Byblos, one of the world’s oldest cities, is a beautiful and mystical city on the coast of the Mediterranean; it is from this ancient city that the alphabet was exported to the old world, and the cedar ships set sail carrying our Phoenician ancestors, merchants of goods and civilization. In Byblos, you can absorb the history of the city in just a few hours walk by exploring the Phoenician, Roman, Crusader, and Arabic ruins.
I am not a student of history, nor am I here to explain the history of Byblos; I am writing as a man who spent the best days of his life in Byblos, soaking in the bright sunlight, and breathing in the salty and sweet smell of the Mediterranean sea. Byblos, or Jbail, was remarkably one of the few areas to remain intact during the long Lebanese war; perhaps the preservation of this ancient and mysterious city was not accidental.
Although Byblos is an ancient area, 10 years ago it could have made the list for “up-and-coming cities.” One decade ago, Byblos was different; winter nights were harsh, the excitement of night life was nearly obsolete, and if one walked the streets late at night he may get the strange feeling that he is living in a city of ghosts.
Today, Byblos is different thanks to the influence of Mr. Roger Edde, a Lebanese politician who married the American Alice Kingsbury Bradley, and Mr. Ziad Hawat, then the municipality president of Byblos, and now a member of parliament. While I am not talking politics, it is undeniable that these two men changed the brand of Byblos and contributed to the rebirth of its culture and lifestyle.
A Bicultural City
“Jbeil Ahla” or “Byblos is more beautiful” is a slogan that was launched years ago, and a label that the city well deserves.
This small city attracts thousands of tourists every year, and draws thousands of Lebanese each December to inaugurate its famous Christmas tree, but “Jbeil ahla” could be more beautiful if some Lebanese were educated in the etiquette of tourism.
Byblos is a quiet city during the day, and there is nothing more beautiful than sitting and having a cold beer on a summer afternoon in its old souk, or market. You can be sitting with your Western friend talking about the beauty of the city, and its European feel, when suddenly a bunch of people come from out of nowhere playing the derbake, a small Arabic drum, disrupting the soothing sound of the breeze, breaking up the peaceful gathering, and shouting so loud you could wake the dead.
You cannot be bored in Byblos with the thousands of years of civilization, and the immense beauty of the landscapes.
After having a beer at sunset in the old souk, or a glass of wine on the beach, one can partake in the delicious Lebanese cuisine while overlooking the sea. Nothing compares to gathering with friends to laugh while sharing the Tabbouleh and a dish of fish. This is Byblos.
The night life in Byblos is unique; I have traveled all over the world and have yet to find a better nightlife. Byblos is not a city of filth, but a city of music, raised glasses, and open air pubs; Byblos is a place where people share the beauty of the nights and the taste of the drinks. Once the music ends at 2am, the people walk to the many restaurants that are open until morning. Byblos is a city that does not sleep.
So, if you want to travel abroad and explore the beauty of the Middle East, do not forget to pass by Byblos…you will not regret it.