Lebanon has endured war with its neighbors and within its own boundaries. It is a country made up of diverse groups like Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Christians, Druze and many refugees from the region. Such conflict is always devastating to the land and economy. While recovery is difficult the Lebanese want peace and prosperity. Tourism and commerce were a big part of the plan until the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.
Hussein Abdallah, the owner of Lebanon Tour and Travel assured me that the presence of road blocks, armed military and police, an occasional missile launcher and bunkers were probably overdone but did serve to keep tourists and residents feeling safe.
It is a shame more people are not visiting this lovely country and its many World Heritage sites. I decided not to visit border areas in the North or South as a precaution. Common sense is a good ally of all tourists and I hope that regional troubles stay clear of these incredible treasures!
The first all day tour took me to Jeito Grottos, limestone caves located north of Beirut. They are filled with majestic stalactites and stalagmites, a sight too incredible for words and unfortunately they don’t allow photos! The whole experience is well done from the cable car to the train to the boat ride. Next up was Byblos, one of the oldest Phoenician cities with a retired professor taking me through the site. He even used the ancient alphabet to write my name, my kind of memento.
The ruins at Anjar are remains of a city built in the 8th century and only rediscovered about the time I was born! Lucky for me, the young guide was an Armenian Lebanese who lives in the area and is an archeologist. He took time to explain how the Armenians ended up in this country and made certain I was able to recognize the cedar tree.
The temples at Baalbek were featured briefly in my post about food and wine, but I hardly did them justice. They were known as Heliopolis during Roman rule and are some of the best preserved in the country. It is a huge complex, and always surprising to me to see visitors climbing, jumping and touching.
I enjoyed time in the city of Beirut as well, walking great distances and just looking, noticing the number of destroyed buildings from the civil war like this Holiday Inn and then meandering through the newly renovated areas.