Lebanese Antiquities: Travel

Roadblock near Tyre

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As I said, the violence that so often attracts western attention, has come to an end. There are probably more people killed in Lebanese traffic, which is a nightmare indeed. It seems to be perfectly acceptable to have lunch while driving or to park your car on the right lane of the coastal highway. Incidental roadblocks do not add to easy travel. Of the places I have visited, only Tehran and Lahore resemble Lebanese chaos. On the other hand, if you make a mistake, no one is angry. The insulting gestures you will see over here in Amsterdam, are mercifully absent.

If you are not very confident of your skills as a driver, it is probably best to use a taxi. We rented a car, and the man who had to drive it, was also the man who was, every afternoon, most exhausted. Our agency was Avis, which has its Beirut office on the first floor of the Phoenicia Hotel; we very happy with the way they dealt with everything (more).

The beauty of the Lebanon Mountains: natural bridge near Kfardebian

We severely underestimated the Lebanon Mountain Range. The slopes are pretty steep, and in the first days of April, the passes are still closed. This made our visit to Faqra unforgettable – snow-covered Roman ruins! – but it was quite surprising that even good roads like those from Tripoli or Jounieh to Baalbek became inaccessible. High up the mountains, people were skiing, snowboarding, picnicking, and enjoying ourselves; nice for them, and an unexpected surprise for us.

A problem we were not able to solve was finding a really good map. Sometimes, towns were not indicated where they actually were, and the rendering of Arab words is not always identical to the transcription on the road signs. And speaking about road signs: they are never there when you need them most, which gives a certain urgency to finding a decent map. We found this the only real problem, and had to abandon our trip to Sfiré because we simply could not find our way through Tripoli.

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