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Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, with its million-plus inhabitants, conveys a sense of life and energy that is immediately apparent. This dynamism is echoed by the Capital's geographical position: a great promontory jutting into the blue sea with dramatic mountains rising behind it. A city with a venerable past, 5000 years ago Beirut was a prosperous town on the Canaanite and Phoenician coast.
Named Beroth, the city of wells, by the Phoenicians, it is one of the oldest settlements of man as evidenced by relics from prehistoric communities. Beirut entered the most glorious period of its ancient history when was occupied by Romans under the command of Emperor Pompey in 64 BC.
In 15 BC it was named Colonia, Julia, Augusta, Felix, then Berythus and acquired the rights of a Roman city-state. What most contributed to its fame, however, was its School of Law which, under Septimus Severus (192-212 AD), excelled the schools of Constantinople and Athens and rivaled that of Rome. The school whose professors helped draft the famous Justinian Code.
A devastating earthquake in 551 AD destroyed Beirut. A century later it was conquered by the Muslim Arabs and in 1109 it fell to the Crusaders. The city remained in Crusader hands until 1291, when the Mamluks took it. Beirut nowadays, remains the cultural and commercial center of Lebanon. Today the war-ruined city center is being reconstructed under a 25-year project envisages a new modern city that will also retain its familiar Oriental flavo
All Nationalities except Syrian nationals and Palestinians holding valid Lebanese Laissez-passer are required to have a valid passport and must obtain a Lebanese Visa before entering the Lebanese territories. Some nationalities, such as the citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and most ECC countries can obtain tourist visa upon arrival at the Beirut International Airport (BIA) after paying the appropriate fee, depending on the number of days to be spent in the country. Other nationalities should obtain a visa prior visiting Lebanon from any Lebanese embassy or consulate. The cost of the visa depends on the nature of the visit. Transit visa cost US$25 and visit visa ranges from US$35 (one entry) to US$70 (multiple entry).
Travelers whose passports bear Israeli visas are not permitted to enter Lebanon.
No particular vaccination is required prior to entry. However, Lebanese authorities may require vaccination certificates for travelers arriving from infected areas.
Lebanon enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate. Due to the diverse topography of the country, the weather varies from one region to another. The winters are mild on the coast and snowy in the mountains, while the summer months are hot on the coast and mild in the mountains. The Bekaa valley has hot and dry summers and cold and dry winters.
Seasons in Lebanon
- Autumn (September – January)
- Winter (January – March)
- Spring (March – June)
- Summer (June – September)
GMT + two hours in the winter season.
GMT + three hours in the summer season.
Although Arabic is the official language, Lebanese are fluent in English and French. A small percentage of the population (around 5%) speaks Armenian.
The official currency is the Lebanese pound (called lira). It is equivalent to US$1,507.5 (as of September 2003).
- Paper denominations are as follows: 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 liras
- Coin denominations are as follows: 50, 100, 250 and 500 liras
The Lebanese economy is highly dollarized and both the Lebanese pound the US dollar are widely used. Major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, shops, restaurants and retail outlets.
Lebanon is a safe country. The war has been over for more than a decade.
Around 55 banks are operating in Lebanon, with around 790 branches located throughout the country. All banks provide fast cash services, where Automated Cash Machines (ATM) are operating 24 hours a day for withdrawal and foreign exchange. You can use travelers’ checks in Lebanon. Banks change them easily. Most Banks are open from 8:30am till 17:00pm weekdays and from 8:30am till 13:00pm on Saturday’s. The tellers in almost all banks close at 14:00pm with the exception of Saturday where they close at 12:30 pm.
The educational system in Lebanon is based on the French Baccalaureate system. Lebanon's network of elementary and secondary public and private schools provides a strong foundation for students. Formal schooling covers a 12-year cycle. Children start school at three years old, but the first two years are kindergarten style. Private sector schooling accounts for more than half of all students in the country. All schools teach at least two languages: either Arabic and English or Arabic and French. There are also Armenian, Dutch, German, Italian and other community schools. School tuitions vary between private and public schools.
