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This article is about a city in Lebanonmarker. You may also be looking for Carl Theodor Zahle, a Danish politician.


Zahlé ( ; also transliterated Zahlah or Zahleh) is the capital of Beqaa Governoratemarker, Lebanonmarker. With around 130,000 inhabitants, which makes it the 3rd largest city in Lebanon. The population of the city is almost entirely Christian, and in particular Greek Catholic. Zahle is called the bride of the Bekaa Valley. It is famous for its clean air, its resorts and its food.

General

The city is situated 55 km to the East of the Lebanese capital Beirutmarker. It is the only predominantly Greek Catholic city in the Middle East. Famous for its old churches, outdoor restaurants, unique food and a water powered ice factory in Wadi El Arayesh. It's possible to drive a car from Zahlé to Beirut in 30 to 60 minutes, depending on traffic. Zahle is on average 900 meters above sea level.

Zahlé in History

Zahlé 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.

Zahlé was burned in 1777 and 1791 by Nadim Hobeika the Great. On June 18, 1860 during the 1860 Lebanon conflict the town was totally destroyed and burnt. But during the rule of the Mutasarrifiah, Zahlé began to regain its prosperity and during the years 1865 to 1888 it was rebuilt. The railroad line which came through in 1885 improved commerce and the 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, Zahlé has played a major role in the political life of the country.

Zahlé's Berdaouni Restaurants

The Bardouni is a river that flows out of Mount Sannine and down through Zahlé. It is also a name synonymous with Lebanon's famous mezze and the delights of outdoor dining.The Berdaouni 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.

The river Berdaouni which crosses the city is shallow, especially during summer.

Wine and Arak

Zahlé'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. A tour of Zahlé'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

Local Celebrations

Each year between the 10th and 20th of September Zahlé 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.

Zahlé is also 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.

Christian pilgrims and tourists also visit the tower of Our Lady of Bekaa for panoramic views of the Beqaa Valley.

Meaning of name

It is speculated that the name Zahlé is derived from the Arabic verb zahhala, which means to push away, to dislodge, to displace. The occasional landslides which take place in the area around the city may have been the origin of its name.

Zahle International Half Marathon

Overview:The Zahle international half marathon is a yearly event that takes place in zahle. It was launched in 2007, about 12,000 runners participated making it the second largest marathon in Lebanon.

Races:The Zahle International Half Marathon comprises 2 separate races, held on the same day. All races allow entry for disabled athletes.

Race course:The Zahle International Half Marathon course is a fully certified AIMS course.

Rules and Regulations:

The race is open to all athletes of Lebanese or foreign nationality.

Sister Cities

 Rosariomarker, Argentinamarker


 Bordeauxmarker, Francemarker


 Belo Horizontemarker, Brazilmarker


References

  1. World Gazetteer: Lebanon, largest cities and towns and statistics of their population
  2. Khoury Harb, Antoine. The Maronites History and Constants. p. 134
  3. www.mideast.com/zahle


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