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Zahlé – The Bride of the Bekaa Valley

Zahlé – The Bride of the Bekaa Valley - An excursion in Beirut, Lebanon
Zahlé, also called ‘The Bride of the Bekaa Valley’, is situated 55 km east of Beirut, at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. It is the capital of the Bekaa Governorate with around 130,000 inhabitants. Zahle is the only predominantly Greek Catholic city in the Middle East. It is famous for its clean air, old churches, lively and bustling resorts, outdoor restaurants and unique food. Zahlé was founded about 300 years ago in an area whose past reaches back some five millennia. The railroad line which came through in 1885 (no longer available) improved commerce and the town became the internal "port" of the Beqaa and Syria. It was also the centre of agriculture and trade between Beirut and Damascus, Mosul, and Baghdad. The Bardouni is a river that flows out of Mount Sannine and down through Zahlé. The Berdaouni restaurant tradition began over a hundred years ago with a few simple riverside cafes. Today it is a bazaar of tree-shaded eating places known as "casinos". Here you can enjoy the traditional Lebanese mezze as it is served nowhere else. Delicious mountain bread is baked before your eyes and you can try a hubble-bubble (water pipe). The hills north of town, Wadi Hadi, Harqat, Bir Ghazour and Tell Zeina, are covered with vineyards that supply Zahle's wine and arak industries. A tour of Zahlé's Ksara winery is a good way to see how wine and arak are made. Of special interest here are the extensive underground caves built around a natural grotto enlarged by the Romans. Each year in September Zahlé has its week-long " Festival of the Vine" and " Flower Festival". Zahlé is also famous for its Corpus Christi festival celebrated in June with a torch-light parade. From November to April most of the restaurants are closed and the town is relatively quiet, except at weekends and Christmas. In summer, it is an ideal place to stay if you want to spend a few days exploring the Bekaa valley. Minibuses and service taxis from Beirut to Zahlé take around 90 minutes and leave from the roundabout at Beirut’s Cola station. You will be dropped off at the highway turn-off, which is just over 1 km from the centre of Zahlé. If you want to be dropped at the centre of town, you’ll need to get off at nearby Chtaura and catch a service taxi from there.

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More to do and see in Beirut
» Skiing and winter sports
» Hiking and trekking
» Beaches and Seaside
» Caves
» Tyre (Sour)
» Sidon (Saida)
» Jounieh
» Chouf Mountains
» Byblos (Jbail)
» Bekaa Valley
» Baalbek – the ‘Sun City’

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