The Heart of the Mediterranean
Before the outbreak of a brutal and protracted civil war, Lebanon's various ethnic and religious groups coexisted peacefully enough for Beirut to be known as the “Paris of the Middle East.” Much of the capital's former charms returned after the war’s end, only to be disrupted all over again during the air raids in 2006. Yet, against all odds, daily life and tourism revenues are starting to creep back to normal in this most enduring of cities. Without a doubt, one of its highlights is the famous Corniche, a beachfront boardwalk where families, elderly couples, and trendy youngsters all come out in the evening to see and be seen. Popular daytime options include lounging on the beach or day-tripping to see remnants of the country’s ancient past. Byblos—Jbeil in Arabic—is among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. To the east, Lebanon’s fertile Beqaa Valley, which once fed occupying Roman legions, now holds the town of Baalbek, site of the empire’s largest temple complex.