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Lebanon ~ A Country of Diversity

HIGHLIGHT on Lebanon: Bordered on one side by Mediterranean and on the other by two parallel mountain ranges, Lebanon seems a country suspended between the sky and the sea. Despite its small area (10,452 square km), this is a land, resplendent in its diverse geography, landscape, culture and history.

Upon the arrival to Indonesia, Mrs. Joanna Azzi (picture below) as the Lebanese chargé d’affaires is so impressed with the ‘Unity in Diversity’ here. Indonesia is very similar to Lebanon ~ a Mediterranean county of multiple origins, shaped by 10,000 years of history. She was not only impressed with the motto, but also with the Indonesian cultures through dancing, weather, language and behavior of the Indonesian people that will stay in her mind.

Lebanon Mdm Joanna Azzi 2From the white-capped mountains and blue sea, to the countryside, from arid hills to lush forests, the visitor discovers a series of contrasts. Bare Rocky Mountains are followed by luxuriant valleys watered by rivers and waterfall. View change quickly from pine covered hills to dramatic rocky landscape, to fertile plains laid out with farms and vineyards.

Lebanon Natural Beauty
From earliest times, its natural beauty and privileged geographical position attracted conquerors and occupiers who left behind traces of their civilizations. Each added an indelible imprint to the makeup of what would become modern Lebanon. The legacy of the past is clear from the extraordinary variety of archaeological sites in every corner of the county. From Phoenician sarcophagi to Roman temples, to Crusaders castles and Mamlouk mosques, wherever you go, evidence of this country’s rich and tormented past comes to light.

Lebanon Beirut 2Beirut, capital city of Lebanon (picture right) is a place of bitter memories stemming from its dark past. The captivating mosques and reconstructed colonial relics downtown, Beirut represents the victory of rejuvenation. Lebanon with 4 million population, is a gate of popular cigar Shishah which is associated with Middle Eastern culture. It is also growing in popularity nowadays in Indonesia. Shisha is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavoured tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet. Surprisingly, the charcoal part of Shishah which has flavor of apple, pineapple or strawberry ~ is produced in Indonesia. Some experts say a single shisha session is the same as smoking 200 cigarettes.

Byblos ~ Crossroads Of Civilization
Byblos is a must-see for every visitor to Lebanon. This town, whose history goes back 7,000 years, is home to a major archaeological site that reveals one impressive ruin after another-traces of all the civilizations that have occupied Byblos over the millennia. Facing the sea, the archaeological site includes several Canaanite and Phoenician temples, the foundations of Stone Age houses, ancient city walls and several Roman remains.

Most imposing is the Crusader castle, built in the 13th century. The whole faces a Roman theater and is bordered by Phoenician sarcophagi scattered at the foot of a Roman colonnade. Byblos is celebrated as the birthplace of the alphabet. In fact, the sarcophagus of the Phoenician King Ahiram, discovered on the site and now on display at the National Museum, bears the oldest known inscription of the Phoenician linear alphabet, and also known for its picturesque medieval port, where small fishing boats rock gently on the waves.

At the church of Saint John, built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, notice the bell tower (20th century) with its finely carved down and its beautiful triple-arched baptistery. Another interesting stop in old Byblos is the Fossil Museum where you can see fascinating prehistoric flora and fauna preserved in rock.

Lebanon nat museum 2a
The National Museum of Beirut (picture above) is the principal museum of archaeology in Lebanon. the museum was officially opened in 1942. The museum has collections totaling about 100,000 objects, most of which are antiquities and medieval finds from excavations undertaken by the Directorate General of Antiquities. About 1300 artifacts are exhibited, ranging in date from prehistoric times to the medieval Mamluk period. During the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, the museum stood on the front line that separated the warring factions.

The Cedars~Eternal Symbol of Lebanon
Lebanon cedars 2At more than 1,800 meters above sea level, the Cedars of Lebanon fascinate with their majesty and great age. Known for their long lasting woods resistant to temperature, humidity and decay, the trees were widely exploited in antiquity.

In Phoenician era, cedar wood was exported in bulk, mainly to Egypt and the Phoenician colonies of the Mediterranean. King Solomon ordered large quantities of cedar wood from King Hiram of Tyre to build his temple in Jerusalem. The Egyptians used the wood for shipbuilding and in making sarcophagi, while they employed the cedar oil for mummification. Intensive exploitation of Cedars continued through the centuries until their numbers were seriously diminished.

Of the immense forest that once covered Mount Lebanon, only a few isolated reserves remain today in Jaj, Tannourine, Ehden, Barouk and Maasser el-Chouf. The most cedars are undoubtedly those of Bsharreh, many of which are hundreds of years old. Four of these trees, estimated at between 1,500 and 2,000 years old, have reached a height of 35 meters and their trunks are between 12 and 14 meters around. With branches positioned like arms at prayer, the so-called Cedars of the Lord are at their most impressive when seen under layers of white snow.

The resort of the Cedars near Bsharreh is also known for its excellent skiing and the exceptional view of Qadisha valley seen from the highest slopes.

The Cuisine Of Lebanon
Like its culture is surprising in its diversity. Lebanon is much appreciated for its cuisine, which is among the most varied and savory in the world. It is known above all for its mezze, countless dishes of savory hors-d’oeuvres which are endlessly replenished and served in a warm and congenial setting. Any attempt to describe Lebanon is a task carried out in vain, it cannot be confined by words; it must be lived ~ where roads lead from town to village and from site to city, from one époque to another.

lebanese cuisine 2
Above all, Lebanese food is associated with the mezze, a spread of innumerable small dishes that form the traditional opener to a meal. Carefully decorated, wisely seasoned, these delicacies are a pleasure to eye as well as to the palate.

Among the most essential mezze dishes are homos (puree of chick peas and sesame paste), moutabal (eggplant and sesame paste dip), tabboule (a salad of parsley, tomatoes and crushed wheat), warakarish (stuffed vine leaves), labne (strained yogurt seasoned with olive oil and garlic), fattoush (green salad with dried bread), samboussek (hot cheese pastries), kebbi (finely ground meat with crushed wheat and flavorings), and many more, next, comes the seafood or grills-lamb kababs, chicken brochettes or kafta (ground meat with parsley).

Indonesia is a happy country as you can see happiness in the face of most of Indonesian people. And each province has its own uniqueness as Mrs. Joanna Azzi closed the conversation at her office in Jakarta.

I-Now