One of the advantages of being married to a foreigner is getting to do domestic tourism together: you want to show your other half the best parts of your country, seduce him/her to fall in love with it and therefore long to come back. Most importantly you want him/her to get to know your origins, your customs and your culture and therefore understand you more.
Domestic tourism with your other half is a very intimate journey, a journey which will not only disclose the touristic sites of your homeland but will uncover the most intimate corners and small alleys of your heart and soul.
I didn’t have to make an offer Erwin couldn’t refuse for him to come that often and love our Lebanon. Needless of any marketing tools, the Lebanese beauty and culture just gets under any skin including the appealing chaos, the Lebanese F1 driving skills, the traffic, the holes on the roads, the endless political struggles and the extra many kilo’s you gain after a trip to a country with such an extraordinary culinary culture.
Two weeks after we met in Paris, Erwin came to visit me in Lebanon in December. From the very start, I wanted to show him the most breathtaking part of Lebanon. I was ready to share Erwin’s liking of someone that wasn’t me, but was a big part of me. I wanted him to be swept of his feet by Jeita’s striking beauty, which in other words meant Lebanon, which ultimately meant:”please come back to visit me because I am already crazy about you.” ***shy*** I wanted to ridiculise the false perceptions people usually have about my country being a desert by showing him a beautiful snow peaked mountain like Faraya. I wanted to demonstrate that Lebanon is not an islamic country hence the beautiful Lady in Harissa, mountains and that both muslims and christians have been living side by side with total respect of one another.
As you can see, I decided to choose an outstanding itinerary as an initial introduction to my country but nevertheless, I needed to balance it well enough to keep him curious and intrigued for some more.
That’s exactly why I chose” Jeita-Faraya-Faqra-Harissa” as an itinerary.
Important information if you decide to drive yourself: Lebanon is a small country with horrific traffic. For this part of the trip it is better to stay in hotels in Kaslik or Zouk or even stay the night in Faraya just to avoid the infernal traffic on the highway coming from Beirut at the Dbayeh-Zouk part
Recommended hotel in Faraya: Intercontinental Mzaar Mountain Resort&Spa
- From Zouk to Jeita(13 minutes-6.6 Km)
Jeita Grotto is a system of two separate, but interconnected, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 kilometres (5.6 mi). 18 kilometres north of Beirut, Jeita is a magnificent masterpiece of Mother Earth. Considered one of the top 14 finalists in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition, the Jeita caves are solutional karstic caves which have formed over millions of years due to the dissolution of limestone. No visit to Lebanon could be complete without visiting this marvellous wonder of Nature. Jeita is the longest cave complex in the Middle East.
My plan worked, Erwin was amazed by Jeita’s striking beauty. It is still his absolute favorite place in Lebanon.
- Things you should know before you go there: pictures are not only not allowed but they are very harmful for the limestone.
- Previous outstanding event: There were two flying Dutch in Jeita in December: one flew all the same from the Netherlands to come and see me in 2014, the other one was the star show of an outstanding sport event. In December 2013, Dutch wakeboarder athlete Duncan Zuur had the rare opportunity to wakeboard through the warm waters of the stalactite- and stalagmite Jeita Grotto. Do watch the result in the stunning video below which illustrates Zuur’s athletic skills and brings to life the grotto’s truly striking natural wonder. This event was sponsored by Redbull.
- From Jeita to Faraya( 27 minutes-21km)
Faraya: Mzaar Kfardebian is a ski area in Lebanon and the largest ski resort in the Middle East. It is located one hour away from Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. It is also referred to as Ouyoune el Simane. Ski season usually stretches from early December to early April.
Today, the infrastructure of the Mzaar-Kfardebian reaches a global level: the ski resort is constituted of 42 hills that extend on 80 kilometres. Skiers, snowboarders, and hikers come during their holidays from all around the world. Skiing ranges between heights of 1,850 metres at Mzaar-Kfardebian, to 2,465 metres on the peak above Mzaar. On the top of Mzaar slope, upon exiting the chairlift, there is a view over the Bekaa Valley, Mount Hermon and other peaks like Zaarour, Laqlouq and the Cedars.
Things to do and see:
1-In winter, enjoy alpine skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
2- The rest of the year, you can go mountain biking, hiking, climbing, paragliding, clay-pigeon shooting, horse riding, rappelling, or go off-roading with an ATV or 4×4.
3-The Mzaar Winter Festival is probably the trendiest all-day event in the area(February)
4- The Faqra Club: Summer at the Top. This year it was held from August 11 until the 15th. Exhibitors including various designers, restaurants / food concepts, a bar, entertainment and kids’ activities were there for 5 days and 4 nights. This event is mostly famous for the spectacular fireworks show on the evening of August 14th.
5-Mzaar Summer Festival 2016 was held from the 12th to the 15th of August, this festival included an artisan exhibit, food courts/ Souk el Tayeb, kids area and of course the famous firework with a special appearance by Rodge, one of the most famous DJs in Lebanon.
6-AT V trips from Faraya to Chabrouh Dam. For more details click here.
7- Recommended restaurants for Lunch/Dinner: Le Montagnou. That’s where we had lunch and it was fantastic as usual!
For more detailed informations about Faraya and what to do, where to go, where to stay, and where to eat click here
- From Faraya to Faqra (9.1 km, 12 min)
Faqra: At an elevation of 1,550 metres (5,090 ft), Faqra is home to well preserved Roman temples, columns, altars and rock cut tombs. It is believed that Romans used Faqra as a signal post to communicate via fire signals over the Lebanese mountains from the coast to Baalbeck or Heliopolis.
The site glows with a natural beauty, with magnificent dolomite rocks that rise like a forest of monuments among the ruins. Faqra attracted the Western explorers since the eighteenth century. They were intrigued by its special buildings, to a point that made Ernest Renan say in his book called A Trip Through Phoenicia: “It is the greatest among Mount Lebanon ruins.”
- Faqra to Harissa:(25 km, 40 minutes)
Harissa is home to an important Lebanese pilgrimage site, Our Lady of Lebanon which attracts both pilgrims and tourists who want to enjoy views of the bay of Jounieh. Located 27 km north of Beirut, its average elevation is 550 meters above sea level and its total land area is 435 hectares. Harissa is accessible from the coastal city of Jounieh either by road or by a nine-minute journey by a gondola lift, known as the Téléphérique.
In 1904, Patriarch Elias Hoyek, on the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, announced the foundation of the building of Our Lady of Lebanon. The shrine belongs to the Maronite Patriarchate who entrusted its administration to the Congregation of Maronite Lebanese Missionaries since its foundation in 1904. It is one of the most important shrines in the world honoring the Virgin Mary. Highlighted by a huge, 15-ton bronze statue of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God. It is 8.5 m high, and has a diameter of five meters. The Virgin Mary stretches her hands towards Beirut. The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon draws millions of faithful both Christians and Muslims from all over the world. When it was inaugurated in 1908 the Patriarch dedicated Lebanon to the Virgin Mary: “Oh Mary, Queen of the mountains and seas and Queen of our beloved Lebanon.
If you climb the stairs to the top where the big statue of our Lady is placed, you can get a great view of the city and the mountains surrounding it. You can see in the picture taken from the top of the Tower, the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul and the beautiful bay of Jounieh.
We finished our glorious road trip in Jounieh, where we had dinner and drinks at one of my favorites spots…But I will leave that for another post.