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Understand Lebanon

Posted by in on 6-5-13

History

Lebanon is a country with a long and rich history. Roman ruins are scattered about the country and are easily accessible. Byblos, Beirut, and Sidon are among the oldest continuously populated cities in the world. There are Roman baths in Beirut, as well as the Cardio Maximus – to name a few. Byblos is also rich in Roman ruins and for a small fee you can view them (they are located near the bazaar). There are a lot of ancient mosques, synagogues, and churches in Lebanon. Also be sure to visit the Place des Martyrs (Martyrs’ Square) in Beirut, a statue erected in memory of the Lebanese nationalists who were hanged by the Ottomans for revolting during World War 1 (the statue is now riddled with bullet holes from the civil war, but is still beautiful).

People

The people of Lebanon comprise a wide variety of ethnic groups and religions, with the majority split between Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Protestant, Coptic Christians) and Muslim (Shi’a, Sunni, Alawites) and Druzes. Other smaller groups include a large number (over 250,000) of Palestinian refugees in the country. The population increases dramatically in the Summer months (June to September), due to the large influx of tourists, many of whom are returning members of the Lebanese diaspora and Lebanese citizens working abroad. There are also significant numbers of Gulf and Levantine Arabs.

People are very easy-going and welcoming. You should not be scared of talking to people on the streets and asking information, since most of them will do their best to help you. However, it recommended that you avoid making ANY comment on politics and religion.

Lebanon is populated by a very open and highly educated people, although this tends to be true more in Beirut, Mount Lebanon and some of the larger cities. Attitudes and behaviours tend to be more conservative in the Bekaa Valley and rural north and south.

Lebanon had once been called (the self-proclaimed) Switzerland and Paris of the East. The recent wars have diminished this status, but the Lebanese have learned to adapt. Their pursuit of happiness and fun overshadows their financial capabilities and political problems, which has to led to many problems over the years, including political problems, tensions among religious groups, and infrastructure problems.

Climate

Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters.

Summer is usually the most popular time for people to visit, as there is virtually no rain between June and August, and the temperatures ranges between about 20-30°C (68-86°F). However, there can be occasional heat waves with the temperature rising, and generally, it can be very, very humid along the coast line during the summer months. It is somewhat dryer and somewhat cooler in the mountains, and many Lebanese tend to visit and vacation in the mountains during the summer if they wish to escape the heat and humidity of the coastline.

Autumn and spring are also good times to visit, with a bit more rain, but without the tourist crowds attracted in summer, and also with considerable less humidity.

Snow falls for a large part of winter in the mountain regions that form a large portion of the country, and there are numerous ski resorts. However, the coast is still relatively mild, with maximums rarely falling below 13°C (55°F), although it can fall much lower than that and has on many occasions.

Time zone

Lebanon is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and observes daylight savings from end-March to end-October.

Holidays

Lebanon has a number of both Christian and Islamic holidays. Holidays that are observed by the Lebanese Government are indicated in bold letters.

New Year’s Day (January 1)
St. Valentine’s Day (February 14)
St. Maroun’s Day (February 9)- Christian religious observances.
Prophet’s Day (March 9)- Islamic religious observances
Easter (A Sunday in March or April)- Christian religious observances.
Labor Day (May 1)- most businesses and schools closed.
Liberation of the South (May 25)
St. Elias’s Day (July 20)- A lot of fireworks and festivals.
Assumption Day (August 15)
Ramadan (variable)-Islamic religious observances
Eid el Fiitr (variable)-Islamic religious observances
Independence Day (November 22)- All businesses and schools closed.
Eid il-Burbara or Saint Barbara’s Day (December 4)- Christian religious observances.
Christmas (December 25)- Most businesses and restaurants closed the evening before and all day; family gathering, exchanging gifts, Christian religious observances.
New Year’s Eve (December 31)

All in all, Beirut, Lebanon’s capitol city, is a vibrant metropolis with enough diversions that any city lover would look for, ranking it among the Middle East’s top tourist destinations. Being perched on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Beirut has a climate that is perfect for year round visits, as it experiences all 4 seasons. Beirut has something to offer most tastes, from roadside a la Parisienne coffee shops to rooftop open air cafes, as well as a variety of shopping venues.

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