May 23, 2006

Elsewhere in Lebanon

Lebanon is the closest thing I have to a second home. It is the only country other than the United States where I’ve ever lived. It’s nice to be home in Oregon, but sometimes I’m homesick for Lebanon too.

Here are 32 photos of a country that (unnecessarily) frightens some of my fellow Americans, but is actually perfect for tourists.

Jounieh from Water.JPG

The port city of Jounieh.

Northern Suburbs from Boat.jpg

The northern suburbs of Beirut.

Peter on his Boat.JPG

Daily Star managing editor Peter Grimsditch tells war stories on his boat.

Driving Northern Beirut Suburbs.jpg

Driving north from Beirut.

Byblos Castle.JPG

The castle at Byblos.

Ruins at Byblos.jpg

Roman ruins at Byblos.

Byblos Harbor.jpg

The oldest continuously used port in the world (founded by the Phoenicians) at Byblos.

Shells on Byblos Beach.jpg

Marble rocks on the beach.

Byblos Sunset.jpg

A sunset over the Mediterranean.

Byblos Night.jpg

The Byblos souk at twilight.

Saida from Sea Castle.jpg

Rafik Hariri’s hometown of Saida.

Sea Castle Saida.JPG

The remnants of a Crusader sea castle right in front of the old city of Saida.

Village South Lebanon.jpg

A Shia village in South Lebanon just outside the Hezbollah-occupied zone.

Chouf Village Square.JPG

The central square of a village in the Chouf mountains, homeland of the Druze.

Chouf Mountains Valley.jpg

A Chouf mountain valley at the edge of Lebanon's largest Cedar Reserve.

Suset Over the Chouf.JPG

A sunset over the Chouf.

Temple of Bachus.JPG

The Temple of Bachus, Roman city of Baalbeck, Bekaa Valley.

Baalbeck Cat.JPG

A stray baby kitten at Baalbeck.

Road Up Mount Lebanon.jpg

The road up Mount Lebanon, homeland of the Maronite Catholics for more than 1,000 years.

Mount Lebanon Geography.JPG

Rough geography on Mount Lebanon.

Rugged Qadisha Valley.JPG

The rugged Qadisha Valley.

Bcherre Car 3.JPG

An unhappy car on Mount Lebanon.

Bcherre Car 2.JPG

Another unhappy car on Mount Lebanon.

Bcherre Car 1.JPG

Yet another unhappy car on Mount Lebanon! All of these were less than 100 feet apart.


Bcherre, birthplace of Khalil Gibran.

Khalil Gibran Statue.JPG

My mother in front of a statue of Khalil Gibran, Bcherre.

Cedars of Lebanon.JPG

The majestic Cedars of Lebanon. Some are said to have been there during the time of the Roman Empire.

Inside Cedar Reserve.JPG

Inside Mount Lebanon’s Cedar Reserve.

Mount Lebanon Sunset.jpg

A winter sunset over Mount Lebanon.

Village Mount Lebanon.jpg

One of the many Ottoman-era villages of Mount Lebanon.

Shrine Mount Lebanon.JPG

A Maronite shrine.

Church in Clouds Mount Lebanon.JPG

A Maronite church in the clouds at the top of the world.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2006 09:17 PM

Great photos Michael. Do you have more photos from south Lebanon?


Posted by: AR at May 23, 2006 10:42 PM


Most of my photos from South Lebanon are the crazy kind. See here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 23, 2006 10:46 PM

Beautiful scenery. . except the cars. Any idea what made them so "unhappy?"

Posted by: JC at May 24, 2006 02:23 AM

Those cars are really funny.

Could you post a picture of Bcherre in the spring next to the one in winter? You posted the spring one before, I believe, it was last March. That would be a striking comparison.

BTW, we could probably use some more Turkey and Cyprus pictures.

