Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and a city with many faces, each more interesting than the one before. The local nightlife is one of the most active in the Middle East, and there are 18 religions practiced in the country, so of course there's a huge number of religious buildings: the prayer rooms of orthodox churches, Catholic churches, mosques, Druze ... there are some very interesting cultural centres that periodically host exhibitions. The Pigeon's Rocks are a series of rock formations near the coast, protected by UNESCO, and are the natural highlight of the city. You can get around by taxis, collective taxis, or buses ... the only obstacle being the traffic everywhere!
Today I want to talk about the rocks I found in Raouche. The seafront promenade is named Avenida Paris but is known as Corniche. This formation of Beirut is made up of a series of arches known as the Pigeon Rocks. Rocks can be viewed from a part of Corniche but you can get closer to one of the lower ones of the cliffs where you can find inlets and caves. They are stuck in the ocean, about 200 feet, and form natural arches, immune to the passage of time and the maelstrom of a city with much movement. I advise you go to see it during the day.
There's nothing I like better than wandering through the streets of Gemmayzeh and just soaking up the atmosphere and unique architecture of the old houses with the classic triple-arcade windows. Visit soon if you can, because many of the older buildings are abandoned and they're planning on tearing some down for a neighborhood rehabilitation plan.
The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque is one of the symbols of the city of Beirut, and it's also one of the most visited. You can't miss seeing it at night when it's lit up. It's awesome! We couldn't visit it, only the outside I mean, rather than on the outside, so I can't tell you much about it. But it is huge, I think it's more than 10,000 square meters. It has been raised in the image of the Ottoman temples, with the exterior of bright brown clay, typical of classic Lebanese buildings, contrasting with the blue sky domes, flanked by four minarets.
In the centre, just steps from the Square of Martyrs, you will find a maze of narrow streets and small squares. With a variety of alternative shops and popular stores, it is a fascinating place to go around and discover some eccentric fashions and furnitures.
The statue of the martyrs is perhaps the most important symbol of Beirut. It is located in the centre of the square and, following the Civil War and the wars with Israel, it has been completely perforated by shrapnel. It seems that the government has chosen to leave the statue standing, as a symbol of the violence and wars of the past. The statue is composed of four characters: a female figure holds up a torch to the sky while hugging a man. At his feet are two suffering men asking for help. The statue can be seen in the Plaza of the Martyrs, and was sculpted by Italian artist Renato Marino Mazzacurati.
The long promenade frequented by all the people who want to relax in Beirut is known as the Corniche. After visiting any peripheral neighbourhoods of the Lebanese capital, coming here will make you feel like you've entered another country altogether: old and young can be seen, walking in groups or alone along the sidewalk. It can easily be reached by heading towards the sea.
In the centre of Beirut, along with the city's other important religious buildings, the Orthodox Cathedral of St George shouldn't be confused with the Maronite church dedicated to the same saint. It's forbidden to take pictures. There is a nice porch, which adds to the architecture of the building, but once inside you'll be overwhelmed by all the gold. The church has a baroque altar with representations of all the most important saints. The ceiling is decorated with colourful frescoes, and a large lamp painted with more frescoes. It is located within the military-controlled zone ... but don't be afraid, this is normal in Beirut!
Ouadi Qadisha or Qadisha Valley Lebanon Valley was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1998. It only Maronite Christian monasteries abound in the Middle East, with amazing scenery. The whole valley is full of caves and shelters, used for thousands of years. The Sacred Valley of Qadisha, land was always alone, and monastic refuge headquarters since the early years of Christianity. Among many Christian groups, the Maronites are the most numerous, but there were Jacobites, and Armenians. We stayed for the night in the town of Bcharre, and early the next day we decided to walk in the valley. The landscapes are amazing, you see greenery on both sides of the mountains on the way down, you see the snowy peaks, crossing streams generated by snowmelt and see the chapels and monasteries which have complex parts installed inside caves. In addition to going through an arc of rock with a waterfall in the middle, we visited the monasteries of Mar Alichaa, Saydet Hawqa Qannoubine and Assi. If you go to Lebanon, don´t miss out on this visit.
The American University of Beirut is one of the most popular places in the city centre, near Hamra Street and the district of the same name. It is frequented by many foreigners who come to study abroad or learn Arabic. The university is open to everyone, and has an extraordinary campus with gardens overlooking the sea, and even a church. You'll have to pass through a security booth to enter, but if you chat with the security guards, they'll let you through to the courtyard as if you were a normal student.
