February 06, 2017 Zahle Bekaa Lebanon Middle East

Zahle: The Bride of the Bekaa

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. "The City of Wine and Poetry", and with good reason. In this century alone some 50 poets and writers were born here almost as many excellent wines and araks have been produced in the area.

The romance of wine and poetry is balanced by Zahlé's more businesslike position as the administrative and commercial capital of the Beqaa valley (42.27% of Lebanon's territory) as well as its rank as the country's third largest city (population 150,000).

Zahlé is also an agricultural town which produces vegetables, fruit, grains and most importantly, grapes. Tucked away from Lebanon's busy coastal centers, the people of Zahlé have developed their own brand of individualism and way of doing things. Even their spoken Arabic has a particular flair. The city's reputation for intellectual vigor comes from a long line of writers, thinkers and poets who have contributed to Lebanon's cultural and political scene.

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