TRAVEL GUIDE TO LEBANON

ENJOY LEBANON PHOTOGRAPHY

In this post I invite you to visit and enjoy Lebanon through my lens.  I describe each location by researching historical facts and show you images with a personal artistic interpretation.

I travel and use photography as a hobby to improve my ability to speak out on issues concerning earth and man well being and deal with the stresses of my profession. I take advantage of my Lebanese heritage and extended family living there to share with you “Lebanon photography”.

Lebanon, a brief history

Civilization in Lebanon dates back to over 7,000 years.  The Phoenicians flourished for over 1000 years (1550–539 BC). In 64 BC the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire and eventually became one of the Empire’s leading centers of Christianity.

The region eventually was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon came under the French Mandate of Lebanon. This mandate lasted until 1943 when two independent countries emerged, Syria and Lebanon. Foreign troops withdrew completely from Lebanon on December 31, 1946.

Lebanon has a well-known culture and has been highly influential in the Arab world. Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking.

Because of its financial power and diversity in its heyday, Lebanon was referred to as the “Switzerland of the East” during the 1960s. Its capital, Beirut, attracted so many tourists that it was known as “the Paris of the Middle East”.

Beirut- The first place to enjoy Lebanon

Looking west down onto Beirut during the blue hour.

Beirut is one of the oldest cities in the world, inhabited more than 5,000 years ago. Its name derives from the Canaanite-Phoenician be’erot (“wells”), referring to the underground water table that is still tapped by the local inhabitants for general use.  Another explanation is that the city was named after Beroe, the Phoenician daughter of the mortal Adonis, and the goddess Aphrodite (in Greek mythology).

The capital city is a peninsula situated in the middle of the country bordered by the mediterranean sea. The port of Beirut is located on the northern edge of the city as seen in the photo that I took during my visit. You can take breathtaking images from the many mountains that surround it. Just stop your car on the roadside and shoot.

The “I Love Beirut” sign to the right is in the Beirut Central District.  This area witnessed the launching of the largest urban redevelopment project of the 1990s.  Ever since, Beirut Central District has evolved into an integrated business and commercial environment.

As you walk in the central district, you can see many old ruins and buildings and truly enjoy Lebanon photography. The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque (seen below), is a Sunni Muslim mosque located on Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square. It is most recognizable for its yellow ochre stone exterior, giant blue domes (hence the name “Blue Mosque”), and 72-meter-high Mecca-styled minarets.

I took this photo from the rooftop of the Le Gray Hotel. We planned our dinner in order to be able to catch the lit mosque after sunset but prior to the skies turning dark.  My travel tripod was too short to be placed on the floor and to shoot above the plants line. I had to place its shortened legs over the shrubs and managed to get this shot.

I could not help but notice that the mosque’s minarets and the nearby church tower comprised this composition. In fact there are several mosques and churches within few blocks in that district.

Beirut Skyline seen from the Zaitunay Bay Boardwalk

Zaitunay Bay is a quayside strip around the West Marina. It is composed of restaurants, cafes, retail stores, a yachtclub and a boardwalk . It was designed by the American architect Steven Holl, famous for projects such as the Linked Hybrid complex in Beijing. “Zaitunay”, meaning an olive, is the old name of the area in the pre-Lebanese Civil War era

After dinner and during the blue hour, I set up my tripod and took pictures of the marina, the mega yachts and the city skyline.  Lebanese people are known for their love of dining and night life. As a tourist you can enjoy Lebanon by being just like that.

Our Lady of Light

In order to enjoy Lebanon, one has to explore.  Driving one hour north of Beirut along the coastal highway one can see a high cliff jetting into the Mediterranean Sea.  On its top there is a church named “Our Lady of Light”.  The original old church was built on the side of this cliff.

