Jbail Things to Do

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  • The archaeological site - Dec 09
    The archaeological site - Dec 09
    by MM212
  • Saint Jean-Marc & its open-air baptistry (Dec 09)
    Saint Jean-Marc & its open-air baptistry...
    by MM212

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    Roman Colonnade (extra muros)

    by MM212 Updated Feb 7, 2011

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    Roman colonnade on Rue Jbail (Dec 09)

    The remains of a once-magnificent Roman colonnade are visible along Rue Jbail, outside the mediaeval city walls. Many of these columns with their Corinthian capitals are still intact and stand upright. The colonnade was once part of a grand avenue that led directly to the heart of the ancient city of Byblos. Nowadays, Rue Jbail traces the same path and leads directly towards the old city and the archaeological site. In fact, traces of the colonnade can also be seen just north of the Crusader Castle, within the Archaeological site.

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    The Souk

    by MM212 Updated Feb 7, 2011

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    The main souk street in Byblos - March 05

    The beautifully restored souk (bazaar) of Byblos is located in the pedestrianised streets around the mediaeval wall, near the archaeological site. Unlike the souks in Sidon or Tripoli, this one caters exclusively to tourists, yet it does sell intriguing Lebanese arts and crafts that make excellent gifts or souvenirs to bring back home.

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    Byblos - The Town

    by MM212 Updated Feb 7, 2011

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    Mediaeval Byblos - March 2005
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    One of the few towns in Lebanon to have conserved its traditional character, Jbail (Byblos) is a beauty. The walled old city consists of charming narrow streets lined with mediaeval stone architecture, red-tiled roofs and Roman columns. These roads descend to the ancient harbour and its numerous outdoor cafés and seafood restaurants. A visit to the Byblos archaeological site is best followed by a stroll in the town and a drink or a meal by the harbour.

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    Byblos Archaeological Site

    by MM212 Updated Feb 7, 2011

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    The archaeological site - Dec 09

    Few places in the world, if any, display as many civilisations in one location as does Byblos. The city claims to be the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the world (as do Damascus, Aleppo and Jericho) and the archaeological site is the living proof, where each passing civilisation constructed over the ruins of its predecessor. The site is the primary attraction in Byblos, and with its location overlooking the Mediterranean, it is enjoyable to visit whether or not one is passionate about history and archaeology. However, while the history of Byblos and the site is most fascinating, the ruins are much less visual than other ancient ruins in Lebanon, such as Baalbek or Tyre. The reason is that each civilisation recycled the same stones to construct over the previous one, so reconstructing the ruins has been an impossible task. The site as we see it today is largely the work of French archaeologists who began to take interest in Byblos in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They have had to relocated some of the structures within the site to allow for deeper excavations. Hiring one of the multilingual guides is thus highly advisable for a better understanding of each of the ruins and its history.

    The structures in the site are described in more detail further down on this page, but for more photos of the site, check out the travelogue: "Byblos Archaeological Site".

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    The Port

    by MM212 Updated Jan 16, 2010

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    The tranquil harbour of Byblos - Dec 09
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    The most picturesque part of town, the tranquil harbour of Jbail (Byblos) is nowadays mainly a fishing port. These lazy wooden boats rest by the calm quays that were once the ancient world's most vibrant entrepôt, where not only valuable merchandise was exchanged, but also knowledge and ideas. It is from this harbour that a Phoenician invention, the linear alphabet, was exported to the rest of the world. The significance of the port rose and fell in history depending on prevailing powers. In mediaeval times, when Byblos became one of the bases for Crusaders, the town known to them as Gibelet regained importance, which led to the construction of a protective wall that wrapped around the town and its port. Two fortified towers flanked at the entrance of the port and a heavy iron chain prevented unwanted ships from entering the harbour. Only the northern tower has survived. Nowadays, local families and visitors flood the charming area around the port for a stroll and a drink or a meal at one of many popular open-air cafés and seafood restaurants, a nice way to end a day trip to Byblos.

