About Zahle



A red-roofed town set among the eastern foothills of Mount Sannine, Zahle 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 the upper elevations of the west bank. At the northern end of town is the Bardouni river valley known as Wadi el-Aarayesh (Grape Vine Valley) - the site of Zahle’s famous outdoor restaurants.

Zahle styles itself “The city of Wine and poetry”, and with good reason. In this century alone some 50 poets and writers were born here and almost as many excellent wines and araks have been produced in the area.

The Monastery of our Lady of Najat

A Bardouni Restaurant

The romance of wine and poetry is balanced by Zahle’s more business like 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). Zahle 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 Zahle 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.


Zahle was founded about 300 years ago in an area whose past reaches back some five millennia.

In the early 18th century the new town was divided into three separate quarters, each of which had its own governor.

The city enjoyed a brief period as the region’s first independent state in the 19th century when it had its own flag and anthem.

Zahle was burned in 1777 and 1791, and it was burned and plundered in 1860. But during the rule of the Mutasarrifiah, Zahle began to regain its prosperity. The railroad line which came through in 1885 improved commerce and town became the internal “port” of the Beqaa and Syria. It was also the center of agriculture and trade between Beirut and Damascus, Mosul, and Baghdad.

Considered the birthplace of the Lebanese army, Zahle has played a major role in the political life of the country.


1- Bardouni (Wadi el-Aarayesh)

2- Monastery of Saint Elias at Tuwak

3- Monastery of Our Lady of Najat

4- Souk al-Blatt

5- Sayadit Zalzaly church

6- Old Serail (Municipality)

8- Our Lady Of Zahle and the Bekaa

9- Tell Chiha Hospital

10- New Serail (Administration)

11- Ksara Winery

12- Karak (Noah)


The Bardouni is a river that flows out of Mt. Sannine and down through Zahle. It is also a name synonymous with Lebanon’s famous mezze and the delights of outdoor dining.

The Bardouni restaurant tradition began over a hundred years ago with a few simple riverside cafes. Today it is a virtual bazaar of tree-shaded eating places known as “casinos”, every one more inviting than the next. Not surprisingly, competition is fierce, so each establishment outdoes itself with fountains, pools, and cooling shade to tempt potential customers.

Here you can enjoy the traditional Lebanese mezze as it is served nowhere else. To add to the sense of timelessness, delicious mountain bread is baked before your eyes and a man in baggy trousers and fez is on hand to pour Lebanese coffee. He can also provide diners with a hubble-bubble (water pipe).

On the cliffs above the Bardouni are the restaurants of Kaa el Reem, also known for their excellent food and atmosphere.


Zahle’s association with the grape is pervasive, for it lies at the heart of an area that has been making wine since early antiquity. At the city’s southern entrance the statue of a graceful female personifies wine and poetry, but you don’t have to look far to see evidence of the real thing. The hills north of town with names like Wadi Hadi, Harqat, Bir Ghazour and Tell Zeina are covered with the neat rows of vineyards that supply Zahle’s wine and arak industries. Many of the wines have been formally recognized abroad for their fine quality - equal to some of the best in Europe.

Ksara Winery

A tour of Zahle’s Ksara winery is a good way to see how wine and arak are made. Of special interest here are the extensive underground caves built around a natural grotto known and enlarged by the Romans.


Each year between the 10th and 20th of September Zahle mounts its week-long Festival of the Vine, a celebration shared with the city’s Flower Festival. In a carnival-like atmosphere “Miss Vine” is elected and cars are decorated with flowers representing national symbols.

Zahle is almost famous for its Corpus-Christi festival which dates back to 1825 when the town was spared the ravages of a contagious disease. Corpus-Christi is celebrated on the first Thursday of June with a torch-light parade held on the eve of the festival. The next morning a mass takes place at Our Lady of Najat Church, followed by a procession of townspeople carrying the “Holy Bread” through the streets.


A good example of Zahle’s local architecture is the restored Geha House in the old part of town. Also this is a private home, one can easily appreciate its courtyard, garden and arched upper galleries - all typical of 17th century architecture. An old underground tunnel 1,400 meters long leads from the house to the church of St. Elias (Al-Tuwak).

