Mika In Lebanon July 2008
Zahle is known as the bride of the Beqaa, and is much
appreciated for its healthy climate, red-roofed houses and
its good food. It is considered as the capital of the Beqaa,
and is the seat of government for the Beqaa. All amenities
are available here, with hotels, good shopping and souvenir
shops. Zahle's many beautiful old houses can be appreciated
on a leisurely walk around the town.
The main attraction, however, is the Bardaouni River, which
flows out of Mount Sannine through a wooded gorge shut in
between tall perpendicular rocks, down to Zahle. Along this
branch of the Litani River there is one open air restaurant
after another. All are protected from the sun by awnings and
leafy trees, while streams, fountains and pools cool the
air. To get to this area you drive right through the town.
Zahle is home of the Mezza and of Arak (Lebanese traditional
alcoholic drink) and it lies at the heart of an area that
has been making wine since early antiquity.
In this pleasant spot one can enjoy a typical Lebanese
pastime: the long leisurely lunch. The Bardaouni is just as
popular in the evenings where dinners can become quite
festive. In Winter, most of the riverside restaurants are
only open on weekends. A walk in the hills overlooking Zahle,
leads you to Iron and Bronze Age towns. In Wadi El Arayesh
are Byzantine and Roman sarcophagi.
Festivals and Events
Every year between the 10th and 20th of September, Zahle
holds the "Festival of the Vine" , during which "Miss Vine"
is elected and cars are decorated with flowers representing
Zahle is also famous for its Corpus-Christi festival which
dates back to 1825 when the town was spared the ravages of a
contagious disease. Corpus-Christi is celebrated on the
first Thursday of June with a torch-light parade held on the
eve of the festival.
Zahle styles itself as "The City of Wine and Poetry". More
than 50 poets and writers were born in the city contributing
to Lebanon's cultural and political scene.
Amongst the city's attractions:
The several hundred year old houses are a must see in Zahle.
They are private houses with fasinating architecture.
Examples of such houses are the Geha, Youssef Azar and Wadih
Skaf house, which are designed with arcades and walled
The Serail is the restored government house located in the
old part of town and dating from 1885. The building's
architecture reflects the European and Arab influences of
the Ottoman period.
Souk al-Blatt (Tiled Market)
A market street leading to one of the oldest parts of the
city. A large part of Zahle's history was written in this
souk, where in former times travelers to and from Syria,
Baghdad and Palestine bought and sold their goods. A project
is planned to restore the street and make it a center for
crafts and other traditional activities.
Housh El-Zarani is located near the post office on the east
side of the river. In past centuries this housh, or market
area, was a conglomerate of khans (caravansaries), craft
center and shops. Here shoemakers, woodworkers weavers,
copper workers and saddle makers plied their trades. It was
also an important commercial center where vendors sold
agricultural and industrial products.
Many of the old buildings, embellished by carved ceilings,
vaulted interiors and decorated fašades, still stand. Today
these structures are somewhat obscured by modern shop
fronts, but projects are afoot to restore the area. In the
meantime you can still discover a taste of old Zahle here.