Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 2- Anjar, Baalbek, and Ksara Winery

Today started off with a rude awakening, the hotel phone because I was not downstairs at 7:45 am when I was supposed to be to meet my tour group.  I never figured out if I set my alarm wrong (my phone still hasn't registered the time change?) or turned it off in my exhaustive sleep.  Anyway, though the day began in a mad rush, it only improved from that point on.

Our tour bus drove through the mountains and down to the Bekaa Valley.  It was really astonishing and sad to see the vast number of buildings that are still completely destroyed, abandoned or both from the civil war.  Lebanon used to have a thriving train system but it was completely destroyed and never rebuilt.

Here you can see the remains of one of the train tunnels.

Our first stop (after labneh pizza breakfast in Chtoura) was the city of Anjar, home of 8th Century Umayyad ruins.  The Umayyads were the first Muslim dynasty after Mohammed, from Syria.

These ruins were quite large, composing an entire city with streets, palaces, shops, a mosque, public baths heated by ovens.  The interesting thing to me about this city is that it was destroyed about 30 years after it was built, never to be used again.  What a waste of all that effort!

Anjar is very near to Syria- at one point we were 10 minutes from the border, the closest I will get on this trip unfortunately. Next we continued on to Baalbek, which hosts the largest ancient Roman ruins in the world and also the best preserved Roman temple (Bacchus, seen in the last photo below). The temple is almost an entirely complete building you can enter- just the roof is missing, because that was made of wood. Apparently the temple was nearly buried in sand until the recent past which is why it is so well preserved. This entire place was incredible. And huge.

Both the Umayyad ruins in Anjar and the Roman ruins in Baalbek are certain to have untold historical artifacts buried underneath them, probably much older than even they are, but none can be excavated for fear of damaging the significant discoveries that stand there now. And as always, the mystery of how these wonders were built so long ago remains.

I almost forgot; we stopped on the way home for a traditional and delicious Lebanese mezze dinner, and a tour of Ksara Winery which was also fun!


Anonymous said...

Carlie....I am loving your posts and your pictures. Thanks for sharing your blog address with me. Continue with the pictures....even of the to guess what everything is!

Black Bear! said...

Hi Carlie! Keep the pics coming. Just beautiful - and now I'm hungry seeing all that food. :)

Mary Street