It would also be really cool if you could post pictures from a few of your journeys displaying the similarities and differences of the Mediterranean countries. I don't there are many similarities between Kurdistan and Cyprus, but you might find something.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 24, 2006 05:04 AM

Excellent compositions.

Posted by: Solomon2 at May 24, 2006 05:47 AM

Michael, I'm still in Israel. Not even a 25 minute flight from here (if one existed). And these two posts about Beirut and other places in Lebanon made me feel so homesick. You have succeeded in bringing a tear to my eye and a pain through my heart. Thank you for the visual reminder. I needed the stimulus.

Posted by: The Perpetual Refugee at May 24, 2006 05:56 AM

Could you please post some photos with Hezbollah "occupation" fighters? Because they scare the Israelis a lot thus preventing them from launching any aggression on South Lebanon and, therfore, enable the people of South Lebanon stay in their villages without fear of the Israelis.

Posted by: Folan at May 24, 2006 06:05 AM

How about a post on Oregon like the ones about Israel and Lebanon? Might be interesting given your new perspective on things.

Posted by: Joao at May 24, 2006 06:40 AM

Besides, some of us dont know anything about Oregon.

Posted by: Joao at May 24, 2006 06:42 AM

Hello Michael,

Y'know, I've had a few Lebanese friends, and I run into quite a few in my everday, Calgary dealings. They all ask, witjh perfect earnestness, why I don't come travel to Beirut.

For sure, it's a beautiful country with a tonne of history, friendly people, wonderful sights. Why would I not travel there?

How about Hezbollah? 1559?

Yes, I know that tourists would likely find it safe, probably even safer than Isreal (which, too, I would like to visit). But I will not. Something about bringing hard currency into countries with links to state sponsored terrorism.

Goodbye Lebanon, Syria, Libya, just to name a few. Harsh words? Sure. But I'm open to discussion.

And nonetheless, a wonderful collection of pictures and words.

Posted by: Teddy at May 24, 2006 07:02 AM

I am hitting your tip jar, Michael. You have done yeoman's work in showing us the humanity in the Middle a time when there seems like only demons and demonization. Thank you, and keep up the good work. I can't give much, but please accept what I can give. Yours is my favorite site by far.

Posted by: Jauhara al Kafirah at May 24, 2006 09:13 AM

I love these pictures. I grew up in Portland, OR and though I love the Northwest I feel there is a lack of cultural diversity and information about the East. I am just now learning the beauty of the Middle East and its culture and would love to visit many places that you have written about. Thank you for sharing your life with us, in your words and pictures. You inspire me.

Posted by: Lisa at May 24, 2006 02:39 PM


Lebanon is not a state sponsor of terrorism. Hezbollah is not an arm of the Lebanese state. It is an arm of Iran and Syria.

The Lebanese government cannot disarm Hezbollah. Hezbollah is more powerful by far than the Lebanese army and would win in a fire fight. The Lebanese army quietly cooperates with the Israeli Defense Forces behind the scenes, but they just can't do much right now.

If this is your only reason for not visiting Lebanon, just go. Hezbollah certainly will not harm you. They have a hands-off civilians policy, and they stick to it. And they rule their tiny corners of the country where no tourist would want to go anyway. From a tourist perspective they are a complete non-issue.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2006 02:55 PM

But what Michael doesn't tell you is that those cars were only parked there 5 minutes before he arrived, but got worked over by a notorious band of parts thieves.


Oh, wait... he didn't take those pics in Los Angeles. My fault...


Posted by: ElMondoHummus at May 24, 2006 04:21 PM

Great pictures. Thanks... I wonder if you have any more of that cedar forest. A forest of cedars would be something to see.

Posted by: Judy at May 24, 2006 04:27 PM


Couldn't of said it better regarding Ted's post. Lebanon is absolutely not a state sponsor of terrorism, they really don't have much control of Hezzbollah, and any tourist would certainly be safe there. I myself am Lebanese and took 2 American friends to Lebanon last summer. They had the time of their lives! They never dreamed that it would be so beautiful. The mountains, the beaches, the partying...Lebanon has it all. It is a shame that so many people (ESPECIALLY AMERICANS) have no notion of this. I commend you for portrayal of this beautiful country. We need more Michael Totten's in this world!

