Five Reasons to Visit Beirut (TIME Magazine)

In December 2010 I made my first, longed-for trip to Lebanon. Like many before me I was struck by the dynamism of its capital, Beirut, fascinated by its ancient cities, and overwhelmed by the beauty of its landscape. As well as Beirut I travelled to the old port of Byblos (where the word Bible comes from), the cities of Tyre and Sidon, and to the Bekaa valley, where I explored the great Roman ruins of Ba’albek and sampled fine wines at one of the oldest wineries in the country (founded by the Jesuits in the 19th century). When I came home I wrote a short piece for TIME magazine, which was due to run in early 2011. But then a young man called Mohamed BouaziziĀ set fire to himself in Tunisia, a wave of uprisings swept the Arab world, and my piece was put on hold. This was supremely ironic as when I was in Beirut the talk there was all about factional troubles in Lebanon brewing once again – in fact it turned out to be the most peaceful of countries in the region, and my story has now been published.

And here are some photos I took in Lebanon.