September 2, 2011
Roman ruins at Baalbek
There is much to see at these ruins in quite a small area, which is easy to walk round.
Walls on top of walls
Originally built as temples by the Romans the area was transformed into a citadel when the conquered by the Arabs in 748 AD. This is quite evident when you look at the different blocks that form the walls. On top of the original walls, later construction is provided with loopholes for archers to fire arrows through while remaining concealed and protected.
There is only 6 columns remaining of the temple of Jupiter but the sheer size of these makes it easy to imagine how large the temple originally was and what a feat of construction it was to build this in the 1st century AD
On top of these columns where placed gargoyles which were transformed into fountains out of the mouths of the gargoyle when it rained.
The most outstanding part of this site is the Bacchus temple built in the second centuary AD. This is almost completely preserved except for the roof. Amazing when you think of all the earthquakes this area has suffered in the last 2000 years.
Inside Baccus temple
Close to the exit from the site is a small but very interesting museum. I found the photo gallery from the beginning of the 20th centuary particularly interesting.
August 31, 2011
I recently visited Anjar on a guided tour. Its quite an amazing place that was built by the Umayyad in the 7th centaury. It took twenty years to build then was only used for thirty before being destroyed in war. It then lay buried till 1949 when it was discovered and restored. The Umayyad had the 5th largest empire in history stretching from China to Spain.
The Sultan ruled this from Damascus, but as it was too hot there in summer he had Anjar built as a summer retreat. It is in a valley between two mountain ranges but is still at a height of 1000 mtrs above sea level so much cooler than in Damascus. Its more of a town than a city but there are walls round this which can be seen today. The wide main street of this site leading to the sultans palace is amazing as every so often there is drains leading down into a sewer.
Restoration work has been undertaken but some of it not very well, as columns and buildings have been erected with parts that didn’t belong to them originally. Inside the palace this is particularly evident and the walls are quite noticeably at different levels. It’s a very interesting site which the tour guide was well informed about and made our visit more enjoyable. Centred in the middle of the Bekaa valley it was incredibly peacefull with hardly a sound to be heard.
March 9, 2011
There are many interesting things to see in Beirut and the Lebanon. It may not be the kind of place you would want to spend two weeks, but there is plenty to do and see in a short stay of around five or six days. The best places to visit I found were: The Jeita Grotto; Our lady of the Lebanon; Byblos; Anjar, Baalbek, and Pigeon rocks. The walking tour of Beirut is a great way to see and find out a tremendous amount about this city and its history.
Al Amin mosque
There are many fantastic churches and mosques in Beirut. The largest of these in Beirut is called the Al-Amin mosque on the edge of Martyrs square right in the centre of the city. I had never been in a mosque before, so this was an amazing experience for me. Anyone is allowed to go inside and amazingly… take pictures. You have to take your shoes off at the entrance and carry these to a special shoe storage place at the far end.
Inside the mosque, the whole floor is covered in a rich deep pile carpet, that has the pattern of thousands of prayer mats. The artwork on the dome and the massive chandelier are very beautiful. At the front prayers were being conducted and there were half a dozen worshipers there. The preacher is on the same level as the congregation which was different, as I had only previously seen preachers up in pulpits. I must say, there is a very relaxed and quite magical feel inside the mosque and I felt better for having visited the place.
Al Omari Mosque
Also located in downtown Beirut is the Al Omari Mosque. This is quite a remarkable building as it was first built in 1150 by the Crusaders as the Cathederal of St John. It was then converted to a Mosque in 1291 by the Mamluks. However the building still points in its original direction which is almost Easterly so not in the direction of Mecca which is South.
Designer shops at Beirut Souks
A brand new shopping area crammed full of expensive designer shops has been build in downtown Beirut in an area know as the Souks. The whole area like the rest of downtown Beirut is spotlessly clean with not a peice of litter to be seen anywhere.