Some countries are sad; like Bosnia and Herzegovina, like Cambodia, like Lebanon… you feel that sadness in the eyes of your people even though Wars go by and buildings are renovated…
Beirut, which I visited for the first time in 2010, continues to develop rapidly from that day on, being born and renewed from the Ashes. As if the Civil War (1975-1990), in which 230 thousand people were wounded and more than a million people left their country, which lasted for 15 years, as a result of the complexity of its ethnic and religious structure, was not enough, it is a country that is living on a knife’s back at any moment with the hapless Imagine a society in which the president is Christian, the Prime Minister is Sunni Muslim and the speaker of Parliament is Shia. This is Lebanon, the smallest country in the Middle East. Lebanon, which has a population of 4 million, has until recently forced 3 million Syrians to remain its occupier.
Lebanon takes its name from the White of the snowy mountains surrounding the country. “Laban”, which means “white” in the Sami language, is also called ”labne” cheese.
Beirut, once dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, is struggling to regain the popularity it has lost with its soaring buildings, stylish hotels, Expensive Restaurants, Brand stores along the coast. As you move away from the coast and towards the interior, you are faced with poverty and decrepitude. On one side of the 1200 m2 vehicle up to the apartments, on the other side of the bathroom is not even a ruin house… the truth of the Middle East must be something like this…
I was asked why I went to Israel when I entered the country, not to Israel but to Palestine, although I did not have a second passport to avoid the problem because I had an Israeli visa on my passport. Lebanese visa is not applied for Turkish citizens, we can arrive in the country in close to two hours. As little as there is no public transport in the country, we travel effortlessly by renting a vehicular guide on this trip. And when we need to drive a taxi, we prefer to call Uber so we know what to pay.
Arabic, French, and English are actively spoken in the country and education in all languages are available in schools. Although we describe the Beirut people like Arabs, they do not accept this much and say that their lineage is based on the Phoenicians.
What Did We Eat In Lebanon?
As I admire our southeastern cuisine, of course, I take extra pleasure in eating throughout this trip. We taste it in Sahyoun with its Falafel original form. Other restaurants where we eat hummus, tabbouleh thin bulgurlu parsley salad, meatballs, zahterli bread, sour cream, meatballs eggplant paste with fish or kebabs such appetizers are consumed plenty. The flavor is exactly the same as our cuisine. Kadayif products are at the top of sweets. And hookah! Let’s go back to where we went, saying tobacco is harmful to health.
TOUR OF BEIRUT
We arrive early in the morning on the first day to Beirut and meet our guide, Elie, to begin a coffee break at Dove rocks, the city’s most important tourist destination, on a tour of Beirut.
After driving along the coast, we walk along the green line that once divided the city into East and West, or Muslims and Christians, to Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque and see the giant chandelier weighing 6 tons in place.
The Roman Baths in the ruins of the ancient city tell us about the social life of the period even today. The clock tower, located in the Star Square, was built in 1830 by a Lebanese living in Brazil as a gift to Beirut, then Ottoman territory, and the clock in the tower, which was renovated after the war, is among the places visited by tourists rather than the Rolex brand downtown Beirut. Orthodox St. George’s and Maruni Catholic St. George’s churches, Hamra Street, where all brands of the world can be imitated, French-inspired Gemmayzeh Street, American University of Beirut, museum of modern Art, Sursock, opened in 1961 by the Sursock family, Cornish El Manara, our hotel, Zaitunay Bay (marina with more than 20 restaurants), Beirut, where we prefer to experience the nightlife, Mar Mikhael Street Remember the traces of the Civil War, and the Holiday Inn Hotel rises right in the center of the city, rising with the traces of bombs and bullets on it.
On the second day, we begin the program with Jeitta caves shaped by karst formations. The first of the two caves were found in 1866. Thomson discovered the upper cave in 1958 by Lebanese researchers.
The first time I went to Jeitta caves, which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the world, I saw both caves, but this time because of the rising water level, the lower cave is closed to visitors so we can only see the upper cave. Only 750 MT of the 2200 mt long upper cave is open to visitors. At the entrance to the caverns, where photography is forbidden, they hand over phones and cameras to locked lockers. You can choose a cable car on the way out and a toy-looking outdoor train on the way out, whether you want to walk or not.
HARISSA HILL, THE LADY OF LEBANON
The 8.5 m statue of the Virgin Mary, reminiscent of the 30 metre-long statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, was built in 1904 by a Lebanese living in Brazil, using 13.5 tonnes of bronze, just like the clock tower in the city centre, and painted in white, the colour of purity and cleanliness, and is now referred to as the largest statue of the Virgin Mary
At the massive, modern Maronite Cathedral on the side of the statue on Sunday, we coincide with the mass and witness the experience of listening to the Bible read in Arabic. And the huge cedar trees here are one of the important symbols on the nation’s flag.
ANCIENT CITY OF BYBLOS
The ancient city of Byblos (Jbail) was the only place in the world where life lasted for 7000 years without interruption without ever being abandoned. The port city, which has been the gateway to the Mediterranean because of the trade of Phoenicians throughout history, is still standing with all its loveliness.
While browsing the streets of the ancient city, we get great information about the Phoenicians from our guide and take plenty of pictures. Again, at the suggestion of our guide, we return to Beirut after eating Mediterranean fish accompanied by Lebanese appetizers at the restaurant Aal Baher, which has a magnificent view by the sea.
BEKAA VALLEY, BAALBEK, ANJAR
On the third and last day, we see Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps and security spots along the Bekaa Valley, where Hezbollah is strongest, and after a journey of up to 2 hours, we reach the ancient city of Baalbek, the ancient city of temples, which is about 5 thousand years old. The largest temples in the ancient city, which has been protected by Unesco since 1984, are known as Jupiter, Baku, and Venus, respectively, and are considered sacred by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The largest stone blocks in the world are also located here, and one is called “pregnant women’s Stone” as a result of the intensive visits of women who want to have children.
Anjar is M.S 8. it is a well-preserved trading city founded by Umayyads at the turn of the century and architecturally. Today, Apple and grape orchards in the city where the Armenian population lives are in our eyes. We stop by the Château Ksara, which was established in 1857 in the city of Ksara, famous for its vineyards on our way, and take a tour of the cellars to find out about the construction of wine, its hiding place, and the grape varieties are grown in the region.
After three days of joy, discovery, and fun, we return to our hometown with new travel plans…
Stay on the road, safe and sound…