I’m way behind in posting as I have loads of photos from Leb. I was having too much fun to take the time to turn on any technology! I’m now in Forte dei Marmi, Italy and, while it is gorgeous, it is a much lower key part of my travels. I’ve got some time to update travel photos.
I am posting in no particular order and won’t have a ton of commentary, but there will be a lot of photos. I was lucky enough that I had quite a few friends who traveled to Leb at the same time as myself. I was well entertained and taken care of. In addition, one of my friends is a photographer and loves to explore, in a similar fashion as myself.
So, I probably saw more of the country than most Lebanese people have! And have beautiful photos (including many of myself!) to document it all. The more time I spend there, the more I fall in love with the country. It has all of the things that I enjoy about life in Saudi, with none of the drawbacks. Plus a lot of great benefits that Saudi doesn’t have…freedom topping the list!
I’m already excited that I will return in 6 weeks! Anyone who travels and doesn’t have Lebanon on their list, needs to reevaluate the list. It offers something for everyone. Beaches, mountains, nightlife (cultural and debauchery,) shopping, and amazing food!
I’m starting with Ba’albek because it is mind boggling and beautiful. A little background from Wikipedia and then lots of photos. Hard to capture it well so I included a ton of photos in an attempt to share the immensity and beauty of it. The details in the carvings are gorgeous and the scale of the entire thing, done without heavy equipment, is hard to imagine. I walked around with my mouth hanging open in awe most of the time. For the life of me I can’t sort out why we hear so much about Petra and the pyramids in Giza and virtually nothing about the temple of Ba’albek. It was listed as one of the ancient wonders of the world but yet it is rarely mentioned. At least it’s not spoken of in the states….unfortunately, I guess that isn’t terrifically surprising.
The following is from Wikipedia, it is long as the city is truly ancient and has seen a LOT of history and strife. Anyone not much into history may want to skip to the photos!
From Wikipedia: Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia in the 330s bc, Baalbek (under its Hellenic name Heliopolis) formed part of the Diadochi kingdoms of Egypt & Syria. It was annexed by the Romans during their eastern wars. The settlers of the Roman colony Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana may have arrived as early as the time of Caesar but were more probably the veterans of the 5th and 8th Legions under Augustus, during which time it hosted a Roman garrison. From 15 bc to ad 193, it formed part of the territory of Berytus. It is mentioned in Josephus, Pliny, Strabo, and Ptolemy and on coins of nearly every emperor from Nerva to Gallienus. The 1st-century Pliny did not number it among the Decapolis, the “Ten Cities” of Coelesyria, while the 2nd-century Ptolemy did. The population likely varied seasonally with market fairs and the schedules of the Indian monsoon and caravans to the coast and interior. During Classical Antiquity, the city’s temple to Baʿal Haddu was conflated first with the worship of the Greek sun god Helios and then with the Greek and Roman sky god under the name “Heliopolitan Zeus” or “Jupiter”. The present Temple of Jupiter presumably replaced an earlier one using the same foundation;[d] it was constructed during the mid-1st century and probably completed around ad 60.[e] His idol was a beardless golden god in the pose of a charioteer, with a whip raised in his right hand and a thunderbolt and stalks of grain in his left; its image appeared on local coinage and it was borne through the streets during several festivals throughout the year. Macrobius compared the rituals to those for Diva Fortuna at Antium and says the bearers were the principal citizens of the town, who prepared for their role with abstinence, chastity, and shaved heads. In bronze statuary attested from Byblos in Phoenicia and Tortosa in Spain, he was encased in a pillarlike term and surrounded (like the Greco-Persian Mithras) by busts representing the sun, moon, and five known planets. In these statues, the bust of Mercury is made particularly prominent; a marble stela at Massilia in Transalpine Gaul shows a similar arrangement but enlarges Mercury into a full figure. Local cults also revered the Baetylia, black conical stones considered sacred to Baʿal. One of these was taken to Rome by the emperor Elagabalus, a former priest “of the sun” at nearby Emesa, who erected a temple for it on the Palatine Hill. Heliopolis was a noted oracle and pilgrimage site, whence the cult spread far afield, with inscriptions to the Heliopolitan god discovered in Athens, Rome, Pannonia, Venetia, Gaul, and near the Wall in Britain. The Roman temple complex grew up from the early part of the reign of Augustus in the late 1st century bc until the rise of Christianity in the 4th century. (The 6th-century chronicles of John Malalas of Antioch, which claimed Baalbek as a “wonder of the world”, credited most of the complex to the 2nd-century Antoninus Pius, but it is uncertain how reliable his account is on the point.) By that time, the complex housed three temples on Tell Baalbek: one to Jupiter Heliopolitanus (Baʿal), one to Venus Heliopolitana (Ashtart), and a third to Bacchus. On a nearby hill, a fourth temple was dedicated to the third figure of the Heliopolitan Triad, Mercury (Adon or Seimios). Ultimately, the site vied with Praeneste in Italy as the two largest sanctuaries in the Western world.
