Unwind yourself and shift down a lower gear as you enjoy the calm sea view at the harbour area of Byblos. There is a good selection of restaurants facing the harbour which makes a good selection for a cup of coffee or a seafood spread depending on the time of the day.
The harbour might be small but used to be a major trading port for cedar wood. The harbour mouth features a well-preserved defensive tower which used to keep watch on all ships passing by.
This is one of the most famous restaurants in Lebanon. It overlooks picturesque Byblos harbour. It is here that, in the 1960s, celebrities, like Jacques Chirac, David Niven, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Brigitte Bardot used to come to eat. It was closed when I was there, so I had to eat next door at Bab el-Mina, which is a similar harbourside restaurant.
Pepe came to Lebanon, from Mexico, in the 1950s. He is now in his 90s.
Dedicated to the Egyptian god Resheph, the Great Temple of Byblos dates from around 2600 BC. It is nicknamed the L-Shaped Temple because of its shape. The temple was destroyed during the Amorite occupation, but was later (around 1900 BC) rebuilt as the Temple of the Obelisks. The ruins of the latter were moved further east to allow archaeologists to dig deeper to uncover the more ancient foundation of the Great Temple.
Thought to have been built in the 19th century BC, the Temple of the Obelisks is an unusual temple. It speaks volumes about the strong connection that Byblos had with Ancient Egypt, to which the city state exported cedar-wood and other valuable products. The temple contained a cella (inner sanctuary) in which stood a large monumental obelisk dedicated to the Egyptian god of war, Resheph. Other smaller obelisks that still stand to this day dotted the temple's courtyard, each of which is thought to have been erected by a pious person wanting to eternalise his presence near the deity. Upon the excavation of this temple, archaeologists found treasures of offerings to the gods. Those artefacts are now mostly on display at the National Museum in Beirut. Note that this temple was moved to its current location by archaeologists to allow them to excavate further below. The Temple of the Obelisks was in fact originally built over a predecessor, the L-shaped temple also dedicated to Resheph.
The area surrounding the Ottoman House and the Bronze Age Palace contains the ruins of Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlements, from around 5000 BC and 3500 BC, respectively. Little more than the foundations of these settlements can be seen and would not excite anyone other than the keenest archaeologists among us. The very knowledge of their existence, though, is enough for an ordinary visitor to appreciate the length of history that Byblos has endured.
Prior to the excavation, the entire archaeological site was covered with beautiful 19th century red tiled houses. These houses were demolished one by one to allow for the excavation of the site. Only one house was preserved to provide perspective to the visitor. Though decaying, the house is a beautiful example of Lebanese architecture in the late-Ottoman period, and represents yet another civilisation/period in the long history of Byblos. It is unfortunate that the department of antiquities has not restored the remaining house and found a use for it. Perhaps another small museum/exhibition space, or even better, a café or restaurant on the site with stunning views of the sea and Beirut?
The ruins of a palace and other residences from the Early Bronze Age (2900 - 2300 BC) can be found just below the Ottoman House. The base of the walls of the palace is rather intact, but otherwise, much is left to the imagination (see photos).
Only a third of the once grand Roman Theatre of Byblos has survived to this day. It was built in 218 AD and its floor once contained a mosaic of the god Bacchus, now at the National Museum of Beirut. The reconstructed remains of the theatre are currently placed near the shore, an excellent spot from which to watch the sunset and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the theatre was originally located further east above some of the more ancient ruins. In fact, it was moved to its current location by archaeologists to allow them to excavate further below to reach older civilisations.
Within the archaeological site are the remains of another Roman colonnade from the 3rd century AD. Only six Corinthian columns are upright with part of the original frieze connecting two of them. This colonnade was part of a ceremonial passage that led to the Temple of Baalat-Gebal (the Lady of Byblos, a Semitic goddess equated with Hathor and Isis), which was rebuilt during Roman times and rededicated to Aphrodite (Astarte).
Discovered by accident in 1922 in the area between the Castle and the sea, the Royal Necropolis contains tombs that date from 2nd millennium BC. This was the late Amorite period into the Ancient Egyptian occupation in Byblos. With a local guide, it is possible to descend into a tunnel that lead to the bottom of the shafts used to bury the sarcophagi. Seen in one of the attached photos is a stone sarcophagus of a prince from around 1900 BC. Other sarcophagi have been moved to museums, the most important of which is that of King Heram from 1200 BC, now on display at the Beirut National Museum.
Thought to date from around 2800 BC, these fortified walls were built by the Phoenicians to protect their city, Gebal (as it was known then). At the time, the city had two entrances, one facing the sea and another facing inland. The surviving thick stone wall is located within the archaeological site, right below the Crusader Castle, and curves towards the shore.
Only the base and foundation of the Roman Nymphaeum of Byblos have survived. Much of the stones and columns were probably used to construct the Crusader Castle in the 12th century. The nymphaeum is located just north of the castle, left of the entrance to the archaeological site. During the Roman era, the colonnade on Rue Jbail (outside the archaeological site) ended at the Nymphaeum, where the traces are still visible to this day.
The most dominant and best preserved structure in the archaeological site is the Crusader Castle. It was built in 1108 by the Crusaders, specifically the Lords of Gibelet (i Signori di Gibelletto), the Genoese Embraico family which ruled the fiefdom of Gibelet (i.e, the Crusader name for Jbail/Byblos). To construct the castle, they recycled building stones from ancient Persian and Roman structures on the site and reinforced the walls with Roman columns (these are the circles in the walls visible to this day). Much of the base of the castle is from its original 12th century construction, but the upper parts were reconstructed by the Mamlukes after the departure of the Crusaders. The castle contains a small museum about the archaeological site, and from its upper terraces, offers excellent views over the site and the Mediterranean Sea.
This Ottoman-era mosque is thought to have been built on the site of an older mosque. The structure dates from 1648 and was renovated in 1783 by Emir Youssef Chéhab, yet it carries the name of the 19th century Ottoman Sultan Abdel Majid (Abdülmecid in Turkish). The small mosque has a large blue cupola and an octagonal minaret (the cupola had been white in 2005, but was repainted blue by 2009). About 20% or less of Jbail's population is Moslem nowadays, so mosques tend to be smaller in size and number. The Mosque of Sultan Abdel Majid is located within the mediaeval city walls, just outside the archaeological site.
A beautiful Romanesque church, Eglise Saint Jean-Marc is the cathedral church of Jbail (Byblos), a town with a majority 80% Christian population. The church is dedicated to Saint John Mark, the patron saint of the town, who is said to have founded the first Christian community of Byblos. The church itself was built in 1115 AD by the Crusaders, originally as the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. After their departure, earthquakes, invasions and other disasters have repeatedly damaged the structure, and for a few centuries it remained disused. In 1764, Emir Youssef Chéhab, of the Druze dynasty that ruled a semi-autonomous Lebanon under the Ottomans, donated the church to l'Ordre Libanais Maronite (Lebanese Maronite Order) which subsequently restored and reopened it in 1776 after re-dedicating it to Saint John Mark. British bombardments of Lebanon in 1840 caused further damage, but the church was restored yet again. Eglise Saint Jean-Marc continues to serve the Maronite Christian community. One interesting feature in the church is its open-air domed baptistry on the northern side (see attached photo) which dates from the original construction in 1115 AD. The church is situated on Rue du Port, between the port and the archaeological area.