Every single Lebanese person, and most tourists who visit the tiny Eastern Mediterranean country have been on the notorious Telefrique suspended cable cars. The 1570-meter long, 9-minute ride from sea level to an altitude of 530 meters, used to be a much-loved treat to me as a child.
I haven’t been there in well over a decade though. The 47-year-old German-built system didn’t look as appealing anymore, and as an almost deaf, elderly taxi driver mentioned (very loudly), faith was waning. But, I was with my childhood friends Highsam and Ralph, and after much persuasion (and bribing them with ice-cream if they’d agree to come) we hopped into one of the gondolas and made our way up to the Harissa Basilica perched on top of the mountain.
The two-way ticket costs just 9,000 LBP (6USD) and lands you on a platform with a completely revamped food court and playground. There’s even a Burger King now, alongside sweets, ice cream shops and even a good old shisha. The panoramic views are breathtaking, and it is perhaps one of the most popular vantage points to take all-encompassing, bird’s eye views of the Jounieh gulf. The air is relatively cleaner too, with the toxic fumes emitted by the Zouk power plant not making it up all the way.
Which made me think, this is kinda cool. If you have some time to kill, and you’re bored of all the usual places, this could really be a viable alternative! Regardless of whether or not you want to go visit and pray in Harissa, the restaurants and attractions alone are worth it in my opinion. You park in Maameltein, hop on one of the gondolas and go enjoy a nice meal, perhaps an arguileh too, with the Lebanese coastline at your feet stretching for tens of kilometers, the sea going on forever, and perhaps, if you’re lucky, a couple of parachutes too!
So, next time you’re at a loss of what to do with a bunch of friends or even your date, I suggest you consider the Telefrique. It’s cheap, awesome views and most importantly, totally random and worth telling a story about the next day. I mean, you never hear someone telling people about their afternoon at Starbucks, right?
Some cool facts:
- 1,570 meters long cable
- Sea level to 530 meter altitude
- Maximum slope is approximately 80%
- Passenger traffic flow is 480 passengers/hour in each direction (Total of 960/hour)
- The average travelling speed is 3.15 meters/sec
- A one-way trip takes 9 minutes
- 0 injuries in the entire 47 year history
- 10AM-10PM in-season, 10AM-6PM off-season
Verdict: go back, reminisce the old days and check out the revamped gondolas and food court
Price: 9000LBP two-way trip
Atmosphere: Fun, family, quiet
Staff: Friendly, unobtrusive