Tourism in Lebanon

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The tourism industry in Lebanon has been historically important to the local economy and remains to this day to be a major source of revenue for Lebanon. Before the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut was widely regarded as "The Paris of the Middle East," often cited as a financial and business hub where visitors could experience the Levantine Mediterranean culture.

From Stone Age settlements to Phoenician city-states, from Roman temples to rock-cut hermitages, from Crusader Castles to Mamluk mosques and Ottoman hammams, the country's historical and archaeological sites are displayed all across the country reflecting ancient and modern world history.[1] Lebanon has a long standing history of cultural tourism. Interest in the Lebanese Levantine culture was stirred following the visits of many European orientalists, scholars and poets particularly Alphonse de Lamartine, Ernest Renan and Victor Guérin.[2][3]

Lebanon's diverse atmosphere and ancient history make it an important destination which is slowly rebuilding itself after continued turmoil. Lebanon offers plenty: from ancient Roman ruins, to well preserved castles, limestone caves, historic Churches and Mosques, beautiful beaches nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, world renown Lebanese cuisine, nonstop nightlife and discothèques, to mountainous ski resorts.

Significant private investment is currently being made in the modernization and expansion of this sector and international hotel companies have returned to Lebanon. Casino du Liban, which historically constituted a major tourist destination, reopened in 1996. Lebanon is the only country in the Arab world that offers skiing and related winter sports activities. The largest ski resort in the country has been expanded and modernized. The Government believes that, because of the return of peace and stability to the country and with the development of the necessary infrastructure, tourism will again contribute significantly to Lebanon's economy. Lebanon's tourism industry also relies on the large number of Lebanese living abroad, who return regularly to the country during the summer season.[4]

Old City of Sidon

Citadels and Forts[edit]

Old Towns[edit]

Old Town of Tripoli

Old towns still form the center or core of many Lebanese cities and towns. The majority of these old towns dot the coastline of Lebanon, with only a small number of them found in the country's interior. This reflects the nature of the Lebanese people who were a maritime culture largely involved in trade and commerce.


Other major museums:

Religious Tourism[edit]

Located in the heart of the two major world religions, Christianity and Islam, Lebanon has an old and rich religious background with diverse traditions. This is evident in the religious and multicultural blend that can be seen till present times and which gives a unique identity to the Lebanese society. Lebanon has been a refuge for persecuted religious groups from thousands of years, and thus adding a vast amount of religious heritage to the country in both Christian and Islamic sanctuaries and holy places.[9]

World heritage sites[edit]

Tetrapylon at the center of the city of Anjar
Roman temple of Bacchus in Baalbeck
The ancient Byblos port
View of the Kadisha Valley and the Cedars Forest in the background
The Triumphal Arch in Tyre, Lebanon


Inscribed as a world heritage site in 1984, Anjar was a commercial center for Levantine trade routes.[10] At only 1,300 years old, Anjar is one of Lebanon's newer archaeological sites.[11] It was founded by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid ibn Abdel Malek (in the beginning of the 8th century) and takes its name from the Arabic Ain Gerrah meaning "the source of Gerrah", related to the Umayyad stronghold founded in the same era.[10][12] The city's wide avenues are lined with mosques, palaces, baths, storehouses, and residences. The city ruins cover 114,000 square meters and are surrounded by large, fortified stone walls, over two meters thick and seven meters high. The rectangular city design is based on Roman city planning and architecture, with stonework and other features borrowed from the Byzantines. Two large avenues – the 20-meter-wide Cardo Maximus, running north to south, and the Decumanus Maximus, running east to west – divide the city into four quadrants. At the crossroads in the center of the city, four great tetrapylons mark the four corners of the intersection.[11]


During the Phoenician era, Baalbek was a small village . Little remains of the Phoenician structures of the city which was later named Heliopolis under the Hellenistic rule and extensively rebuilt by the Romans. After the arrival of the Romans to Phoenicia in 64 B.C., the city was transformed to a celebrated sanctuary where (Jupiter, Venus and Mercury) and it was overlaid during a period of two centuries by a series of colossal temples.[13][14] Modern-day visitors to Baalbek can enter the site through the grand Roman propylaea and walk through the two large colonnaded courtyards to reach the complex's great temples:

Baalbek was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1984.[16]


