Wednesday, June 1, 2011

baalbek, lebanon:

After spending a day wandering around Beirut, we decided we wanted to visit Baalbek, the ancient Roman temple in the Bekaa Valley, eastern Lebanon. When we asked the guy at the front desk of our accommodation how to get there, he didn't really know except that we could get a bus. So it was off to the bus station which was actually a mini van hub. The Lebanese are extremely helpful, and as soon as we got out of our cab we were shown which van to hop into, and away we went. There were no other foreigners at all, so it was quite an experience as we sat in an old, beaten up van full of men smoking. I should also mention that the Bekaa Valley is home to Hezbollah (for those of you who don't know who they are, they're a massive militant group who are also labelled terrorists by many Western governments), so it was interesting seeing the army presence grow quite considerably as we got closer to Baalbek, plus all of the signage, flags and what not associated with the movement. I didn't take any photos of the areas we drove through as it seemed a bit risky with army everywhere. We were even offered Hezbollah t-shirts upon our arrival at Baalbek! It was quite an experience, and I must admit we found it really interesting - we felt safe 100% of the time, it was just very different.

Baalbek is incredible. There sheer scale of it blows you away. It's MASSIVE. And very well preserved.  It is thought that the temple was built in first century CE, so nearly 2000 years ago. Back then, it was known as Heliopolis or City of the Sun. The complex is made up of courts and sanctuaries for the worshipping of gods Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus. Most of stone and marble was brought in from Egypt to construct the structures which is amazing as each pieces weighs approximately 400 tonnes!
So far, this is probably actually our favourite ancient site. We practically had it all to ourselves, and the grandeur of it is quite striking.

Next: Tripoli and more on Beirut.


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