Can you imagine I have been living in Lebanon for three decades and I have never ever visited the city of Baalbek located 85 km from Beirut in the northern Bekaa Valley.
For those not familiar with the city of Baalbek you might be wondering what’s so special about this city in particular. Well within the following post I will paint for you the historical rich city of Baalbek, its Roman temples of Jupiter and Baachus Temple, the remains of the Temple of Venus… I bet I caught your attention now!
We woke up my sister and I energized on this Sunday morning (two weeks ago) excited about visiting Baalbek with a couple of other friends. My camera was all set, being charged the previous evening, phone batteries check, coffee sipped quickly and off we were picked up and on our way to the Bekaa.
The Bekaa region is a fertile valley within the eastern part of Lebanon. It is a farming area which I advise you to take nice shots of when seeing its sight from the mountainous height before descending towards it. I did not have the privilege of snapping some shots as my lovely riders were more interested in their bellies and looking for a snack to have breakfast. We stopped at Jaber Jaber, one of the snacks along the roadside and they each ordered a couple of 2arisheh. The latter is a famous sweet made of cottage cheese wrapped goodie with honey that is well known in the Bekaa area and to which many Beirutis drive to eat solely at. Not something I would eat but they swore to me it was delicious. I believed them as they ordered more than two (but hey who’s counting, right? 😉 )
We continued our trip after our 30min break.
A little bit of history.
As I mentioned, Baalbek is at 85 km from Beirut. It is a long road trip so I advise you to have an iPOD plugged into your car radio as the frequency gets messy the further you distance yourself from the capital. According to an online website, “Baalbek is Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure and can be counted among the wonders of the Ancient World. They are the largest temples ever built and among the best preserved. Baalbek is located among two main historic trade routes. One between the mediterranean coast and the Syrian interior and the other between northern Syria and northern Palestine. ” .
Tourists flock to the city of Baalbek to visit the famous temple complex of Baalbek which is made of the Jupiter Temple and the Bacchus Temple adjacent to it. Further away is the circular Temple of Venus and only part of the staircase remains of a fourth Temple dedicated to Mercury.
When we first reached Baalbek, we instantly saw the imposing monument of the Temple of Jupiter. You must be blind not to be hit by its beautiful stand on your left side. We parked on the road and started walking towards it. A nice man led the way to the entrance, of course beware of the local vendors who would insist on you buying scarfs or souvenirs from their cart.
We walked for more than hour. We took a lot of pictures. We met many foreigners visiting the site and listening avidly to the stories of their respective guides. It was charming listening 60+ year old guides talking fluently in English to their visitors. Which further proved to me of Lebanese pride in their history.
The Temple of Jupiter is made of six Corinthian columns thrusting 22meters into the sky. Built on a podium of 7 meters this would give you an idea of the vast structure at its original structure. Originally it was surrounded by 54 external columns which at this day lay in fragments around it. The standing columns are decorated by a frieze of bulls and lion heads.
Next the Little Temple of Bacchus is anything but little. Constructed during the half of the 2nd century, it is said that the temple was consecrated to a mysterious and initiated cult around the Young God of Baalbek. This God was identified as a solar and growth deity, whose birth and growth promised regeneration and eternal life to the faithful. Thirty three steps leads to its entrance, adding to its structure sitting on a platform 5 meters high.
We climbed those stairs and entered the temple you see above in the picture. It is very imposing. I left like an ant within its walls. Notice the man sitting in the middle? Turns out it is a popular place to take a picture of yourself sitting on a throne and imagining being a King- like.
We ended our tour and have we had the time would have visited the city itself. However it was already time for sunset and we preferred having our two hour drive back home in daylight and before the rush hour (it was Sunday, remember?).
On our way back, we stopped at a bakery and my sister and friends ordered the renowned ‘sfi7a baalbakiyeh’ which is a dough filled with meat. Another goodie that I did not try because I don’t eat meat (boohoo sue me!). However I did try a veggie item which I loved.
The return back to the capital was exhausting. It was longer than I imagined, but it was worthwhile discovering the Temples of Baalbek. My sister and I agreed that another visit is a must to explore the city itself and mingle with its inhabitants.
Visiting Baalbek should be crossed off every Lebanese citizen’s list.