If you haven’t been to Zahle yet, you must at least have heard of the name or pinned the third largest city of Lebanon on your bucket list. Capital of the Bekaa Valley, the city of Zahle is on the crossroads between Beirut and Lebanon’s biggest valley of wine, Beirut and Baalbeck, the City of the Sun, Beirut and Anjar, the city of the ruins.
On a hot July night, I headed to Zahle to experience a guesthouse that has opened recently right in the heart of Zahle’s center. Little did I know that the house I was about to sleep in what was one of Zahle’s oldest and most charming houses located right on the Berdawni river.
Auberge Braidy: History & Hospitality
Built in 1958, Auberge Braidy is a political house that used to belong to Youssef Braidy, one of Zahle’s political and patriotic figures known for accomplishing a lot for his own city, including the milestone of bringing electricity to Zahle. Youssef Braidy has even his own statue in the public garden of Zahle, right next to his house.
After his passing away in 1954, the house he built and lived in was abandoned for many years. It wasn’t until the year 2018 that Youssef’s granddaughter, specialized in hotel management, decided to revive the memories of generosity and hospitality still confined in the house’s century-old walls, and so known to Lebanese families.
Staying true to the house’s traditional architecture and style, the family refurbished only the necessary, keeping the 100-year vintage charm of the house’s interiors visible to the eyes.
Centered around a high-ceiling spacious salon furnished with old pieces of classic beauty, are five rooms that have preserved the simplicity and vintage feel of old Lebanese houses.
The Best of Local Hospitality
Our evening was spent on the guesthouse’s beautiful terrace surrounded by pine trees, where we were invited to join the lovely hosts’ dinner table and share a bite with them while listening to nostalgic stories of ancestral generations and a once-upon-a-time prosperous Lebanon.
I can’t reiterate enough that such connection and exchange with locals makes the best part of a guesthouse experience for me. Having the chance to discover a village or city through the eyes, stories, and hospitality of a Lebanese family, while also encouraging the small business of family guesthouses, makes all the – worthwhile – difference. We were so happy to meet yet another warm Lebanese family passionate about sharing their food and home with people from over the world.
The next morning, we enjoyed our Lebanese breakfast made with love on the same flowery terrace, with vegetables harvested right from the garden.
Where to Eat in Zahle
If it’s your first time in Zahle, I recommend visiting the Berdawni river where you can enjoy lunch or dinner to the sound of the water. We personally had dinner in Arabi, and I recommend you choose between Halabi and Arabi for food options.
Other places where you can enjoy food are Beit Setti (Lebanese restaurant on Zahle’s Boulevard), and Raymond restaurant (10 minutes away from the center of Zahle) for great chicken.
If you fancy a drink, It’s good to know that Auberge Braidy is just a minute walk from many bars in the city center.
Of Wine and Arak
If you’re in the mood of sampling Lebanese wine from the Bekaa region, I would recommend a visit to Domaine des Tourelles, Lebanon’s oldest commercial winery and producer of both local wines and the famous local spirit brand, Arak Brun.
We had a lovely tour in a 150-year old cellar, first built by the winery’s founder, French civil engineer François-Eugène Brun, before the domain was taken over by the Issa and Issa El-Khoury family 20 years ago.
For your bookings at Auberge Braidy:
Room prices vary between 120,000 L.L. and 140,000 L.L. per night