Where to eat

Lebanon Traveler - - HIDDEN GEMS -

It is in­land, 120km from Beirut and 25km from Tyre, in the Na­batiyeh district, that Tib­neen lies. Set in the heart of the Ja­bal Amel plateau, the vil­lage was named after the Phoenician god Tab­net, who sym­bol­ized strength and pro­tec­tion. Later it was called Tib­neen by the Arabs and then Toron by the Cru­saders, us­ing an ar­chaic French word for iso­lated hill or high plateau.

Ves­tiges of Tib­neen’s im­mense his­tory still ex­ist, with arche­o­log­i­cal find­ings dat­ing from the early Stone Age pre­served at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Beirut, and Stone Age mega­liths dis­cov­ered on the road con­nect­ing Tib­neen to Beit Ya­houn in Na­batiyeh housed at the In­sti­tut de Pa­le­on­tolo­gie Hu­maine in Paris. Tib­neen has been an im­por­tant land­mark for many con­quests and civ­i­liza­tions, span­ning from an­cient his­tory on­wards. Set at be­tween 700 and 800 me­ters al­ti­tude and ex­tend­ing over ap­prox­i­mately 748 hectares, the town once acted as a cross­roads be­tween Tyre, Da­m­as­cus and Jerusalem. When the Cru­saders came and es­tab­lished rule, the lo­cals en­joyed a cer­tain amount of sta­bil­ity and au­ton­omy, with their own coinage forged from red cop­per. At the time, the sur­round­ing land was a fer­tile base for olive and wheat pro­duc­tion, giv­ing rise to Ja­bal Amel’s sta­tus as one of the Cru­saders’ gra­naries.

A cor­ner­stone of Tib­nin’s Cas­tle is be­lieved to date back to 850 B.C., but it was in 1106 that it took its most well-known form as a ma­jor Cru­sader cas­tle. Wars and sieges played out in the fol­low­ing years, with the cas­tle con­quered by Sal­adin in 1187, re­cap­tured by Cru­saders in 1229, later de­stroyed and then re­built in the mid18th cen­tury by a lo­cal sheik. From its hill­top van­tage point to­day, the cas­tle of­fers a 360-de­gree vista across the neigh­bor­ing vil­lages of Haris, Baraashit and Chakra, whose an­cient re­mains are also worth stop­ping by to see.

On a walk through the town, look out for the old paved al­leys, known as za­k­ouk, weav­ing their way be­tween clus­ters of old houses. Visit on a Fri­day and you’ll find the tra­di­tional mar­ket Souk El Jo­maa in full swing from 8am to 1pm. The mar­ket, dat­ing back to 1892, draws farm­ers and traders from dif­fer­ent parts of the re­gion to show off their wares. Stay un­til evening and you’ll catch the lo­cals in­dulging in a fa­vorite pas­time, tak­ing a stroll along the Kaz­doura, the long stretch of side­walk em­brac­ing the hilly east­ern area of the town. More on­line lebanon­trav­eler.com A va­ri­ety of wel­com­ing restau­rants can be found in the area, in­clud­ing Tal­let Al Kashef (03 770587, 07 325991), Hamoud, El Day’ah, and Cafe­te­ria El Ghouroub. Fast food lovers can head to Goody’s (07 326275) for a tasty bite. A pic­nic is an­other op­tion, with 50 hectares of pine and cy­press trees as a back­drop.

Tib­neen’s for­est of pine and cy­press was planted un­der the Green Plan of 1951

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