Road Trip up North
The second part of my adventure out of Lebanon's capital, Beirut (link to city guide), was heading north up to the historical cities of Jounieh and Jbeil. These two cities are the first part of a two day road trip, which includes an overnight stay in the mountains of Qadisha and a visit to the amazing Balbeck (post to follow!). My previous trip down to Sidon and Tyre had given me a glimpse of what the Mediterranean coastline has to offer and I was very excited to start my journey up north.
The first stop of the day was only 19km away from central Beirut, at Jounieh. The drive out of the city had a bit of traffic, as you would expect and there seems to be quite a few police checkpoints that you need to pass through. Nothing massively serious, just a brief glance into your car before being waved on. This northern Beirut neighborhood is famous for their nightlife and seaside resorts but the reason to stop by was for the old school cable car ride up to the hills.
The cable car is a proper old school vehicle, the ones you get at old ski resorts. The journey up was very scenic with some of the most amazing views. Whats more interesting is how it literally goes past people's homes and apartment buildings. It is quite fascinating to look into people's large windows! There were batches of these orange roof tiles similar to the ones out in Croatia's Dubrovnik (link to city guide). I do have to say that the views of the hilly valley was gorgeous, even in the foggy weather. There is also something nice about seeing rolling hills with buildings and all spread out as far as you can see. I would say that it was a bit like the valley of Sarajevo or even the busy town of Sousse. Busy and compact!
Once at the top, you will find the famous Our Lady of Lebanon statute. This shrine belongs to the Maronite Patriarchate community and is a commanding figure overlooking the whole of the city. A lot of people come here to pay respects and you can really see the importance of this statue when you climb to the top, where you will see lots of people praying against the figure.
The views would have been a lot nicer if it wasn't so foggy!
After making your way down back via the cable car, drive about 30 seconds down the road to Chez Sami, a local seafood restaurant by the waters. Just like the restaurant at Sidon, this place offers great sea views from your dinning table! You will have to head into the restaurant to pick your seafood from their large selection. Then sit back and enjoy the views while your fish is grilled and served. Probably one of the best fish I have had since Tunisia - fresh and really well cooked. The houmous was also pretty incredible!
Another short 19km along the beautiful coastline is Byblos, more commonly known locally as Jbeil. This city has been named as the oldest city in the world, making it a beautiful UNESCO heritage site. Carbon testing shows that this city dates all the back to 7000BC but the claim is best understood as the "oldest city after being established as a city and inhabited from its founding and continuously until present day". Some will argue that Damascus and Jericho had inhabitants dating further back but Damascus did not have permanent settlements until later and Jericho had long periods of vacancy when it was destroyed and rebuilt.
The town now has an extensive market filled with restaurants, shops and really beautiful alleyways. But the best part of the city is at the Site of Jbeil, which is a massive area filled with great landscape, views and old ruins. The first stop is at the crusader castle where you can climb to the top for some of the most incredible views of town, the waters and the coastline. The views were simply amazing and the coastline really reminded me of the one I saw at Tel Aviv!
After bathing in the views, head down and into the land for a wander and see what you can spot. Walk around but towards the direction of the abandoned building near the water edge. This is probably the most photographed house in the world and whoever thought to build it here really knows how to live with a great view. A bit like the Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland!
There was limited of what was left from the Neolotihic and Chalcolithic periods, but there are plenty of evidence of Roman heritage. This can be seen by the Roman columns and the small amphitheater overlooking the expansive sea!
All in All
After a bit of time exploring Jbeil, we headed inland and towards the Qadisha valley, famous for the lush forest and cute little towns! Look out for my next post around my visit there!
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