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Once known as the ‘Paris of the East’, Beirut commands a magnificent position, thrust into the Mediterranean. Behind the city are towering mountains, visible when the traffic haze settles down. The Corniche seafront boasts beaches, restaurants, theatres and a dazzling variety of shops and restaurants. Beirut suffered greatly from Lebanon’s 16-year civil war, but following an impressive and ongoing process of reconstruction, the city was poised to become one of the most popular tourist and business destinations in the Middle East before the Israeli attacks of 2006.

Practical Information

Area: 10 452 km² (4 036 miles²)

Capital: Beirut. Population: 1.17 million

Population: 3.8 million

Currency: Lebanese Pound (LBP symbol L£) = 100 piastres

Government: Republic.

Tipping: In hotels and restaurants, a tip of between 5 and 10% of the bill is expected.

Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Arabic

Additional descriptions

Lebanon: Social customs

Lebanese people are known for their hospitality. Handshaking is the normal form of greeting. It is acceptable to give a small gift, particularly if invited home for a meal. As far as dress is concerned,Read more casual dress is suitable for daytime wear, except in main towns where dress tends to be rather formal. Smarter hotels and restaurants often require guests to dress for dinner. Since Lebanon is almost evenly divided between those adhering to the Muslim faith, and those adhering to the Christian faith, visitors should dress according to the custom of the majority in the individual places being visited. Smoking is common and acceptable unless specified otherwise.

Lebanon: Food and local specialties

Lebanese cuisine is widely acknowledged to be the finest in the Middle East. The country’s gastronomic tradition is characterised by the use of an extremely wide variety of locally-produced, and thereforeRead more extremely fresh, vegetables served in all forms and shapes with an abundance of fresh herbs (mostly coriander, parsley and mint). A meal is always concluded with a wide range of fresh fruit, including melon, apples, oranges, persimmon, tangerines, cactus fruit, grapes and figs, which are all grown locally. Excellent Lebanese food is available everywhere. Beirut also offers a large choice of international restaurants which offer dishes from all over the world. Bars have table and/or counter service. Things to know: Alcohol is not prohibited. The national specialties are: Kebbeh, made of lamb pounded to a fine paste, with burghul or cracked wheat, and served raw or baked in flat trays or rolled into balls and fried. Mezza, a range of up to 40 small dishes served as hors d’oeuvres with arak. Lahm mishwi (pieces of mutton with onions, peppers and tomato) is popular. Tabbouli. Mtabbal. Arak, a wine traditionally produced and aged for five to 10 years before being redistilled with anis seeds.

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