The Capuchin cathedral dedicated to Saint Louis is located in central Beirut, within walking distance of the other buildings that dot the Lebanese capital. Erected in 1863, it is located just minutes from the Al Omari. Here the Latin rites are read for foreigners residing in the city, whether permanently or temporarily, as well as Lebanese Christians, who are mostly Maronites. You can visit the interior of the church, but keep in mind that it's closed on some days.
Great Serallo is one of the most impressive monuments in Beirut, both in terms of importance and grandeur. It is located in the city centre in a slightly elevated position, so it appears to be dominating the rest of Beirut. Surrounded by armed soldiers, the construction dates back to the late nineteenth century and is open to visitors, although it is one of the things that we missed on this trip. To get there, you'll have to go to Al Omari, then turn left a few hundred metres past the building.
Located in the city centre, where access is controlled by the army, the Al Omari mosque can be visited by anyone, but women must cover themselves. The entrance is very welcoming, with the interior divided into aisles, marked by stone columns. The floor has a red carpet with gold bands. This mosque was originally a church built by the Crusaders in 1300, and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. When the Mamelukes conquered Beirut, this wonder of stone became a mosque and luckily over the years, has retained its grandeur!
The Armenian population of Beirut resides mainly in the neighbourhood of Bourj Hammound, but this huge white-fronted church, built by the Armenian community, is located in the city centre, a short walk from the Maronite Cathedral of St George. The front door of the church of St. Nshan, St. Gregory in English, is decorated with gold, and there's a spacious interior with a mosaic of the crucifixion displayed on the altar. The church is topped by a large dome, and decorated at its four corners with mosaics that I think are supposed to represent the four apostles. The building is lit by two large stained glass windows. The church seemed to me like it was either recently built or recently renovated because it is really well preserved!
This is the oldest and most prestigious part of Beirut, where you can still see one part of the old roman colonnade in the centre of the city, shortly after the Maronite Church of St. George. Recently restored, it's hard to see these ruins and imagine the beauty of the Roman site that once stood here. You can walk around it to get different perspectives.
Lebanese history is marked by conflict since its beginning. One of the places you can visit in the capital, Beirut, and learn about a horrible past, is known as the Green Line. This is one of the main streets of the city.. For years this street meant more than that. It was the border between the 2 areas in which the city was divided between the years 1975 and 1990. The Muslim and Christian. Just this great avenue was in no man's land and crossing it meant death. Guarded 24 hours a day by soldiers on both sides, no one set foot across it. This was the reason it started to grow thin grass that transformed the streets of this color: hence its name. Today hundreds of cars invade the area and the sound of horns and pollution are present. But so are the scars of those horrible times, and can be found continuously half destroyed buildings where shrapnel signs remind each of the horror of a past war.
Between the centre and the maritime area, you'll find yourself in the district of Hamra, one of the richest parts of the capital. Here you can see the University and the American Public Gardens Sanayeh. Hamra is notable for the presence of western and local coffee chains like Starbucks, and the fast food. To get there, take a taxi or the number 4 bus. Okay, it's not the most authentic part of the city, but it's definitely worth spending some time.
The permanent funfair of Beirut is located on the Corniche in the Manara district. As you walk through the marina, you'll notice the ferris wheel, standing out above all the other attractions. At the entrance you can pick up some popcorn, then enjoy some of the rides, like bumper cars ... a go on the ferris wheel costs 1 euro per person, and it's not too crowded. If the operator is a good mood, you can revolve as many times as you like - we had to ask him to stop the wheel to let us off!
As a city full of cultural and religious nuances that's also marked by the Lebanon war and the separation between its western and eastern halves, there's no shortage of interesting stuff to do in Beirut. Its history has left a lot of things to see in Beirut, both of Christian and Muslim ideologies, and it's important to explore both sides.
Some of the more religious places to visit in Beirut are Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, a symbol of the city, the Great Mosque El Omari, and the Cathedral of Saint George. For those who prefer the sea, you can also enjoy the many beaches, which are special and relaxing Beirut activities. The coast offers stunning views and is one of the main attractions in Beirut.
There is a lot of diversity in regards to the landscape in Beirut. You'll find rocky beaches, sandy expanses, and cliffs. Another one of the things to do in Beirut is visiting the neighborhoods of Hamra, La Corniche, and Cardo Maximus. The famous Green Line, one of the city's main streets that almost extends the entire length of the city, was once the boundary between the Muslim and Christian area during the war and is one of the most interesting Beirut attractions.
Most of the things to do in Beirut are marked by history, by the past, and by the aftermath of conflict. For more on what to do in Beirut, why not explore the experiences shared by minube users.