Levant is an imprecisely defined region in the Middle East south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and by the northern Arabian Desert and Upper Mesopotamia to the east.
The term Levant is employed to refer to peoples, states, or parts of states in the region, namely:
- Beirut, Lebanon - a coastal city with a French influence formerly known as the "Paris of the Middle East"
- Damascus, Syria - considered by some to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, Damascus contains several world-famous Arab souqs
- Jerusalem, Israel - quarreled over by Jews and Arabs alike, this famous city is the site of many famous biblical events
- Tel Aviv, Israel - a coastal city that is known for its vacation and resort possibilities
- Amman, Jordan - this modern city is a great launching pad for many of Jordan's attractions
- Aqaba, Jordan - a popular vacation city located on the Red Sea, well known for it wonderful scuba diving and marine life
The media would have you believe that the Levant is a volatile and unfriendly region; the opposite is generally true. While there is occasional confrontations throughout the region, tourism is big business and tourists are generally welcome with open arms. The dominant Arab culture is welcoming and hospitable attitude is a nice change from the sometimes indifferent cultures of European or Western countries. The region also includes many wonderful and distinct cultural and ethnic groups, including the Arabs, Jews, Circassians, Armenians, Iranians, Assyrians, Maronites, Bedouins, Kurds, Druze and Turks.
The Levant is a fantastic destination to lovers of both ancient and modern history. Known by some as the Cradle of Civilization, the Levant contains a multitude of attractions and sites, many of which have been made noteworthy from biblical accounts.
While Arabic is the official language of most Levantine countries (except Israel, which utilizes both the Arabic and Hebrew languages), the spoken dialects vary from place to place. To address these varying dialects, some individual phrasebooks have been created.
There are a number of international airports that facilitate entry into the region.
- Beirut International Airport - Beirut, Lebanon
- Damascus International Airport - Damascus, Syria
- Ben Gurion International Airport - Tel Aviv, Israel
- Queen Alia International Airport - Amman, Jordan
The Levant region is comprised of a handful of small countries, making transportation from place to place fairly accessible. Taxis, services (pronounced "ser-veeses"), and busses are the main forms of inter-regional transportation. The cost and destination of such services will vary from country to country.
Regional cuisine will vary depending on the country. Lebanon, for example, will provide a blend of Arabian, French, and Western styles, while Jordan and Syria will showcase traditional Arabian fare consisting heavily of lamb, chicken, rice, and vegetable dishes. Beef dishes are available but are more rare (no pun intended) than in European or Western countries. Pork products, being non-kosher or forbidden for religious purposes, are practically nonexistent except in some areas of Lebanon.
Every visitor is encouraged to experience Levantine Arabic cuisine. For the few who never develop the taste for it, however, there are plenty of Western-style restaurants to choose from.
Wherever you are in the Levant, be prepared to be offered plenty of cups of tea. Hot tea is a staple beverage in the Levant and is offered as a symbol of hospitality to guests.
For those who like to visit a bar or two on vacation, be prepared to select from a wide variety of bars and pubs, and if you like night life there is a lot of clubs and good yearly events and raves.
Liquor stores can be found almost everywhere in the major cities while home made wine is found in some villiages of christian majority like Fuhais in Jordan, just ten minutes drive from Amman. Local wine can be bought from any liquor store or bar, and is of high quality grapes and competes with the best Italian wines. Amman and Beirut have a lot of Western music influence in clubs and events present all year long along with Israel. To help you get around in the Levantine countries, you can find weekly and monthly magazines with event listings and restaurants. To be able to move in Amman and Jordan,you can check out www.w2go.com or Jordan Today. To have an idea of the night life style in Amman and Beirut, Layalena magazine has a lot to say.
The Levant region has been tainted by past violence and the occasional present-day confrontation. While safety and security is generally not a problem for tourists, the subject should be addressed.
- Lebanon: Despite being plagued by civil war over the last several decades, Lebanon is currently a safe, tourist-friendly city in a state of reconstruction. While signs of the war are still evident in certain places, the aggressive rebuilding project, especially in Beirut, has pulled Lebanon from the ashes and placed it on a pedestal as a jewel of the Levant.
- Syria: While most Syrians are extremely friendly and hospitable, the Syrian government has had issues with some European and Western governments, making them more suspicious to those types of visitors. Visitors sticking to well-known and reputable locations and accommodations should not have any trouble.
- Israel: Tourism is big business in Israel, so both Jews and Arab are accommodating to visitors. Both cultures, however, occasionally clash as they vie for the land. Like in Syria, visitors sticking to well-known and reputable locations and accommodations should not have any trouble.
- Jordan: Jordan is well known for being the safest country in the Middle East. The Jordanian government does not promote domestic violence of any sort and maintains a constant vigil on the look out for trouble. Visitors can travel anywhere throughout the country with ease and in safety.
Exiting the Levant is generally as easy as entering. International airports are generally the common form of transportation out, one may choose to travel affordably by bus, car, or ferry from Aqaba to Egypt.
This page was last edited at 18:00, on 17 October 2008 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Niels Elgaard Larsen, Colin Jensen, David, LB, David Bjorgen and Mark Jaroski, Wikitravel user(s) Vidimian, Morph, J2890, The Yeti and WindHorse and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.