Visas: Tourist visas are necessary and can either be bought in advance from the Lebanese Embassy (21 Palace Garden Mews, London W8; 020 7229 7265; www.lebanon.embassyhomepage.com) or purchased upon arrival in Lebanon. Public holidays: New Year’s Day; Eid ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan); Feast of St Maron (9th February); Eid ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice); Islamic New Year; Good Friday; Easter Monday; Ashoura; Labour Day; Prophet’s Birthday; Assumption; All Saints Day; Independence Day (22nd Nov); Christmas. Local dishes: Lebanese cuisine uses the best aspects of Turkish and Arabic cooking with a French spin. A typical meal consists of a few mezze dishes (hors d’oeuvres), such as spinach pies, dips, dried cheese and stuffed vine leaves. The main dish is usually meat (often mutton) or fish, stuffed with rice and nuts, plus a salad such as tabouleh or fattoush. The national dish is kibbe, a finely minced paste of lamb and bulgur wheat, sometimes served raw, but more often fried or baked into a pie. Puddings are very sweet. Try the syrupy baklava pastries or other walnut based desserts. Good reading: The Hills of Adonis by Colin Thubron is a lucid and insightful account of travelling in Lebanon just before the civil war. Robert Fisk’s Pity the Nation is a heart-wrenching journalistic account of the war itself.
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