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    The Wax Museum

    by MM212 Written Jan 12, 2010

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    The Wax Museum - Nov 05

    Housed in a beautiful building with fortress-like architecture is the Wax Museum, the Madame Tussauds of Byblos. The Lonely Planet guidebook called it "kitsch" so I chose to skip it, but it could be an interesting museum to visit for those with more time. My visits to Byblos have always been rather rushed, so I had little time to spare. Perhaps next time!

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    Bronze Age Residential Quarter

    by MM212 Written Jan 12, 2010

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    Bronze Age residential quarter (Nov 05)

    The area between the Crusader Castle and the Roman Colonnade was a residential quarter during the Bronze Age (around the 3rd millennium BC). The base of the walls of these small dwellings has survived and is best views from the Castle's terrace.

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    The Temple of Baalat-Gebal

    by MM212 Updated Jan 11, 2010

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    Foundation of the Temple of Baalat-Gebal

    Once the largest and most important temple in Byblos, the Temple of Baalat-Gebal was built around 2800 BC. Its site is thought to have been used for worship since the 4th millennium BC. The temple was dedicated to the Phoenician goddess Baalat-Gebal (the Lady of Byblos), who was later equated with the Egyptian goddess Hathor (and Isis). The Temple was continually rebuilt in the following millennia after natural and human destructions. During Roman times, the temple was again rebuilt, but rededicated to Aphrodite (Astarte) and a colonnaded street led directly into the temple. The foundations of the temple we see today in Byblos are in fact from the Phoenician period in the 3rd millennium BC.

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    The King's Well

    by MM212 Updated Jan 11, 2010

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    King's Well (March 2005)
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    Known as Bir al-Malek (King's Well), this well is in fact a natural water spring. Prior to the arrival of the Romans, it had been the main water source for Byblos. When the Romans arrived they created a water pipe network to bring water to Byblos from nearby mountains and the well was instead used solely for religious rituals. According to mythology, the goddess Isis wept at this well when she was searching for Osiris.

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    Eglise Orthodoxe Saydet el-Najat

    by MM212 Updated Jan 11, 2010

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    Eglise Orthodoxe Saydet el-Najat

    Dedicated to Our Lady of Deliverance (Saydet el-Najat in Arabic), this ancient church serves the Greek Orthodox community of Jbail (Byblos). The current structure is thought to have likely been built in the 12th century on the site of a Byzantine-period church. Recycled Roman and Byzantine materials were used in its construction.

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    Mosaics of a Romano-Byzantine Church

    by MM212 Updated Jan 10, 2010

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    Byzantine-period mosaics - Dec 09
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    In the early 1970s, excavations next to Eglise Saint Jean-Marc uncovered floor mosaics of an ancient church dating from the Second Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Shown in the attached photos, these beautiful mosaics have been left in their actual place, exposed for passers-by to see.

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    Mediaeval Ramparts

    by MM212 Updated Jan 10, 2010

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    Mediaeval walls & a gate - Dec 09

    The historic quarter of Byblos is encircled by a well-preserved mediaeval wall. It was originally built by the Crusaders in the early 12th century, but rebuilt or restored thereafter by the Mamlukes and Ottomans.

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    The Ruins

    by iwys Updated Apr 5, 2007

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    Byblos contends with Aleppo and Damascus for the title of oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. But, there are remains of almost every stage of its long history in the ruins, which surround the Crusader castle. The sign has informative signs and maps in English.

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    Church of St. John the Baptist

    by iwys Updated Apr 2, 2007

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    This church was built in Romanesque style, during the Crusader occupation, in 1115. When I visited, there was a concert for peace being broadcast live on Lebanese TV, which I sat down and watched.

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    Crusader Castle

    by iwys Updated Apr 2, 2007

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    Raymond St Gilles built the castle after he captured Byblos in 1104. He used stones from the Roman ruins in its construction. The castle finally fell to Beybars in 1266. It is a solid, compact structure, measuring just 44m by 49.5m. There was orginally a moat around the castle, but this was drained by the Ottoman Turks, who used the building as stables for their horses.

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