnumerous medieval additions. Fortu-nately, the modern visitor can see the sitein something close to its original formthanks to work in the past hundred years by Germans, French and Lebanese ar-chaeologists. Baalbeck is located on twomain historic trade routes, one betweenMediterranean coast and the Syrian inte-rior and the other between northern Syriaand northern Palestine. Today the city, 85kilometres from Beirut, is an importantadministrative and economic centre inthe northern Beqaa valley.
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