The emperor Trajan consulted the site’s oracle twice. The first time, he requested a written reply to his sealed and unopened question; he was favorably impressed by the god’s blank reply as his own paper had been empty. He then inquired whether he would return alive from his wars against Parthia and received in reply a centurion’s vine staff, broken to pieces. In ad 193, Septimius Severus granted the city ius Italicum rights.[f] His wife Julia Domna and son Caracalla toured Egypt and Syria in ad 215; inscriptions in their honour at the site may date from that occasion; Julia was a Syrian native whose father had been an Emesan priest “of the sun” like Elagabalus.
The town became a battleground upon the rise of Christianity.[g] Early Christian writers such as Eusebius (from nearby Caesarea) repeatedly execrated the practices of the local pagans in their worship of the Heliopolitan Venus. In ad 297, the actor Gelasinus converted in the middle of a scene mocking baptism; his public profession of faith provoked the audience to drag him from the theater and stone him to death. In the early 4th century, the deacon Cyril defaced many of the idols in Heliopolis; he was killed and (allegedly) cannibalised. Around the same time, Constantine, though not yet a Christian, demolished the goddess’s temple, raised a basilica in its place, and outlawed the locals’ ancient custom of prostituting women before marriage. Bar Hebraeus also credited him with ending the locals’ continued practice of polygamy. The enraged locals responded by raping and torturing Christian virgins. They reäcted violently again under the freedom permitted to them by Julian the Apostate. The city was so noted for its hostility to the Christians that Alexandrians were banished to it as a special punishment. The Temple of Jupiter, already greatly damaged by earthquakes, was demolished under Theodosius in 379 and replaced by another basilica (now lost), using stones scavenged from the pagan complex. The Easter Chronicles states he was also responsible for destroying all the lesser temples and shrines of the city. Around the year 400, Rabbula, the future bishop of Edessa, attempted to have himself martyred by disrupting the pagans of Baalbek but was only thrown down the temple stairs along with his companion. It became the seat of its own bishop as well. Under the reign of Justinian, eight of the complex’s Corinthian columns were disassembled and shipped to Constantinople for incorporation in the rebuilt Hagia Sophia sometime between 532 and 537. Michael the Syrian claimed the golden idol of Heliopolitan Jupiter was still to be seen during the reign of Justin II (560s & 570s), and, up to the time of its conquest by the Muslims, it was renowned for its palaces, monuments, and gardens.
Baalbek was occupied by the Muslim army in ad 634 (ah 13), in 636, or under Abu ʿUbaidah following the Byzantine defeat at Yarmouk in 637 (ah 16), either peacefully and by agreement or following a heroic defense and yielding 2,000 oz (57 kg) of gold, 4,000 oz (110 kg) of silver, 2000 silk vests, and 1000 swords. The ruined temple complex was fortified under the name al-Qala‘ (lit. “The Fortress”) but was sacked with great violence by the Damascene caliph Marwan II in 748, at which time it was dismantled and largely depopulated. It formed part of the district of Damascus under the Umayyads and Abbasids before being conquered by Fatimid Egypt in 942. In the mid-10th century, it was said to have “gates of palaces sculptured in marble and lofty columns also of marble” and that it was the most “stupendous” and “considerable” location in the whole of Syria. It was sacked and razed by the Byzantines under John I in 974, raided by Basil II in 1000, and occupied by Salih ibn Mirdas, emir of Aleppo, in 1025.
