Capital | Beirut
Population | 4,143,101 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 10,400 SQ KM
Official Language | Arabic
Holidays | Independence Day, 22 November (1943)
Currency | Lira (LBP)
Time Zone | UTC +2
Best Time to Visit | June to mid-September
Connecting with the Culture | Watching the sunset at Pigeon Rocks, Beirut’s most famous natural attraction. Spending a day wandering around the extraordinary Roman ruins at Baalbek. Driving along the magnificent scenic route to the Biblical Cedars. Wandering through the ancient ruins at Byblos. Discovering Mameluk architecture and medieval markets in Tripoli. Basking in the splendor of the palace at Beiteddine.
Read | William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain, a funny, thought-provoking account of the author’s journey in the footsteps of a 6th-century monk.
Listen | to Fairuz Chante Zaki Yassif, preformed by Fairuz and composed by Zaki Yassif, the father of Lebanese folk music.
Watch | Le cerf-volant (The Kite) by Randa Chahal Sabag, about a love affair between a Lebanese girl and an Israeli soldier.
Eat | kibbeh (spiced minced lamb in a fried bulgur- wheat shell); baklava (syrupy-sweet filo pastries).
Drink | jellab, a sweet drink made with raisins and pine nuts; arak on ice with a splash of water.
In a Word | ahalan was sahalan (hello; literally ‘welcome and welcome’)
Characteristics | Dramatic landscapes; delicious food; ancient cities; sunny beaches; Mt Lebanon Range; crusader castles; temple complexes; picturesque port towns; olive groves and vineyards.
Surprises | A world-famous arts festival is held every July in Baalbek; there are amazing trekking opportunities; Lebanon is the biblical ‘land of milk and honey’.