Lebanon boasts around forty universities and colleges offering a wide range of specialization among which law, engineering, medicine, arts and sciences. The seven major universities are listed below:
The Lebanese University (LU)
The American University of Beirut (AUB)
Lebanese American University (LAU formerly BUC)
Saint Joseph University (USJ)
Notre Dame University (NDU)
Beirut Arab University (BAU)
University of Balamand (UOB)
Haigazian University (HU)
Lebanon's health sector is at par with European and US hospitals. Private clinics and medical centers are available throughout the country and equipped with the latest facilities and technology.
Most Lebanese are privately insured and those registered with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) have partial health coverage. Policies providing corporate group coverage are widely used by companies registered at the NSSF to supplement the benefits provided by the government's healthcare system. International private medical insurance is available for non-Lebanese living in Lebanon. Cost for healthcare varies between hospitals and doctors.
A number of pharmacies are available across the country. Many drugs are available over the counter without prescription and some pharmacists prescribe required medicine for minor ailments.
There are different ways to find accommodations. You can go through the ads for apartments in the local newspapers where you will find an extensive advertisement section; you can also advertise in the local newspapers; or you can go through a real estate agent.
For unfurnished apartments, a lease of not less than one year is normally required. The majority of landlords request one year’s rent in advance. Depending on the location and the type of building, accommodation is available at yearly rents varying between US$12,000 to US$30,000 for a three to four bedroom unfurnished apartment. The rent usually includes water supply but excludes electricity and service charges, which have to be incurred by the tenants.
Furnished studios with up to three bedroom apartments are available from US$1,500 to US$3,000 per month (weekly and daily rates are also available at some furnished apartments) and usually provide a refrigerator, cooking stove, kitchenware, plus basic domestic services, i.e. cleaning and maintenance.
The power supply is much more reliable than it used to be few years back; however power cuts still occur from time to time, particularly during heavy rain and thunderstorms. Many buildings have generators, which cost according to the number of amps supplied.
Within Beirut and most suburbs and villages, the supply has been converted to 220 volts, although some areas of the city still have supplies of 110 volts. Adaptors are usually required for most appliances purchased from the US and Europe. A transformer may be required if you bring an appliance from overseas which operates on a different voltage.
The cost of electricity is US$35 for the first 100 kW and up to US$125 for power consumption exceeding the 200 kW per month. The bills are issued by the Electricité du Liban (EdL), and are delivered by a representative from EdL to your doorstep. Arrangements with commercial banks could also be made payment of bills.
Bottled gas is generally used in households (ovens and heaters) and it costs around US$9 for a refill.
Water shortages are rare but may occur in October. Water is charged yearly and according to consumption. One cubic meter of water cost around LBP224,000 (US$148). Homes have two water taps, one for domestic use and one for drinking water. However, it is advisable to drink spring water.
Lebanon has a modern telephone system. Fixed line service is much more reliable than it used to be few years back and much easier to have it installed. Many private households now also have internet access. The process of obtaining a phone line requires 72 hours. The installation of a local line will cost an initial fee of LL212,000 (US$140) for both residential and corporate clients whereas the set up cost of an international line amounts to LL312,000 (US$206) for residential use and LL512,000 (US$339) for corporate.
Telephone kiosks are rare, but many shops and grocery stores have phones. Post offices have public phones.
For more information, please visit the Ministry of Telecommunications website.
Mobile phones are very popular and can be purchased from a number of retailers. There are normal lines, which cost around US$75 as connection fee in addition to the monthly bills; or pre-paid cards to be periodically refilled and which cost between US$50 and US$75 as an initial payment plus recharge fees depending on the usage.
Internet connection is available in Lebanon in houses, offices and internet cafés. Several Internet Service Providers are selling pre-paid connection card with unlimited access against a tariff ranging between US$16 to US$22 monthly. Four-digit internet access lines were recently installed by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, giving access to relatively cheap phone connection, varying with the number of connection hours per month (on average 50-100 hours of connection would cost US$32).
For more information, please visit the Ministry of Telecommunications website.
Letters, magazines and small parcels are delivered to your door by a postman. Letterboxes are starting to spread in the cities but letters can be mailed from any LibanPost office.
For more information, please visit Libanpost website.
