This is Lebanon

Registered: 22nd June 1961
Duration: 26 minutes
Feet: 2340 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: BR/E26582
Distributed by: United Artists
Production Company: Harold Baim Film Productions (London) Limited

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This is an important film the collection as it was made 60 years ago.  The country is as a thriving, rich trading post, a jewel of the East. The film footage of Beirut is quite haunting as the beauty, elegance and cosmopolitan atmosphere is vividly depicted.

Story told by: David Gell
Director of Eastmancolor Photography: Eric Owen
Folk Dancing by: Baalbeck Festival Group
Producer:  Sabri Sherif
Choreography by:  Baaqlini and Chehab
Music by : Rahabini Brothers
Research by:  Col. Cyril Essely
Musical Arrangements:  M. De Wolfe
Editor: Peter Vincent
Recordists: V. Scarlett, T. Mayer
Directed by:: Paul Weld Dixon

Produced by: Harold Baim


It's the jet age. The age in which people go from here to there in hours instead of weeks. It's the jet age bringing peoples of the world closer than they've ever been before. Where to? Italy, Spain, Australia, China and all points east and west.

Let's take a trip and ride the skies at 30,000ft, half-way across the world.

This is Lebanon and below us is the capital city of the country, a magical sounding name, Beirut. Rich in time, but poor in space. Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, 115 miles long and 35 miles wide. A quarter of a million of its population of 1.5 million live and work in its capital.

From the 13th century BC, conquerors and would-be conquerors have marched through this land and commemorated their stay, whether long or short, by plaques. This is a record of Napoleon III.

The First World War left Lebanon under French mandate.

Finally, Lebanese independence was inscribed for all to see. On the 31st of December, 1946, the last of the foreign armies left Lebanon.

The rule is democratic. The president serves the country for six years.

Freedom of worship is one of the foundations of the country. Half are Muslim, half are Christian.

The city of Beirut, with its mixture of old and new, is enchanting and different. East meets west, and here the twain certainly meet.

Full of bustle and noise, the commercial section of the metropolis, with its cars and trams, point to thriving industry, and the industrious Lebanese keep many of their stores open for 12 hours a day.

The Piccadilly and Times Square of Beirut is called Bab Edriss, and the stores are full of the latest merchandise from New York, London, Paris and Rome. Flowers are everywhere, and in the market, they are seen in profusion. And every type of fruit is here for the asking: tangerines, oranges, lemons. bananas, huge outsized tomatoes and eggplants.

It's usual to go to the bank to change money into local currency, but it's a lot more fun to go to the money changers in the city. One of the free money exchange markets in the world. And for a small charge, one currency can be changed into another with the proverbial flick of the wrist.

Liners and merchantmen from the four corners of the world tie up in the fine harbour and dockyards. And from the four corners of the world, too, come students to Beirut's American University to meet, attend lectures, and endlessly discuss and exchange ideas. Students have a choice of no less than three first class universities in the city.

Nearly everyone speaks French, English and Arabic, and sometimes a mixture of all three.

It's strange to think when one looks at this splendid hotels that not far away are ancient temples; Baalbek, the city of the gods, the road to Damascus, and people living virtually amongst the pages of their history in an ancient and revered land.

The Excelsior is built for luxury and fun, and a favourite spot is always the swimming pool at any time of the day.

And in common with all big cities, when night falls, electric signs blaze out, offering dancing until the dawn.

The greatest pride of Lebanon is Baalbek, city of the gods. For 250 years the Romans employed 100,000 slaves to create what was once one of the wonders of the world. The highest columns standing anywhere in the world, they are 66ft tall and 7.5ft in diameter. Of the original 54, only six columns of the Temple of Jupiter remain. The Temple of Bacchus is in a better state of preservation.
Here, the festival of Baalbek is held in the summer. Within this ancient setting, the greatest international orchestras, ballets, folk dancers and drama groups perform.

History always seems to have an attraction. Here, it captures the imagination.

