Zahle: The Beautiful Bride of the Bekaa ValleyJuly 15, 2008 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Around the World, Eye on Beirut | 4 Comments
Tags: Lebanon, Poets, Wine, Zahle
This post is dedicated to Peter Pan – who is one of Zahle’s greatest fans
I’ve been to Zahle a few times and each time was an experience of its own. Whether it be to visit the famous wineries of Ksara and Kefraya or to eat delicious Lebanese mezzas at the Bardouni Restaurants or to just discover why they call Zahle “The City of Wine & Poetry,” it’s definitly a must see when visiting Lebanon. Zahle is around 1 hour away from Beirut by car. For more information on this beautiful city, you can view this link. I have reposted some of the intereresting excerpts from the article below.
The Bride of the Beqaa
A red-roofed town set among the eastern foothills of Mount Sannine, Zahlé enjoys a prime location in the Beqaa valley. Snowcapped mountains tower above it in winter, while in summer its 945-meter elevation keeps the air light and dry.
The city center spreads along both banks of the Bardouni River, with the older section of town on the upper elevations of the west bank and the shopping district on the east bank. At the northern end of town is the Bardouni river valley known as Wadi el-Aarayesh (Grape Vine Valley) – the site of Zahlé’s famous outdoor restaurants. Zahlé styles itself “The City of Wine and Poetry”, and with good reason. In this century alone some 50 poets and writers were born here and almost as many wines and araks have been produced in the area.
Zahlé’s Bardouni Restaurants
The Bardouni is a river that flows out of Mount Sannine and down through Zahlé. It is also a name synonymous with Lebanon’s famous mezze and the delights of outdoor dining. The Bardouni restaurant tradition began over a hundred years ago with a few simple riverside cafes. Today it is a virtual bazaar of tree-shaded eating places known as “casinos,” every one more inviting than the next. Not surprisingly, competition is fierce, so each establishment outdoes itself with fountains, pools, and cooling shade to tempt potential customers.Here you can enjoy the traditional Lebanese mezze as it is served nowhere else. To add to the sense of timelessness, delicious mountain bread is baked before your eyes and a man in baggy trousers and fez is on hand to pour Lebanese coffee. He can also provide diners with a hubble-bubble (water pipe).
Wine and Arak
Zahlé’s association with the grape is pervasive, for it lies at the heart of an area that has been making wine since early antiquity. At the city’s southern entrance the statue of a graceful female personifies wine and poetry, but you don’t have to look far to see evidence of the real thing. The hills north of town with names like Wadi Hadi, Harqat, Bir Ghazour and Tell Zeina are covered with the neat rows of vineyards that supply Zahle’s wine and arak industries. A tour of Zahlé’s Ksara winery is a good way to see how wine and arak are made. Of special interest here are the extensive underground caves built around a natural grotto known and enlarged by the Romans.
Each year between the 10th and 20th of September Zahlé mounts its week-long ” Festival of the Vine”, a celebration shared with the city’s ” Flower Festival”. In a carnival-like atmosphere “Miss Vine” is elected and cars are decorated with flowers representing national symbols.