We started out with a 6:45 pick-up this morning. As we drove out of Beirut the guide told us about the history of Lebanon and the different districts. When we were traveling out we repeated the same basic route as the previous day to reach the Beka valley. The beak valley lies between the Mt Lebanon mountain range and the anti Lebanon range. We passed through military check points. It was odd to be driving along and see men with machine guns, tanks, and fortified guard stations. Even though we had already seen it throughout Beirut, it was still disturbing. In general it feels like the country is ready and just waiting for something to happen.
Making our way through the Beka valley we saw crops of wheat and vegetables.
Bedouins were camped in fields to help with the harvests. They live in shelters made of cardboard and other light, transportable materials. It was very third world. We also saw large herds of goats and sheep. There were people selling vegetables and fruits along the road.
Our first stop was at a place where a 100 ton stone was left as ruins. It is referred to as the pregnancy stone. Some say it is because of the size. There is also a legend that says any man or woman that touches it will get pregnant. Rob of course had to go down and rub it, even though there is no possibility. In the shop Rob bought a really cute and colorful hat.
From there we were on to Baalbeck.
When we first approached the ruins we saw the temple of Venus which has a circular alter. There is also a very colorfully tiled mosque. It has such amazing colors and Islamic designs. Moving to the main complex, you enter a large and grand marble staircase. Columns still flank the front of the structure. Passing through the entryway you get a perspective of how large the complex is with the central altar and the temple of Jupiter in the back with it’s towering columns.
Moving to the main complex, you enter up a large and grand marble staircase. Columns still flank the front of the structure. Passing through the entryway you get a perspective of how large the complex is, with the central alter and the temple of Jupiter in the back with its towering 22 meter tall columns, the tallest in the world.
Even though it’s in ruins, the grandness and overall layout are still visible. On one side they have rebuilt a chapel to give more perspective of what it was like. In one area of the great courtyard they have dug down below the Roman ruins and found skeletons and artifacts from the Bronze Age Hykos Period (1730 • 1580 BC). The crevice they were found in is 15 feet deep and at the bottom they found a small alter. There are also architectural features and artifacts form the Byzantine and Arab eras. You can see that some of the decoration was in process and can see the transitions from flat stone to decorative art.
We had an opportunity to explore in the main areas and then moved to the area between the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Bacchus. You really get a sense that this was a place of great importance to the Roman Empire.
Everything is on such a grand scale. This isn’t the case with all Roman ruins. This was special.
They were preparing for a concert by Deep Purple the next night. The Temple of Bacchus has one of the best friezes on the site. It tells of life in this Roman city and it importance. The temple was used for human scarifies, but they were symbolic sacrifices by young women of themselves to the priests. From there we took a little time in the site’s museum. It has come statues and other artifacts removed from the site for protection. Then we went to a special museum that was set up for Hezbollah.
The Hezebollah museum had war scenes set-up and picture of martyrs throughout. In one area there was casket with floors to honor and represent the dead.
I have been reading several books on politics in the Middle East, including a book on Hezebollah, specifically. So, I was excited to be able to see what it that they want us to see and what they want us to know about their cause. They provide literature on their cause in English and were selling t-shits and other items. I felt that this was a unique opportunity and bought a shirt.
Going back to the bus we had to navigate the people selling things. The guide had warned us about picking anything up. If you don’t intend to buy it, don’t touch it. Touching means buying. We did buy a book on Baalbeck with additional information and interesting photographs. The guide had to wake the driver from his nap so we could leave.