I remember when I first heard the name Beirut. Sure it was in reference to a popular drinking game involving Ping-Pong balls and red solo cups. But this didn’t matter. I went and looked up what Beirut was. Sure enough, I began to learn about Lebanon. And it turned out that I had learned a lot of about the ancient cities in this country in Sunday school. Lebanon is considered part of the Holy Land by the three major Abrahamic Religions, and I was always intrigued by so much of this land.
When I moved to Saudi Arabia, there were several places that I now had access to visit. These places previously seemed impossible to visit. Now they are a short nonstop flight away. I was eager to plan my trip, but I had advice from my Lebanese coworkers to wait for the summer.
The time had come, it was finally time to make the quick trip to the Mediterranean coast. I had gotten some tips on tour companies from my friend Khaled, who told me to go with Nakhal Tourism. I had arranged three days packed with history and fun.
When I first arrived, my flight had been delayed, and then the SIM card salesman (T-Mobile doesn’t work in Lebanon) took forever. I had picked the Intercontinental Le Vendome hotel due to its location, and as I arrived, it seemed basically empty. I luckily got an upgrade facing the sea and headed to my room. The next day came quickly. The hotel had an executive lounge where I had a tasty breakfast overlooking the sea.
The first day, I had chosen to journey southward to Tyre, Sidon and Maghdouche. I knew about Tyre because of my fascination with the colour purple. In ancient times, purple was associated with royalty (especially King David) due to its incredibly difficult extraction process from Murex snails in the area of Tyre. In addition to this, I found out about the Phoenician and Roman influence in the architecture history of Tyre. We saw the ruins of the Roman Hippodrome and well as the crypt. It was very well-kept considering the recent military history of the area.
After Tyre, we headed to the ancient coastal city of Sidon (Saida). The flower blooms covering the ruins were absolutely beautiful. We were able to walk through the stones all the way to the sea. It was breathtaking.
From here, we headed up the mountain to Maghdouche. This is where Mary would stay while Jesus preached in Sidon. There is a cave that now houses a church where Mary used to stay. On top of the cave, is a giant structure with a statue to the Virgin Mary. From there, you have a view of all of Sidon and the surrounding area. I made sure to say prayers for family and friends while in the chapel.
Our last stop was the Sea Castle of Sidon and the Market. We had a nice seafood lunch, then went by one of the famous old soap factories. It is now just a museum and gift shop. But it was pretty neat to learn about soap production.
When we made it back, I was quite worn out. I ended up swinging by Sam’s Beverage to pick up some Lebanese craft beers. The reviews said everyone would know where Sam’s is… Turns out, they don’t. Addresses in Beirut are very difficult. Make sure you ask locals where you are going. I got back to my room and enjoyed several beers before heading out. I had been told that Gemmayzeh Street, ArmenianStreet, and Mar Mikhael were the places to hit. So I went there. Gemmayzeh was dead, so I was dropped off in the heart of Mar Mikhael. I found Bar 35 appealing with its beer selection and burgers. After that, I wasn’t feeling up for too much, so I headed back.
Overall, it was a great first day. I had met some great people on my tour. I had seen some amazing historical sights I had only read about. And I had tasted some good local beer. I would say that is a good start.