We took a day tour to Anjar, Baalbek & Ksara. Our drive to Anjar took us past many Syrian refugee camps in the fields alongside the road. We past through many checkpoints and armoured vehicles. There were very few visitors at all the archaeological sites that we visited. Infact we only saw 3 other people at Anjar and less than 20 at Baalbek..
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The ruins of Baalback are one of the most famous historical treasures in Lebanon. It’s an immense Roman site containing some of the largest Roman building remains in the world. We saw the Hexagonal and Great Courts, the Temple of Jupiter with tall pillars and the dominant Temple of Bacchus. As early as 9000 BC, Baalbek was a place for worship and became a cornerstone of ancient civilizations. The ruins are an archaeological wonder with towering monuments and impressive columns. As significant holy grounds, Baalbek was a centre for Mesopotamian, Roman, Christian and Islamic worship as each group introduced their own heritage to this sacred monument.Up until 150 BC, the site was a temple dedicated to the Phoenician Astarte and Baal. The wreaths and sacrifices carried out for Astarte the goddess of fertility and war were then shifted to Venus during the Roman colonization. Subsequently, the temple was brought into the Christian era with Constantine the Great’s influence on the Roman Empire. After 637 AD Islamic rule then led to the use of the site as a reinforced fortress and a Mosque was added.The decline of the ruins began when the temple passed to the Ottoman Empire. It was abandoned and left in ruins. In addition, earthquakes, storms and natural forces continued to tear the site apart until 1898. That year marked a visit from the German Emperor Wilhelm II, who pioneered the attempt of restoring Baalbek to preserve it.In terms of architecture the greatest temples at the site are the Temples of Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus. The sheer magnitude of these have created something of a puzzle for archaeologists as they continuously theorize as to how rocks of this grandeur could have been carved and assembled. For example, the temple of Jupiter is surrounded by 54 columns which stand at nearly 23 meters high and are considered some of the largest in the world. The temple of Bacchus stands out from the rest as it is so well preserved and is adorned with beautiful carvings that date back to the Roman Empire.
We stopped at a roadside cafe for a late lunch. The meal was accompanied with a yoghurt drink! Our last stop was Ksara, in the Bekaa valley. Known for its dry red wine, raisin production and huge caves, Château Ksara was founded in 1857 by Jesuits brothers who preached and farmed in the area. The wines were initially made for the brothers ‘personal consumption but the winery became a commercial concern at the end of the Great War, when France was mandated what is now Lebanon and demand for wine soared. In 1973, after the Pope suggested the Catholic Church divest itself of all its profit-making interests, the winery was sold to a group of Lebanese investors. Château Ksara is currently Lebanon’s oldest winery, producing 3 million bottles each year. The wines are matured in a vast labyrinth of tunnels. There are 16 different wines, an arak - Ksarak and a brandy eau de vie.
Founded during the Umayyad period under Caliph Walid Ibn Abd Al-Malak (705-715), the city of Anjar is an example of an inland commercial centre, at the crossroads of two important routes: one leading from Beirut to Damascus and the other crossing the Bekaa and leading from Homs to Tiberiade. The site of this ancient city was only discovered by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s.