It is believed that two sailors built the shrine in the 4th century. One winter night on a very stormy sea the two sailors found themselves in peril. They began praying and the Virgin appeared to them as a light and guided them gently to the shore of Theoprosopon near modern-day Chekka in North Lebanon. The grateful sailors carved a cave in the cliff and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and called the shrine Our Lady of Light.

These steps connect the old church to the top newer church. Down below is a shear vertical drop to the Mediterranean Sea.

Our lady of light. This is the main church

Tannourine

looking down the hill at sunset in Tannourine

This town is located in north Lebanon, 75 km from the capital. Tannourine’s name stems from the town’s geography, which resembles the convex form of an oven called the tannoor. In this area, the Cedars Forest Nature Reserve protects one of the largest and densest cedar forests in Lebanon.

As we drove up the curvy roads, the sun was setting fast. Since the purpose of the trip was to enjoy Lebanon photogaphy, we stopped the car on the side of the road and I managed to capture the last light as it warmed the valley and the red tile roofed houses below us.

Shouf Biospheric Cedar Reserve

The Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south. These cedar forests account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon and some trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old.

The cedar forests of Lebanon enjoy the unique distinction as the oldest documented forests in history. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest surviving great work of literature from the third millennium BC, describes the cedar forests of Lebanon as being “one thousand leagues long and one thousand leagues wide”.

Bekaa Valley

Apart from wanting to visit my family, I wanted to enjoy Lebanon as a tourist and a photographer.  I decided to go on a hiking trip with my niece’s husband Khater and we hired a guide.  That, however entailed the need to carry a heavy backpack full of gear over an arduous uphill hike.  That did not matter, I just wanted to check “Lebanon photography” off of my bucket list.

After climbing a 700 meters (2,300 feet) hike, we reached the summit. Looking east one can see the Bekaa valley. While the reserve is part of the western mountain chain, the eastern mountain chain borders the eastern side of that valley.

Small cedar trees seen in the foreground. In the background, the misty hills of the western mountains are seen

Byblos- A great place to enjoy Lebanon

View of the town of Byblos taken from our hotel

Byblos (Jbeil in arabic) is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been continuously inhabited since 5,000 BC and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This Phoenician city was important for the export of papyrus from Egypt to Greece. The Greek word “biblio” may come from a Greek mispronunciation of the Egyptian word “papyrus.”

Another theory is that “biblio” was the word for a codex, or early type of bound book: the word Bible comes from the town where the Byzantine monks established their first scriptorium, Byblos, in modern Lebanon.

Old fishing port in Byblos

Byblos Port is an ancient port believed to be the oldest in the world. Around 3,000 BC, it was the most important timber shipping center in the eastern Mediterranean. It was used by the Phoenicians to ship their local wine, cedars of Lebanon and other wood to the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to be used in tomb construction and shipbuilding.

I took this shot from the rooftop of a restaurant.  Fishing boats lined up the small old port.  The entrance is guarded by an old “twin tower” built by the Crusaders and a chain was once strung between them as an additional defense measure.

Byblos towers. Enjoy Lebanon

Sunset over the twin port towers in Byblos

Today, Byblos Port is an enclave where you can see small fishing boats dotting the still waters and enjoy the famous seafood restaurants scattered port-side

Dfoun

Typical lebanese village. Enjoy Lebanon

Dfoun village

This small village, like many others, is nestled in Mount Lebanon.  These red tiled roof houses pepper the pine tree covered mountains as tiny red dots on a green background.

This view was taken from a place called “Haklet Khater“. This is a small restaurant, garden, and campground where one can also stay over night in either a tent or a bungalow.

Having lunch outdoor on Sundays is one of the most common activities in Lebanon. Lebanese cherish eating great food while enjoying great weather and breath-taking scenery.

Outdoor terrace in Haklet Khater.

I hope after reading this blog, you will become interested in visiting this country. There are many more places to enjoy Lebanon than I could describe here.  Consider this write up as an appetizer or an initial guide to Lebanon photography.

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