Byblos - Ancient Phoenician Port
Byblos is probably the oldest city I have ever had a chance to visit. It's been around for about 7000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are in Beirut - make sure you add on a day trip to this historical gem! Getting there takes about 45 minutes by car - and there are lots of private and public tours that include it as a stop.
Ancient City and Ruins
Be prepared to walk: up and down hills, through souks and historic sites. Byblos is an open air museum - and strolling is a highlight! A focal point is Crusader Castle. It looks like something out of an adventure pirate movie. It was built in the 12th century - and has changed hands constantly over the years. You can almost hear the swords clinking as you walk through the grounds.
At the bottom of the city - is Byblos port. On a sunny day it's the place to be! Many people consider it the oldest port in the world. For thousands of years, timber and Lebanese wine has passed through it's gates. Make sure you stop in at a cafe and sample some of that wine - before it is shipped out!
Shopping and Dining
Byblos is a popular weekend spot for the people from Beirut - and the cafe culture is a huge draw. The town is packed with all kinds of outdoor eateries - - serving everything from fresh catches of seafood - -to Italian favorites. The setting is front and center in the whole experience. You can dine by the ocean (Chez Pépé is probably the most popular), under flowering trees, or in ancient squares.
Shopping is the other huge draw. The Old Souk in the center of town has been around for centuries. It has all kinds of wares to delight: everything from traditional souvenirs and scarfs - to unique goods. You can bargain over an ancient fossil of an extinct sea creature or a basket of potpourri.
There are lots of other boutiques scattered throughout the city - next to the cafes. Local celebrity and fashionista, Alice Edde, owns a number of the most interesting and popular. She produces hats (her signature), lavender soaps, spices and home decorations that make fantastic gifts for the folks back home.
Chez Pépé Museum
If you have a chance to dine at the seaside establishment Chez Pépé (and even if you don't) - make sure you pop into the little museum that is beside the entrance. Pépé Aded was a world famous diver and adventurer in the 60's and 70's. The small museum houses some of the spectacular artifacts he discovered on the ocean floors from all over the world (Mexico to the Middle East). The space has an erie ambiance that is right out of an Indiana Jones movie - which is appropriate given his status as an explorer!