Known by locals as “Arouss al-Bekaa,” or the bride of the Bekaa, the city of Zahle proudly bedecks the eastern foothills of Mount Sannine. Snowcapped peaks stand tall over the city in winter, and its 945-meter (3,100 ft.) elevation keeps the air crisp and dry in summer. The city’s dynamic hub is centered along both banks of the Bardaouni River, while the older parts of town quietly stretch out across gently sloping hills. Zahlawis, with their distinguished Arabic accent, are proud to call this town of wine and poetry their homeland as it has produced more than 50 literary figures and some of Lebanon’s finest wines and araks. Be sure to check out the iconic statue of a graceful lady carrying a grapevine with a harp at her feet at the city’s southern entrance.
The city’s main attraction, however, is the Bardaouni River and Wadi al-Arayish, a string of outdoor restaurants and cafés in the northern part of town.
Besides being the administrative capital of the Bekaa, Zahle is the third most populous city in Lebanon, and it boasts a wealth of naturally-grown fruits, vegetables, grains, and vines. You can also enjoy a walking tour of Zahle to soak up its traditional Ottoman and European architecture and vibrant gardens, and visit its clothing stores, souvenir shops, and hotels. Other must-see places include the Ksara winery, St. Elias Church, Saydet Zalzali Church, Deir Saydet al-Najat (Our Lady of Deliverance), the Geha House, and Souk al-Blatt. If you’re planning on visiting in the fall, don’t miss the Zahle Carnaval, Al-Karma Festival and the Flower Feast.
Zahle is 54 kilometers (33.5 miles) east of Beirut. If you take the Damascus road which passes through Bhamdoun, Sofar then Chtaura in an eastern direction towards Baalbek, you’ll come about the south end of Zahle about six kilometers from the Chtaura crossroad.