* Lebanon bears scars of civil war, has great beauty as well
* Hezbollah souvenirs among the offerings, beware ordnance
* French-style beauty, "do-do" shots and pizza for breakfast
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT, Aug 22 Some travellers want to see
history, others want to live it. In Lebanon, a slice of land
between the Mediterranean and war-ravaged Syria, you can do a
lot of both.
At the Roman ruins of Baalbek, some of the best preserved in
the world, you can walk past the 70-foot (21-metre) high pillars
alone - there have been no big crowds since the 2006 conflict
Afterwards you can buy souvenirs - a bright yellow T-shirt
emblazoned with the flag of Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group
fighting in Syria, is always a popular choice.
Political turmoil has plagued the country since the start of
the 15-year civil war in 1975, meaning that Lebanon's cedar wood
forests, ski slopes, seaside nightclubs and world famous cuisine
are often overlooked.
Here are tips on getting the most out of a trip from
Reuters, whose 2,600 journalists in all parts of the world offer
visitors the best local insights.
SUNSETS AND SUPER YACHTS
In Beirut, the civil-war-era gunmen who used to patrol the
seaside corniche are long gone, replaced by hairy-chested men
playing bat and ball or women in full makeup jogging down the
strip, some dragging their chihuahuas.
Saint-George Yacht Club & Marina, on one side of the
corniche and in the heart of Beirut, opened in the 1930s.
Little remains of the main building after a bomb in 2005
ripped out its interior and killed former Prime Minister Rafik
Hariri. But the Lebanese are resilient and the club has stayed
Guests relax at the large outdoor pool, ogling motor-yachts
in the marina as they sip Lebanon's light al Maza beer.
After the pool, a walk half way down the 5-km (3-mile)
corniche leads to cafes serving mint lemonade and pita bread
dipped in aubergine mutabal. Men fish on the rocks as the pink
sun sinks over the sea. If you're lucky, green turtles can be
At night, heading to east Beirut takes you across the Green
Line, a civil-war era front line that acquired its name from the
foliage that grew there, separating mainly Muslim militia in
west Beirut from Christian fighters in the east.
Now, it's demarcated by Beirut's luxurious Le Grey hotel
(www.legrey-hotel.com) and a Virgin Megastore, shiny symbols of
the city's rapid development in recent years.
In Gemmezye, a district in east Beirut, there's a mile-long
stretch of bars, restaurants and nightclubs that stay open no
matter what happens in the country.
It's here that Beirut has managed to preserve some of its
French-style beautiful old buildings, although bullets and
shrapnel pockmark many.
In any bar, ask for a "do-do" shot: Vodka, lemon juice,
Tabasco and a pimento olive. The vodka slaps you in the face but
a bite of the olive neutralises the taste.
FEAST ON THIS
For a breakfast on the go, stop by a ubiquitous manuche shop
to get a bread wrap with zaatar herbs and cheese. It's
essentially a pizza for breakfast, but visitors never complain.
If you're hungry for the full Lebanese spread of mezze
dishes, book a table on the roof of Abdel Wahab, a restaurant in
the ritzy Ashrafieh district where you're just as likely to hear
French as Arabic, a generation after the end of colonial rule.
Order soft artichoke hearts, grilled meats, light
parsley-based tabbouleh salad and, of course, hummus.
Beirut's most overlooked food option is Armenian, cooked by
members of the approximately 100,000-strong Armenian-Lebanese
community whose ancestors fled attacks by Ottoman soldiers in
Opulence can be found at Mayrig (www.mayrigbeirut.com) in
Gemmezye, but for the best taste of Lebanese-Armenian cuisine
head to Bourj Hammoud, a rundown but buzzing neighbourhood in
east Beirut full of kitsch shops.
What Cafe Ono lacks in location and upkeep - it's under a
highway and during one visit by this reporter part of the roof
collapsed - it makes up in home-cooked food.
The spicy walnut Muhammara dip and kebab cooked in cherry
sauce are must-haves. The whole sparrows baked in pomegranate
jus and fried lambs brains are not obligatory but they are
SWIMMING WITH JONAH
Beirut's sticky summer heat can be easily escaped by heading
to the beaches to the south. Lazy-B has pools and bars
(www.lazyb.me) but its well tended grounds are reflected in the
hefty entrance fee. It's located in the seaside town of Jiyeh,
where the prophet Jonah was said to have landed when he was spat
out of a whale.
Drive west from Jiyeh and you'll enter the Chouf mountains
where you can hike through forests of cedar trees - Lebanon's
national symbol. Don't stray off the tracks though: unexploded
ordnance has been spotted.
Further south, towards the frontier with Israel, Sour public
beach is worth the extra drive. It's more authentic than Lazy-B
and the long sandy shores are great for walks.
A drive inland takes you to the surreal mountaintop
Hezbollah museum, a slick and bizarre display of guerrilla
tactics and weaponry by the movement, designated "terrorist" by
the United States.
But enough of Lebanon's intrigue, is it safe?
There have been a number of bomb attacks in the capital this
year and occasional street fights with militants. The chance of
bring hurt in one of these incidents is statistically small.
But, at the end of the day, the decision has to come down to
your own calculations of personal risk.
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Andrew Heavens)