In 1075, it was finally lost to the Fatimids on its conquest by Tutush I, Seljuk emir of Damascus. It was briefly held by Muslim ibn Quraysh, emir of Aleppo, in 1083; after its recovery, it was ruled in the Seljuks’ name by the eunuch Gümüshtegin until he was deposed for conspiring against the usurper Toghtekin in 1110. Toghtekin then gave the town to his son Buri. Upon Buri’s succession to Damascus on his father’s death in 1128, he granted the area to his son Muhammad. After Buri’s murder, Muhammad successfully defended himself against the attacks of his brothers Ismaʿil and Mahmud. Following his brothers’ murders, Muhammad was able to take Damascus in 1138 and gave Baalbek to his vizier Unur. In July 1139, Zengi, atabeg of Aleppo and stepfather of Mahmud, besieged Baalbek with 14 catapults. The outer city held until October 10 and the citadel until the 21st, when Unur surrendered upon a promise of safe passage. Unur himself was permitted to return to Damascus but Zengi slaughtered most of his men. In December, Zengi negotiated with Muhammad, offering to trade Baalbek or Homs for Damascus, but Unur convinced the atabeg to refuse. Zengi strengthened its fortifications and bestowed the territory on his lieutenant Ayyub, father of Saladin. Upon Zengi’s assassination in 1146, Ayyub surrendered the territory to Unur, who was acting as regent for Muhammad’s son Abaq. It was granted to the eunuch Ata al-Khadim, who also served as viceroy of Damascus. In December 1151, it was raided by the garrison of Banyas as a reprisal for its role in a Turcoman raid on Banyas. Following Ata’s murder, his nephew Dahhak, emir of the Wadi al-Taym, ruled Baalbek. He was forced to relinquish it to Nur ad-Din in 1154 after Ayyub had successfully intrigued against Abaq from his estates near Baalbek. Ayyub then administered the area from Damascus on Nur ad-Din’s behalf. In the mid-12th century, Idrisi mentioned Baalbek’s two temples and the legend of their origin under Solomon; it was visited by the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela in 1170.
Baalbek’s citadel served as a jail for Crusaders taken by the Zengids as prisoners of war. In 1171, these captives successfully overpowered their guards and took possession of the castle from its garrison. Muslims from the surrounding area gathered, however, and entered the castle through a secret passageway shown to them by a local. The Crusaders were then massacred.
Three major earthquakes occurred in the 12th century, in 1139, 1157, and 1170. The one in 1170 ruined Baalbek’s walls and, though Nur ad-Din repaired them, his young heir Ismaʿil was made to yield it to Saladin by a 4-month siege in 1174. Having taken control of Damascus on the invitation of its governor Ibn al-Muqaddam, Saladin rewarded him with the emirate of Baalbek following the Ayyubid victory at the Horns of Hama in 1175. Baldwin, the young leper king of Jerusalem, came of age the next year, ending the Crusaders’ treaty with Saladin. His former regent, Raymond of Tripoli, raided the Beqaa Valley from the west in the summer, suffering a slight defeat at Ibn al-Muqaddam’s hands. He was then joined by the main army, riding north under Baldwin and Humphrey of Toron; they defeated Saladin’s elder brother Turan Shah in August at ʿAin al-Jarr and plundered Baalbek. Upon the deposition of Turan Shah for neglecting his duties in Damascus, however, he demanded his childhood home of Baalbek as compensation. Ibn al-Muqaddam did not consent and Saladin opted to invest the city in late 1178 to maintain peace within his own family. An attempt to pledge fealty to the Christians at Jerusalem was ignored on behalf of an existing treaty with Saladin. The siege was maintained peacefully through the snows of winter, with Saladin waiting for the “foolish” commander and his garrison of “ignorant scum” to come to terms. Sometime in spring, Ibn al-Muqaddam yielded and Saladin accepted his terms, granting him Baʿrin, Kafr Tab, and al-Maʿarra. The generosity quieted unrest among Saladin’s vassals through the rest of his reign but led his enemies to attempt to take advantage of his presumed weakness. He did not permit Turan Shah to retain Baalbek very long, though, instructing him to lead the Egyptian troops returning home in 1179 and appointing him to a sinecure in Alexandria. Baalbek was then granted to his nephew Farrukh Shah, whose family ruled it for the next half-century. When Farrukh Shah died three years later, his son Bahram Shah was only a child but he was permitted his inheritance and ruled til 1230. He was followed by al-Ashraf Musa, who was succeeded by his brother as-Salih Ismail, who received it in 1237 as compensation for being deprived of Damascus by their brother al-Kamil. It was seized in 1246 after a year of assaults by as-Salih Ayyub, who bestowed it upon Saʿd al-Din al-Humaidi. When as-Salih Ayyub’s successor Turan Shah was murdered in 1250, al-Nasir Yusuf, the sultan of Aleppo, seized Damascus and demanded Baalbek’s surrender. Instead, its emir did homage and agreed to regular payments of tribute.