The road network has remarkably improved since the end of the war in view of the investment which was made during the past nine years on road infrastructure. Public buses assure reliable transportation in Beirut and its suburbs, with fares set at LL500 (US$0.33). Taxicabs and service (collective taxi) operate in all major cities and towns. You will find taxi ranks at the airport, main hotels or shopping centers. Fares range from LL1,000 (US$0.66) for a service to LL5,000 (US$3.3) and LL10,000 (US$6.3) to taxicabs depending on the distance within Beirut. However, outside Beirut, the fares will differ. Taxi drivers at the airport will ask for US$25 to take you into Beirut.
Travel to and from Lebanon is easy. Most international airlines operate frequent connections to Beirut International Airport from Europe, Africa and the rest of the Middle East. The national carrier, the Middle East Airline, operates frequent flights – sometime daily – to all destinations in the Middle East and Europe.
There are numerous car hire firms including some of the internationally known ones. Daily rates vary between US$18 to US$40 for small cars to US$40 to US$75 for medium sized cars or US$75 to US$120 for luxury cars.
A valid national license from any country can be endorsed for use in Lebanon for six months (twice only). Alternatively, you can drive using an international driving license.
Recreation & Lifestyle
Lebanese hospitality is known for being genuine and warm. Visitors from many parts of the world are attracted by Lebanon spectacular natural environment and the distinctive personality and friendliness of the Lebanese people. When you visit Lebanon you will discover:
- Casual lifestyle
- Sporting and recreational events
- Blend of Middle Eastern and European lifestyles
- Vibrant nightlife
- World-class shopping facilities
Lebanon is excellent for sun lovers, with six months of guaranteed sunshine and a variety of beach resorts spread along the coastline, offering all sorts of water sports. In addition, several water theme park projects have developed over the last few years.
In view of the richness of Lebanon's nature, many eco-tourism activities and outdoor sports can be practiced. You can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, caving, camping, mountain climbing, paragliding, etc.
The mountains areas in Lebanon provide a large skiing domain, a rarity among Middle East countries. Ski resorts follow high standards of quality and offer modern equipment, a wide variety of altitudes and natural settings. The season lasts from mid-December to the end of March. Faraya, Laqlouq, the Cedars and Faqra club are the main resorts. Ski passes cost between US$15 and US$35 a day, depending on the resort and the equipment, which are hired.
Culture & Art
Lebanon is the home to many civilizations; each left its cultural legacy on the architecture, the art and over all every part of today's civilization.
Lebanon boasts several museums, some of which are:
- The National Museum (Beirut)
- Children's Science Museum (Beirut)
- Nicolas Sursock Museum (Beirut)
- Gibran Museum (Bsharreh)
Lebanese contemporary arts reflect a diverse and multicultural society. Musicals, opera, ballet and concerts fill out the cultural scene in Lebanon. Renowned festivals like Baalbeck , Beiteddine , Al-Bustan , Byblos and Tyre are attracting performers and visitors from a far.
Lebanon has a fantastic variety of food. Top quality meat, fish, fruits and vegetables are locally grown and some are imported to markets all around the globe.
You can sample almost every type of cuisine available throughout the world in Lebanese restaurants. There are elegant restaurants or typical authentic Lebanese cuisine. Good food at reasonable prices can be found at bistros or cafes while most of the major global fast food chains are well represented in Lebanon.
Country Code 961
For more information about telephone codes of specific regions of Lebanon, please visit the Ministry of Telecommunications website.
International Telephone Operator 100
Jounieh (09) 900 000
Zahle (08) 820 110
Saida (07) 721 221/ 725 811
Tripoli (06) 431 522
Red Cross 140
Beirut (01) 581 099/ 445 000/ 441 703/ 447 125/ 441 704
Jounieh (09) 930 638
Saida (07) 720 061
Tripoli (06) 431 017
Beirut (01) 425 250/ 392 750
Baabda (01) 421 044/ 426 210
Jounieh (09) 915 967/8
Saida (07) 720 030/1/2/3
Tripoli (06) 430 950/1/2/3
Zahle (08) 803 521/ 823 000/ 804 876/ 806 434-36
Beirut (01) 310 105/ 445 000
Tripoli (06) 431 107
Water (01) 317 335/312 951
Electricity (01) 442 720-6