Old Serail (Municipality)

Built by Sheikh Khalil Geha in the early 17th century, today the seventh generation of the Geha family resides in this 24-room dwelling.

Other private residences in the same area are the lovely al-Hindi, Youssef Azar and Wadih Skaf houses. These are several hundred years old and also designed with arcades and walled gardens.

The restored Serail or government house in the old part of town dates from 1885. This beautiful building, whose architecture reflects the European and Arab influences of The Ottoman period, will soon house the offices of the municipality and a museum illustrating Zahle’s history.

At the start of the 20th century Zahle began building hotels to serve its budding tourist and summer resort trade. Although the “Sohat” (health) Hotel built in 1878 has been demolished, three establishments from this era can still be seen: the Hotel America, the Hotel Akl and the Hotel Kadri.

The Kadri, built in 1906, has seen its share of history. The hotel was taken over by the Turkish army in 1914 and used as headquarters and a hospital during World War I. It was from the Kadri as well that in 1920 the French Mandate authorities announced annexation of the judiciary areas which would give “Greater Lebanon” its present-day borders.

Our Lady of Zahle and the Beqaa
The Souk al-Blatt or “tiled market” is a market street leading to one of the oldest part of the city. A large part of Zahle’s history was written in this Souk, where in former times travelers to and from Syria, Baghdad and Palestine bought and sold their goods. A project is planned to restore the street and make it a center for crafts and other traditional activities.

Houch El-Zarani is located near the post office on the east side of the river. In past centuries this housh, or market area, was a conglomerate of khans (caranvansaries), craft centers and shops. Here shoemakers, woodworkers, weavers, copper workers and saddle makers plied their trades. It was also an important commercial center where vendors sold agricultural and industrial products.

Hotel America in Zahle

Many of the old buildings, embellished by carved ceilings, vaulted interiors and decorated faÇades, still stand. Today these structures are somewhat obscured by modern shopfronts, but projects are afoot to restore the area. In the meantime you can still discover a taste of old Zahle here.

Sayedit Zalzaly is Zahle’s oldest church. Built in 1700, it originally stood at the center of the city.

The Church of St. Elias is the second church built in Zahle (1720). This impressive structure is also known as Al-Moukhallasiah.

The Monastery of Our Lady of Najat (1720) has the largest bell tower in Lebanon. The monastery is known as well for a beautiful icon of the Virgin Mary, a gift from the King of Prussia.

The Monastery of Saint Elias at-Tuwak, which dates to 1755, was renovated in 1880 after a fire. Today it remains one of Zahle’s most venerable monuments.

The landmark Tell Shiha Hospital, with its red tile roof, was opened in 1948. Located a high on a high hill of the same name, this site is a good spot for photographs.

The Geha Residence

For the most spectacular view, go to the 54-meter-high hilltop tower of Our Lady of Zahle and the Beqaa located east of town. Here an elevator takes you up to a viewing platform overlooking the city and the extending plain. The structure is crowned with a ten-metermhigh bronze statue of the Virgin, the work of the Italian artist, Pierroti. The base houses a small chapel seating about 100 people.

The Zahle area has some scattered ancient remains indicating a history going back at least to the Bronze Age (1200-3000 BC). You can see cave tombs in the cliffs of the Wadi el-Aarayesh, while Byzantine, Roman and Canaanite sarcophagi and ancient pottery sherds have been found in the hills around the city.

Monastry of Saint Elias at-Tuwak


All amenities are available in Zahle, which has plenty of good shopping and souvenir shops. There are 12 working hotels, numerous restaurants and cafes, plus recreational centers, nightclubs and cinemas. Sixteen banks do business in this commercial center in addition to insurance and currency exchange companies.

Zahle’s Tourism Office, a part of the Ministry of Tourism has offices on the third floor of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture building. Fifty-four kilometers separate Beirut from Zahle going via Sofar and Chtaura. A slightly longer route is by way of Dhour el-Choueir in Mount Lebanon. Both roads bring you to the south end of the town.

Information Collected From The Ministry of Tourism