Byblos was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1984. Inhabited since the Neolithic age, it witnessed the arrival of successive civilizations, from Phoenicians and Crusaders to Ottoman Turks. Byblos is a historical Mediterranean region dating back thousands of years and closely associated with the spread of the Phoenician alphabet.[17]

The main touristic sites in Byblos:

Qadisha Valley and Cedars Forest[edit]

Inscribed as a world heritage site in 1998, the Qadisha Valley and Cedars Forest (also known as the Forest of the Cedars of God) are considered to be of significant importance. The Qadisha valley was a settlement of early Christian monasticism, situated in a rugged landscape north of the Western Mountain Range of Lebanon. Near the valley lies the Cedars forest, a nature reserve dedicated for the preservation of the last Cedar trees, used in antiquity for the construction of Phoenician boats and religious buildings.[18]

List of monasteries in the Qadisha Valley:

Other monasteries consist of the Monastery of Mar Girgis, with the Chapel of Mar Challita, the Monastery of Mar Yuhanna, the Monastery of Mar Abun, with the Hermitage of Mar Sarkis, and the Monastery of Mart Moura, Ehden.


Tyre was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1984. It was the birthplace of the purple dye known as Tyrian purple and had founded several colonies in the Mediterranean such as Carthage and Cadiz. Many civilizations successively settled in Tyre from Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to Crusaders and Ottoman Turks. Today, there are still many valuable remains mainly from the Roman era.[19]

Major archaeological sites in Tyre:[20]


Trekking in the Dinniyeh mountains
Horsh Ehden nature reserve

Ecotourism in Lebanon has a rich background of natural diversity and a wide range of outdoor activities. With an original landscape consisting of mountains, forests, wildlife, beaches, snow fed rivers, caves, valleys and gorges, Lebanon is becoming more of an outdoor destination where people can visit its natural reserves and practice their ecotourism activities.[21]

Ecotourism activities and sports:[22]

Natural reserves:

Lebanese outdoors[edit]

Lebanon's nature and geography, which are unique to the Middle East region, allow the practice of outdoor activities (mainly concentrated in the summer season). Nowadays, these activities are gaining more interest from nature lovers and becoming well equipped with the specific requirements and facilities.[23]

Major Outdoor activities:

Winter Sports[edit]

Although Lebanon is considered to be a summer destination, winter sports are becoming more in demand due to the close geographical location of the mountain peaks from the Mediterranean sea and the unique winter experience that visitors have. Lebanese winter sports include Alpine skiing and Cross Country in addition to paragliding, snowmobiling, and hiking.[24]

The Ski resorts:


Riviera Beach and Hotel Resort

Lebanon has a 200 km of seashore with about 300 days of sunshine a year, making it a favorable destination for leisure and activities that expand in different parts of the country.[25]

Popular Beaches and water parks in Lebanon:

Art Galleries in Lebanon:

Lebanese cuisine[edit]

Main article: Lebanese cuisine
A typical Lebanese mezze

The Lebanese cuisine, resembling Levantine cuisine with its own unique distinctions, combines the exotic ingredients of the Middle and Far East with the sophistication of European cuisine. Although the Lebanese cuisine has a recent popularity throughout the world, its history dates back to pre-biblical times. This eastern Mediterranean cuisine, which is located in a relatively small geographical area, has had a major influence on Middle Eastern cuisine and other neighboring culinary cultures. Nowadays, Lebanese cuisine is known throughout the world, especially with the recent emphasis on the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine. The significant importance of this ancient cuisine has also inspired professional chefs and restaurateurs across the country to feature exciting Lebanese items on their menus. Popular Lebanese Restaurants in Lebanon: Mounir, Karamna, Leila, Al Balad, Kababji, and Al Halabi [26]

Lebanese crafts[edit]

Lebanese crafts have a sense of style and beauty that attract many tourists interested in these unique handcrafted items which are considered as a significant souvenir of the tour. The production method of Lebanese crafts are mainly concentrated in small villages where the old skills are handed from generation to generation, produced from local raw materials and carefully made with a sophisticated aesthetic and skill. Different regions of the country specialize in various handicrafts such as basketry, carpet weaving, ceramics and pottery, copper and metalworking, embroidery, glass blowing, and gold and silver smithing. Some Lebanese villages are also known for their finely crafted church bells.[27]

Popular tourist destinations in Lebanon[edit]

Nejmeh square in Beirut Central District

Lebanese festivals[edit]

Inner courtyard of the Beiteddine palace where the Beiteddine Festival takes place.

