Background: Rouba, who was born and raised in Beirut is a recently graduated pharmacist. She has been providing many tours as a Showaround local over the past few months, and she is now running her new website Lebanonaholic. She always shares Lebanon’s most famous touristic and historic places, as well as her favorite nature spots, pubs, rooftop bars, and restaurants that serve authentic local food. In the summer, she enjoys spending time at the beach and playing tennis with her sister, and in the winter, she likes skiing and horseback riding. Read on to find out more about things to do in Lebanon and Rouba’s favourite spots.
Showaround: Why did you decide to become a Showaround Local?
Rouba: I have always been passionate about Lebanon’s beautiful and natural sites. I am also adventurous, and I have never missed a chance to attend the most beautiful outdoor events organized in my country which have given me the opportunity to learn about the hidden gems of the countryside. I found that being a Showaround local provides me with a chance to do the same for others. It helps me to spread the great image of Lebanon despite all the negative stereotypes about it in the media. I think it is delightful that I had this wonderful opportunity to meet more than twenty people from all over the world.
Showaround: Name three super local things to do in the city?
Rouba: 1.Enjoy a city break in Lebanon’s capital Beirut. Visit the Beirut Souks, a luxurious shopping district in the downtown area where the old world meets a vast collection of modern international brands, jewelry stores, restaurants, and cafés. From the Souks, you can walk into Beirut’s rich history: The Martyrs’ Square, the largest town square that features the Martyrs’ Statue, the St George Maronite Cathedral, and the Blue Mosque. Due west lies the Nejme Square, or Place de l’Étoile, the city center’s true jewel, that hosts the Lebanese Parliament and its complementary buildings and the giant Rolex clock tower.
Take a seaside promenade along Beirut’s famous Corniche and the trendy Zaitunay Bay marina that hosts a panoramic scenery of many sailboats and luxury yachts. Alternatively, grab a bicycle and keep following the path to the Raouché neighborhood famous for its natural landmark, the Pigeons’ Rocks, the sentinels of Beirut’s coastline.
2.Escape the city to explore the most popular experiences of Lebanon. Visit Jeita Grotto, the longest cave in the Middle East, consisting of two separated but interconnected limestone caves. One of the world’s most amazing agglomerations of stalactites and stalagmites, Jeita Grotto is widely considered to be the pride of Lebanon and featured as a finalist in the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World.
Take a scenic drive through Byblos, also known as Jbeil, in the oldest archaeological site in Beirut dating back thousands of years and closely associated with the spread of the Phoenician alphabet. Its touristic attractions include a medieval castle, old souks, and a fossil museum as well as many seaside cafes and restaurants serving fresh seafood.
Make your way to the beautiful town of Harissa, the Holy Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon, that hosts the statue of Virgin Mary. This village can be accessible from the coastal city of Jounieh either by road or by a 9-minute journey by a gondola lift, known as Teleferique. It attracts both pilgrims and tourists who want to enjoy views of the bay of Jounieh.
3.Explore Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, Baalbek Heliopolis, these temples are the largest and most famous Roman temples which are well preserved too. Sites of interest include the Temple of Bacchus, Jupiter, Venus and the largest stone ever carved by human hands known as Stone of the Pregnant Woman.
Continue the journey to Balou Balaa gorge sinkhole passing by the Bekaa Valley over the Mount Lebanon Mountain range. Balou Balaa is famous for its three separate natural bridges and its 250 meter deep natural sinkhole that was carved by water 160 million years ago! It is a magnificent waterfall that can be observed anytime of the year with water vapors rising to the surface. Many activities are often organized there including climbing, rappelling and hiking to the bottom of the sinkhole. This natural beauty is a must see.
Showaround: Favourite restaurant?
Rouba: Lebanese food is one of the most delicious cuisines found in the world! Many restaurants offer a wide variety of high-quality dishes. Loris located at Gemmayze is by far one of the greatest restaurants that serve typical Lebanese cuisine with a special twist. A typical Lebanese meal starts with mezze (fattoush, tabbouleh, hummus) followed by a grilled platter (marinated meat, chicken or kebab).
Enab Beirut, which means grapes, is a great Lebanese breakfast spot and has a nice outdoor terrace seating with a great authentic touch. Babel Bay, located at Zaitunay Bay, is an exclusive and luxurious destination for those who love seafood. Desserts are always served towards the end of a meal. Al-Sultan Brahim is another upscale Lebanese restaurant serving fresh seafood.
Showaround: Best place for a drink?
Rouba: Rooftop bars and lounges such as Iris Beirut and The Roof Four Seasons make ideal places to enjoy fancy sunset drinks and signature cocktails made from fresh fruits and refreshing mixes, with breathtaking sunset sea views and smooth lounge music. For beer lovers, Colonel craft beer brewery is one of a kind in the region, serving amazing crafted beers in a cosy and chilled outdoor atmosphere. Lebanese wines also have an international reputation. Grapes have been grown since antiquity, and the vineyards, largely in the Bekaa Valley – Chateau Ksara, Chateau Musar, Massaya and Chateau Kefraya – produce the base wine for distillation into the Lebanese national drink Arak, an anise-flavored liqueur, usually served with a traditional convivial Lebanese meal.
Showaround: How would you describe the local people of Beirut?
Rouba: In general, the people in Beirut are very kind, welcoming, respectful and extremely hospitable and consider it a pleasure to have guests in their home and in their country. Most people are open and educated. Asking someone on the street for directions is easy since most of them will do their best to help you. Like in any country, it is preferable to be accompanied when visiting certain locations.
Lebanon is a country rich in natural scenery from beautiful beaches to mountains and valleys. Lebanese people take pride that Lebanon is one of the few countries that gives you the opportunity to go skiing in the morning and to the beach in the afternoon. Keep in mind that this is only possible for a few days in the year, usually in the few days when winter shifts to spring or summer shifts to autumn.
Lebanon and Beirut were once called the Switzerland and Paris of the Middle East. The recent wars have diminished this status, but the Lebanese have learned to adapt. Their pursuit of happiness and fun overshadows their financial capabilities and political problems.
Showaround: Thank you Rouba for your answers!