Posted by: Sam at May 24, 2006 07:56 PM

Fantastic pictures and story.
I do not like to travel, but I have friends who constantly want me to go to Europe with them.

I forewarded this page to them and said if they will go there, I'd go. I've already gotten on positive response.

Posted by: _Jon at May 25, 2006 06:49 AM

So, I am almost sold on the Lebanon vacation thing. How hard is it to get around in Lebanon if one speaks only English (and a tiny bit of German) and has no personal contacts or friends to assist with language barriers?

Posted by: Patrick at May 25, 2006 08:36 AM


Almost everyone in Beirut speaks English. The language barrier effectively does not exist. Outside Beirut there is less English, but it's still not a problem. If someone doesn't speak English, they will happily find someone who does.

I never had any difficulty whatsoever. Lebanon is a lot easier as a tourist than Turkey where even hotel employees often speak only one language.

Lebanon is also much friendlier than any country in Europe.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2006 09:26 AM

So cool. Amazing pictures. I wish I could visit.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at May 25, 2006 10:22 AM

Those cedars look similar but are less bushy and taller than the ones that grow like weeds here in Texas. Anybody know if the TX variety (or wherever else they are in N. America) are a descendant of the Lebanese variety? My understanding is that the N American cedar tree got here in the last few centuries w/ colonization.

Posted by: cb at May 25, 2006 10:54 AM


You say that "Lebanon is also much friendlier than any country in Europe."

Have you been to every country in Europe?

Posted by: The Fact Checker at May 25, 2006 10:55 AM

Do you recommand a Travel agent or just fly, rent a hotel room for a week or two, and travel on your own? It is a small country.

That's your mother? She is good looking.
Any more pictures of her?
I am hitting the tip jar.

Posted by: Terry at May 25, 2006 11:08 AM

Great photo series. The landscapes of mountains are very impressive. I like the sincere atmosphere within this pictures.

Posted by: Maria loves pictures at May 25, 2006 11:25 AM

Thanks, Mike, for covering Lebanon and Beirut with such heart! Lebanon deserves no less. For those thinking of visiting, I also recommend the northern town of HASROUN and the protected EHDEN forest, the most-southern tip of the European forests. I am told that at the entrance to the forest, there is a very friendly and cheap hotel. Nothing would be more therapeutic than a few days in that haven of refuge from it all!

Posted by: S-gal at May 25, 2006 02:19 PM


Thanks alot for the pics link. Actually, I asked you to know what areas in south you visited. I guess now you've visited mainly the border areas.
I am from south (living abroad) and you missed my house in one of those pictures by just few meters. ;)

Posted by: AR at May 26, 2006 01:01 AM

From Beirut to the Beltway is very good reading this week.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at May 26, 2006 01:38 AM

Hey all

If anyone wants to see even more pics of Lebanon, I recommend going to and click on the "slide show". They have thousands of pics of Lebanon that run on a loop, its really sweet.

Posted by: Sam at May 26, 2006 07:55 AM

Texas (Mountain) Cedars are more correctly called "Ashe Juniper". They are not closely related to Lebanon Cedar, which is the true "Cedar" tree.

It didn't just arrive - it has been here long enough that at least one bird species which breeds only in Texas is completely dependent on it. It has spread quite a bit with overgrazing by cattle, however.

Posted by: rvman at May 26, 2006 09:02 AM

You're right about the junipers, but about the overgrazing of cattle in Texas? Just where in Texas do you live? Anyway mesquite trees are a bigger problem in cattle grazing areas than junipers cause the cattle eat the mesquite seed pods and pass the seed through in their dung which results in the proliferation of mesquite trees over the grazing area.

Posted by: docdave at May 28, 2006 01:47 PM

Man, I love America.

