Lebanon is a country still visited by relatively few tourists. That's why it's not easy to find the typical souvenir shops or big markets aimed at tourists. This can work to your advantage if you're looking for what to buy in Lebanon and want something authentic.
You should know from the get go that the best place to go shopping is Beirut. Here you'll find markets and souks where haggling is a way of life. It's also home to large shopping centres.
The Beirut Shopping Centre is perhaps the best known in the Lebanese capital. Here you'll find the latest fashions, as well as a European-style leisure and dining area. This is a popular hangout for young people and you can tuck into a delicious Lebanese meal or an aromatic coffee.
The ABC Ashrafieh is another favorite shopping and leisure centre's among Beirut's locals. This is not only because of the great variety of fashion and shoes, but also because of the luxurious decoration and the great glass dome in which the best restaurants are located. This is a shopping centre for all budgets, as it offers everything from imitation perfume to high jewellery and top brand clothing.
The ABC Ashrafieh shopping and entertainment complex is very popular, not only among tourists but also among local residents. This centre has many interesting features. In addition to the original boutiques, for example, there's an excellent food court under a glass dome on the top floor. The shopping centre is always luxuriously decorated. It often hosts interesting recreational activities. It's hard to imagine a product category that can't be bought here. They sell everything from cheap clothing and perfumes to top-end designer accessories and jewellery.
If you travel to Lebanon in May or November, head to the country's most peculiar and picturesque oriental market, Suk al-Bargut. Here you'll find Arab fashion, a variety of aromatic spices and oriental fabrics. It's also the perfect place to try the most delicious Lebanese sweet treats, such as baklava, which is of Turkish origin but widespread throughout the Arab world.
As for typical Lebanese dress, here you'll find kaftans and abayas.
Kaftans are items of clothing made of silk or cotton and usually very bright colours. They're open in the front, with short sleeves and come in a variety of lengths. The traditional kaftans were knee length, but fashion trends have led to variation.
The rest of the year you can do your shopping at the Al-Tayeb market, which is open every Saturday. It's the ideal market to find fresh products, as well as the work of local craftsmen at a very good price. Some of the most typical items to buy in Lebanon are ceramic and blown glass.
Cedar wood carvings are also very popular. The smell of this wood and the warmth of the products make it even more desirable.
If you want to get your hands on a rare copy of an exotic book, head to the BaalbekHalabi Bookshop, which not only offers new and second-hand books, but also old posters, retro writing devices such as typewriters, photographs and all kinds of Lebanese literary memorabilia.
If you want to give your home an oriental feel and you don't know what to buy in Lebanon, head to Liban et d'Orient. Here you'll be able to get hold of small Lebanese furniture, authentic Arab kitchen utensils, crockery and table linen that you won't find anywhere else. Both are unique pieces handmade by the craftsmen in the workshop. It's not a cheap place, but when you visit you'll know why.
Arab countries are known for their love of luxury, both in fabrics and decoration and, of course, in everything related to jewellery. You can't travel to Lebanon and not buy a little something.
If your budget is not too high, go to Khodr Jewellers, which has a stylish catalogue suitable for all.
If you prefer the showiness of more precious stones, go to Selim Mouzannar. The place is a jewel in itself. Its decoration is undoubtedly part of the experience of shopping in Lebanon.
But Lebanese goldsmiths don't just create traditional jewellery. They also make jars, silverware and pots in brass, silver, copper and even gold.