February 2006itself “the City that could not die”.
Though the assassination of Rak
Hariri earlier this year slowed down
tourist inow, 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 denitely at least a week’s
worth of touring out there, and hereare some of the sites that one shouldn’tmiss.
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.
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
Qatar Airways ﬂies daily to Beirut
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.