I love how it's reflected in Michael's comments section. Someone asks about a horticultural relation. Someone else is there to provide the answer. The conversation then drifts into cattle grazing in Texas.

The world is a fantastic place, and the United States is one of the most dynamic places in the world.

Posted by: lebanon.profile at May 29, 2006 06:20 AM

What is your mother doing standing in front of a statue of the Lion from The Wizard of Oz?

Posted by: Kim Hartveld at June 5, 2006 04:06 PM

Thank you for this collection. I have never seen any pix of the area except those of war correspondants, and I will never think of the area again without remembering the beauty of this place.

There is a book well-known in architectural circles (loved or hated) called A Pattern Language (I've included a link, or look at Amazon to get a better idea of what it's about) that is called to mind when I look at the buildings and cities in your photos. The sense of buildings and cities growing rather than being constructed is very illustrative of the ideas proposed in the series.

Basically, it is about a generative way of putting buildings together that reflects the life and needs of the people who use it, including the need for harmony and interaction. I think you'd really enjoy looking at this set of patterns with this area in mind. Others have mentioned a book of your pix--some kind of collection that was built around the ideas in A Pattern Language might also be worthy of consideration.

Thanks again for sharing these.

Posted by: snowleopard (link to A Pattern Language) at August 6, 2006 10:24 AM

Great pictures.. I wish to visit these places someday soon

Posted by: preeti at April 11, 2007 04:46 AM

Hello, my parents are lebanese and I'm only 18.. They send me to lebanon every summer except this summer cause of the conflict...and i do have to say..i've been to over 35 countries and I by far KNOW that lebanon is the best, most beautiful, safe, rich, organized country, i've been to. I like South Africa, and Egypt to.

Posted by: Nabeel at June 19, 2007 10:42 AM

Hello, my parents are lebanese and I'm only 18.. They send me to lebanon every summer except this summer cause of the conflict...and i do have to say..i've been to over 35 countries and I by far KNOW that lebanon is the best, most beautiful, safe, rich, organized country, i've been to. I like South Africa, and Egypt to.

Posted by: Nabeel at June 19, 2007 10:43 AM

"The central square of a village in the Chouf mountains, homeland of the Druze."
you must put the name of this christian village ok? this in Deir El Kamar

Posted by: jijo at August 3, 2007 02:30 AM

vive le liban

Posted by: ahmad at August 8, 2007 06:22 AM

Dear Micheal

I have lived in Lebanon for 12 years of my 17 year life. Our family mooved out of to australia in the late year of 1999, we moved back to Lebanon in the late year 2004. I have to say, Lebanon is the best place in the world [ I mostly like the village, Douma, a Nieghb our to Tanourine] I have my special photos of Douma, and im making a Photo Video Clip of Beautiful Lebanon, and i would like to know if you have 90% of your Photos in high resolution.
Anywho, im in Australia again now, and I miss Lebanon.

I have looked at your " Wild Photos of Lebanon/Israel". I have to say, I HATE hezbollah SOOOO much, all the y want is piece, thats the biggest load of crap i have ever heard, they want peace, yet they sever the heads of people, and threaten everyone, lets hope he shokes on him own urine. You have no idea how angry i get when i hear people saying hezbollah is all about peace, and that he would protect L

Posted by: Jimmy at August 11, 2007 06:06 AM

hello. i was at lebanon in 2003,4,5 and it was a great holiday for me and my family. we went every where in thet 1 year and 3 months. my familyand i were most devestated when we saw the news of the war. we have our families at lebanon so it makes it more personal. i would love to go again but cant because i am in year 12 but im hoping to go when i finish. bye!

Posted by: mariam at August 15, 2007 07:42 PM

Wow these are awesome pictures .. do you happen to have any pics. of bint jbiel .. its in the south of lebanon .. or did u happen to visit it?

Posted by: Zeinab at August 23, 2007 07:28 PM
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