Walking in Beirut is a very interesting thing. You can see many old buildings that are still damaged from bullets or even bombs. Some of them are still inhabited, some of them are in ruins. Next to them are many ongoing construction works. And last, but not least, if you want to, it is no problem to spend the entire day in one of Beirut’s ultra-modern shopping malls (and that’s what many locals are actually doing).
To be honest with you, Beirut is not a city where I met a lot of tourists. I think that’s a pity, because there are a lot of things to see. Here are the most important ones:
A place that I would call the heart of Beirut. Unfortunately in the past it was much nicer than it is right now, but even today it is one of the most important places in all of Beirut. Martyr’s Square took its name from martyrs that were executed here during the Ottoman rule. It’s a place suitable for big gatherings (mostly protests), the biggest one took place in 2005, when more than one million of Lebanese came – that was over ¼ of the entire population of the country. You can visit the Mausoleum of murdered president Rafic Hariri, ruins from the Roman era and the biggest and most iconic mosque in the town – Mosque of Mohammad Al-Amin.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque
This mosque was finished in 2008, but it’s still rather traditional than modern. Sand coloured walls, blue cupolas that have the same colour as the sky above them and four ottoman styled minarets. Inside you can see verses from Koran written all around in elegant calligraphy and the most remarkable thing – ornaments on the ceiling looking more than impressive.
The only day when non-Muslims can’t enter is Friday, because of the prayers. On any other day the mosque is open from early morning until it gets dark. Photos are allowed. Long trousers should be worn and women will get a special robe to cover themselves. Don’t forget to take off your shoes when entering.
St. Georges Maronite Cathedral
The beautiful thing about Lebanon is the diversity of its people and religions. Right next to the above mentioned mosque is standing this beautiful cathedral. Built in 18thcentury, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. The smell of incense is accompanying your visit and the atmosphere is somehow (at least for me) much more intense than in many churches I visited in Europe.
Right now the entry isn’t through the main door, but a little side door. Open for visits Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 – 18:00, on Monday only in the afternoon. You should cover your knees and shoulders. No photos are allowed to be taken inside. Similar rules apply for all the churches in Beirut – Maronite, Orthodox or others.
The Clock Tower
Clock Tower is very typical feature in many Arab cities. In Lebanon for many people the rule “If it’s not expensive, it’s not good“ is like a law and that’s why it doesn’t surprise me that the clock in Beirut is not a normal one, but it was made by Rolex.
Right next to the clock stands Greek Orthodox Church of St. Georges, a couple of mosques, Roman ruins, few ministries and a parliament building. As of right now there are few protests against government going on in Lebanon, this area is closed for visitors, but you can try to use your best smile and eventually the soldiers will let you in to take pictures. I entered four times. Take your passport as they may require it.
The name means Big Palace and it’s a big palace built during the Ottoman era. Right now it’s headquarters of the Prime Minister of Lebanon and hosts several art exhibitions as well. Usually it’s open for public but due to the protests I couldn’t visit it. When I asked the police officer he told me laughing: “You have to come on a normal day to see it. I think that will be maybe in 2019.“
National Museum of Beirut
„Mathaf“ was my favourite touristic place in Beirut! In comparison with the world’s most famous museums it’s small, but very elegant. Built in the first half of 20th century with help from France, it covers mostly the pre-Arab history of Lebanon. First big nation of this area were Phoenicians – great sailors that built cities all around the Mediterranean Sea and had strong ties with Ancient Egypt. After them Lebanon became part of the Roman Empire and the most important city was Baalbek (you can read about it here: Things to see in Lebanon: Baalbek$). After them came of course the Arabs.
The entry fee is 5000L.L and it’s one of the few places where they don’t accept dollars. Opening times are from 9:00 until 17:00 and it’s closed on Mondays. They will provide you with an IPad, so you can scan the QR codes next to artefacts and you can listen to the information in English, French or Arabic. They might forget about the IPad, so better tell them before entering. And yes, you can take photos without flash.
This museum is to be open on October 15th, so I didn’t visit it, but it looks very promising. One of the richest families in country is re-opening this museum of modern and contemporary art in a typical Lebanese house. Go and check it out for me, please.
Rauche / Pigeon Rocks
I was talking about Rauche already in the article about Corniche (you can read it here: The Best Place in Beirut: Corniche). The 70m high rocks are probably the most photographed monument in Beirut. They say that sometimes people jump to the water from the top of them, but I really don’t believe that somebody would survive it. The best moment to come is during sunset and if you don’t want to just stand and watch, you can take a boat tour. It takes approximately 20 minutes, you have to negotiate the price, but you shouldn’t pay more than 10 dollars per person. I guess, this would be a perfect thing to do on a romantic date.