There is a wide range of festivals that take place in Lebanon, especially in the summer season where festivities including both Lebanese and international performers take place in major archaeological and historical sites, including Baalbek, Byblos (Jbail), and Beiteddine.[28]

Major Lebanese festivals:

Statistics and economy[edit]

Tourism was once a very important contributor to Lebanon's economy, accounting for almost 20 percent of the GDP in the 2 decades before the start of the civil war. Since the end of the war, the sector has managed to revive somewhat, but tourism has yet to return to its pre-war levels. Tourism in 1999 accounted for 9 percent of the GDP. In 2001, the tourism sector was one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, with the number of tourists visiting Lebanon between 1996 and 2000 growing at the rate of 14 percent annually.[29] In 2003 the tourism industry contributed 6.374 billion U.S. dollars to the Lebanese economy and in 2005 the receipts per capita reached 1,433 U.S. dollars.[30] In 2004, the song "Libnan", written and performed by Lydia Canaan (who in 1997 was awarded the Lebanese International Success Award by the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism[31]), was the soundtrack of the advertisement "Rediscover Lebanon", produced and broadcast by CNN to over one-billion viewers and commissioned by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy & Trade to promote Lebanon as a tourist destination.[32] In 2006 the ministry of Tourism counted 373,037 admissions to the country's main ministry run touristic sites.[33] In 2009, Lebanon hosted about two million tourists, a record number, passing the previous 1974 record of 1.4 million tourists.[34] The number of tourists grew by 39% over the previous year, the largest increase in any country according the World Tourism Organization.[35] Most of the increase is due to heightened political stability and security. Lebanon was also featured by several international media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and Paris Match, as a top tourist destination at the beginning of 2009.[36] Lebanon's annual income from tourism reached $7 billion, about 20 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Minister of Tourism.[34] Despite the recent surge in popularity as a tourist destination, the United States along with a number of other countries continue to urge their citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns.[37][38][39]

Recent years[edit]

YearInternational Tourist Arrivals[40] Market share in the Middle East[40]


See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "informations sur le Liban et le proche-orient - citations". Le journal des amis du Liban dans le monde. 7 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
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  9. ^, Religious Heritage. Retrieved on 15 June 2008
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  16. ^ "Baalbek - UNESCO World Heritage Center". Unesco. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  17. ^ "Byblos - UNESCO World Heritage Center". Unesco. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  18. ^ "Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab) - UNESCO World Heritage Center". Unesco. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  19. ^ "Tyre - UNESCO World Heritage Center". Unesco. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  20. ^, Archaeological Virtual Tours: Sour (Tyre). Retrieved on 15 June 2008
  21. ^, Rediscovery of Nature in Lebanon. URL accessed on June 10, 2008.
  22. ^, MEA Ecotourism, Lebanon: A destination for unique experience.
  23. ^ "Outdoor Activities". Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  24. ^, Ski and winter sports in Lebanon. URL accessed on June 9, 2008.
  25. ^ "Sports and Leisure in Lebanon". Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  26. ^, Ethnic Cuisine: Lebanon, Joe George. Retrieved on 16 June 2008.
  28. ^, Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, Lebanon's Festivals. Retrieved on 15 June 2008.
  29. ^ "LEBANON". Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  30. ^ "Tourism Market Trends, 2006 Edition – Annex" (PDF). World Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  31. ^ Lydia Canaan Receiving Lebanese International Success Award
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Central Administration for Statistics - frequenting touristic sites". Lebanese Republic - Central Administration for Statistics. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  34. ^ a b "Lebanon Says 2009 Was Best on Record for Tourism". ABC News. Associated Press. 2010-01-19. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  35. ^ Jones, Brent (2010-01-21). "Beirut is reborn as a glitzy playground for tourists". USA Today. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  36. ^ "The Lebanon Brief - Jan 16". BLOM Investment Bank Economic Research Department. Middle East North Africa Financial Network. 2010-01-16. p. 7. Retrieved 1 February 2010. 
  37. ^ "Lebanon Travel Warning". U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  38. ^ "Travel advice and advisories for Lebanon". Government of Canada. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  39. ^ "Lebanon Travel Advice". Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  40. ^ a b "Tourism Market Trends, 2006 Edition – Annex" (PDF). World Tourism Organization. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 

External links[edit]