The Mongolian general Kitbuqa took Baalbek in 1260 and dismantled its fortifications. Later in the same year, however, Qutuz, the sultan of Egypt, defeated the Mongols and placed Baalbek under the rule of their emir in Damascus. Most of the city’s still-extant fine mosque and fortress architecture dates to the reign of the sultan Qalawun in the 1280s. By the early 14th century, Abulfeda the Hamathite was describing the city’s “large and strong fortress”. The revived settlement was again destroyed by a flood on 10 May 1318, when water from the east and northeast made holes 30 m (98 ft) wide in walls 4 m (13 ft) thick. 194 people were killed and 1500 houses, 131 shops, 44 orchards, 17 ovens, 11 mills, and 4 aqueducts were ruined, along with the town’s mosque and 13 other religious and educational buildings. In 1400, Timur pillaged the town and there was further destruction from a 1459 earthquake.
Early modernity Edit
In 1516, Baalbek was conquered with the rest of Syria by the Ottoman sultan Selim the Grim. In recognition of their prominence among the Shiites of the Beqaa Valley, the Ottomans awarded the sanjak of Homs and local iltizam concessions to Baalbek’s Harfush family.Like the Hamadas, the Harfush emirs were involved on more than one occasion in the selection of Church officials and the running of local monasteries.
Tradition holds that many Christians quit the Baalbek region in the eighteenth century for the newer, more secure town of Zahlé on account of the Harfushes’ oppression and rapacity, but more critical studies have questioned this interpretation, pointing out that the Harfushes were closely allied to the Orthodox Ma‘luf family of Zahlé (where indeed Mustafa Harfush took refuge some years later) and showing that depredations from various quarters as well as Zahlé’s growing commercial attractiveness accounted for Baalbek’s decline in the eighteenth century.What repression there was did not always target the Christian community per se. The Shiite ‘Usayran family, for example, is also said to have left Baalbek in this period to avoid expropriation by the Harfushes, establishing itself as one of the premier commercial households of Sidon and later even serving as consuls of Iran.
From the 16th century, European tourists began to visit the colossal and picturesque ruins.[h] Donne hyperbolised “No ruins of antiquity have attracted more attention than those of Heliopolis, or been more frequently or accurately measured and described.” Misunderstanding the temple of Bacchus as the “Temple of the Sun”, they considered it the best-preserved Roman temple in the world. The Englishman Robert Wood’s 1757 Ruins of Balbec included carefully measured engravings that proved influential on British and Continental Neoclassical architects. For example, details of the Temple of Bacchus’s ceiling inspired a bed and ceiling by Robert Adam and its portico inspired that of St George’s in Bloomsbury.
During the 18th century, the western approaches were covered with attractive groves of walnut trees, but the town itself suffered badly during the 1759 earthquakes, after which it was held by the Metawali, who again feuded with other Lebanese tribes. Their power was broken by Jezzar Pasha, the rebel governor of Acre, in the last half of the 18th century. All the same, Baalbek remained no destination for a traveller unaccompanied by an armed guard. Upon the pasha’s death in 1804, chaos ensued until Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt occupied the area in 1831, after which it again passed into the hands of the Harfushes. In 1835, the town’s population was barely 200 people. In 1850, the Ottomans finally began direct administration of the area, making Baalbek a kaza under the Damascus Eyalet and its governor a kaymakam.