Columns of quite a different colour, and certainly more modern, Lebanon boasts the largest casino in the world. Overlooking the Mediterranean. it's a modern Baalbek, half an hour's drive from the capital. Shops, restaurants and a fine theatre are part of the casino buildings to which stars of international fame come.

And being the largest casino anywhere, there is more room in which to lose your money or in which to win. You take your choice and leave the rest to Lady Luck.

In Lebanon, this is what you win or lose. The basic unit is the Lebanese pound. Colourful and much sought after by collectors, if you can get it.

The country does not possess natural resources and its wealth is dependent on the merchants and tradesmen. Prosperity stems from the ability of its nationals to trade with the world, sometimes acting as middlemen, buying and selling without even seeing the goods. Beirut is a free port and a clearinghouse for the disposal of merchandise throughout much of the Middle East.

Operating up and down the coast, local trading boats are much in evidence. Much in evidence too, is heavy road transport. Citrus fruits are grown both for home consumption and for export. Olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see.

Once the granary of Rome, the great fertile plain of the Beqaa is 75 miles long. It lies between two mountain ranges, and from here stems most of the agricultural activity.

Sometimes one can come across an ox drawing a plough through the rich, heavy earth. And a few yards away, doing the work of two dozen oxen, a modern caterpillar tractor. There's contrast for you.

Water means life, and when it's scarce, other means must be found to obtain it.
Radishes, what a size, must be washed for market. Time has passed him by. Vineyards cover the countryside, lush and prolific.

In the east. It's the shepherd who leads the flock, and the sheep seem quite willing to follow.

Crossing the plain is the road to Damascus. Here it was that as Saul walked to persecute the Christians, he was struck by a great light, and heard a voice that said, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And thereafter he followed in the way of Christ, eventually becoming Saint Paul.

Today, the visitor, driving along the sun-drenched road to Damascus, may pause a while at a hotel like this one at Shtora, where flags fly in quiet welcome.

Lebanon is famous for its food, particularly this conglomeration of dishes known as mezze.

Look up through the branches of a tree. Out over this gentle land. A land of busy cities and quiet, high mountain places.

Children are taught fine embroidery in some of the hill villages, whilst a man weaves cloth by hand.

A fishing boat enters the harbour of Byblos, which looks much as it did in the days of the ancient Phoenicians.

Nets hang exactly in the same place where nets have hung for hundreds of years.

Habit dies hard in a country where tradition is virtually part of living. Tradition, which is being handed down from generation to generation.

Dating back over 3000 years before Christ, Byblos is the oldest inhabited seaport in the world. 22 magic symbols were once thought of here and formed the basis for the alphabet.

Today, Byblos is a thriving and busy town, its once important harbour has dwindled to insignificance.

When you're young there's time enough to spare. When you're not so young, time is precious. And in all the years between, there's work to be done.

Silent, under the bluest of skies, stands an obelisk Temple of 4000 yes. 4000 years ago. Then the Romans came, leaving these and an almost perfect amphitheatre.

In the 12th century, the Crusaders used broken Roman columns to underpin the walls of their castles to make sure that the pagan temples would never rise again. The Church of Saint John was built by the Crusaders in 1115 AD, and is still in use.

Another tower, A far cry from the others. The control section of Beirut International Airport. The modern crossroads of the Middle East. Night and day, aeroplanes are constantly coming and going. Crossroads: Bombay. Baghdad, Jerusalem, Tehran, London and Rome. Take your pick.

Though not so fast as aeroplanes, the weekly races are well attended. Arab racehorses are fast and elegant.

So temperate is the climate, that the sea calls every month of the year.

A splendid example of 19th century Oriental artistry, the Palace of Beiteddine stands high in the mountains.

This 13th century Crusader Castle of the Sea is to be found at Sidon, a place mentioned in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Sidon is the most northerly point reached by Jesus on his journeys on this earth. The little town dreaming in the sun between sea and mountains looks much as it must have done in the days of Christ.

Harissa, Our Lady of Lebanon, looks down upon the bay. And with arms outstretched, it would seem she is asking us one day to return to this magical and beautiful country. For this is Lebanon.

[End - Credits]