As part of the side trip to Baalbek, we also got to visit the area around BYBLOS. Known as the "Ancient Crossroads of the Mediterranean, Byblos is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Byblos is built upon multiple layers of ruins, dating back as early as the Stone Age.
NB: The photos depicted here are digital pix of pictures I took in August, 1969.
Baalbek is the administrative centre of the Bekaa Valley. The valley is about 120 km long, with an average width of 16km. This is the most fertile and productive strip of land in Lebanon. The Romans called it the "Breadbasket of the Empire", which helps to explain the ancient city's importance.
40% of Lebanon's arable farmland is here. Wine has been produced here for 6,000 years and there are currently more than a dozen wineries, producing over six million bottles of wine per year, including the famous Chateau Ksara. Other crops include wheat, corn, cotton and cannabis.
- Road Trip
- Wine Tasting
Take some time whilst you are in Baalbek to walk around the town a bit. You'll find it quite an attractive little place with a small souk and market area - I'd give the sticks of green rhubarb a miss unless you want your tongue stripped; there's a few outdoor cafes around the square near the ruins and another up the hill a little way up from the Palmyra Hotel for a sandwich or a coffee or tea; there's the minaret and what remains of the mosque built by the Omayyads using the temple stone, a small Maronite church and some quite substantial buildings. Even if you're not staying there, have a look in the Palmyra Hotel, ask if you may go upstairs to the roof for a fabulous view of the ruins and check out the photos of royal and famous visitors of the past in the lobby. If the Hzbollah shop is open you can buy a flag as a souvenir, otherwise you might like to put a small donation in one of their collection boxes - they actually do a lot of charitable work in the area. Walk around the base of the ruins around the back to get a different perspective of just how massive they are.
- Historical Travel
Whilst the great temples are, rightly, the main focus of a visit to Baalbek, a bit of extra time spent in the town will reveal signs of other aspects of the history of this place.
Most obvious are the remains of the Roman town that serviced the temple complex. Baalbek was a major place of pilgrimage and as such required a considerable infrastructure to support the regular influx of worshippers and pilgrims. The area between the ruins and the Palmyra Hotel and stretching away to the north-east is littered with the remains of what were once the main buildings of this town - baths, the agora, a theatre probably - all the buildings that a Roman town of any importance could be expected to have.
There is less evidence of earlier habitation, so emphatically did the Romans restructure the town to their needs. The Palmyra Hotel has a museum where you can see their small collection of artifacts found in the area, and you may be offered an antiquity or two by some of the local shop-keepers - Phoenician or Roman glass, a Byzantine bronze cross, a bit f Greek pottery, Buyer beware!
the temple of Venus
Outside the entrance of the acropolis of Baalbeck, about 300 metres away, you can see a smaller and less impressive archaeological area (it's the fenced area): look closely and you'll see a round temple in the middle: it's the temple of Venus! Not much of it remains, beside several colums, since it later was turned into a Christian church dedicated to Saint Barbara. This church doesn't exist anymore... what you can see it's what left of the temple of Venus