Zahle and Surroundings
Located about 55 kilometers east of Beirut, tthe Greek Catholic town of Zahle, locally known as Arousat al-Beqaa (Bride of the Beqaa), is the capital of the Beqaa region. With the Berdawni River running through its center, Zahle is famous for its outdoor eating and nearby wineries. The city is centered around Brazil Street and home to many shops, cafés and some good examples of Ottoman and late 19th-century architecture. Zahle is a very pleasant city and most lively between May and September.
Zahle was founded in the early 18th century and initially used to be a main intersection along the Silk Road, where merchants would stop over to have a meal and spend the night. In the 19th century, it became an independent state with its own flag and anthem. Zahle suffered from the sectarian conflict between the Druze and the Christians around 1860, and following the large massacre, many survivors left the area. The town started blossoming again after the opening of the - now closed - railway between Beirut and Damascus in 1885. During the Civil War in 1981, the city was largely destroyed by bombardments of Syria that was trying to take base in Zahle to stop the Lebanese Forces from building a road leading from Zahle to Faraya; this for fear of the Israelis using it as a potential entry point to the Beqaa Valley and Syria.
Zahle is a perfect place for enjoying a lunch or dinner in one of the nicely situated outdoor restaurants next to the Berdawni River, known as Cafes du Berdawni. In addition, the area is full of vineyards and wineries that can be visited for a tour and wine tasting. If you decide to spend several days in the Beqaa Valley, the city is a good base for exploring the area; it offers several good accommodation options and has minibuses and taxis leaving to Chtaura, Aanjar and Baalbek.