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Baalbek is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 metres (3,840 ft), situated east of the Litani River.It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire.It is Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure, and it can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world, containing some of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins.Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The gods worshiped here, the triad of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are also seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design.Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is about 85 km (53 mi) northeast of Beirut, and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 72,000.The history of settlement in the area of Baalbek dates back about 9000 years, with almost continual settlement of the tell under the Temple of Jupiter, which was probably a temple since the pre-Hellenistic era.

There has been much conjecture about earlier levels at Baalbeck with suggestions that it may have been an ancient settlement. The German expedition in 1898 reporting nothing prior to Roman occupation.Recent archaeological finds have however been discovered in the deep trench at the edge of the Jupiter temple platform during cleaning operations. These finds date the site, Tell Baalbek from the PPNB neolithic to the Iron Age. They include several sherds of pottery including a teapot spout, evident to date back to the early bronze age.Previous excavations under the roman flagstones in the Great Court unearthed three skeletons and a fragment of Persian pottery dated to around 550-330 BC. The fragment featured cuneiform letters and images of figurines.Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee", UNESCO reported in making Baalbek a World Heritage Site in 1984. When the Committee inscribed the site, it expressed the wish that the protected area include the entire town within the Arab walls, as well as the south-western extramural quarter between Bastan-al-Khan, the Roman site and the Mameluk mosque of Ras-al-Ain. Lebanon's representative gave assurances that the Committee's wish would be honored.

How to Reach

By Air

The closest aiport for Baalbek is Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport (IATA: BEY), is the country's only international airport and the hub of Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA).Most international airlines have daily flights between Beirut and the major European capitals.The airport is located 7km south of Beirut, and is roughly a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city center.

By Bus

Buses to Baalbek from Beirut leave the Cola intersection frequently and cost LL5,000.During the summer season daily tours are available from Beirut to Baalbeck from most major hotels; tour operator Nakhal has a guided coach tour several days a week for USD$70.The trip takes about two hours each way.It is possible to travel from Homs in Syria to Baalbek by bus.Buses leave from the Karnak or Luxury coach stations in Homs and cross into Lebanon at al-Qa'a, arriving soon thereafter at Baalbek.Cost is about USD$10.

Key places to visit
Temple of Bacchus, Sheikh Abdullah Hill Quarry, Temple of Jupiter, Great Mosque, Ras al-Ain Spring


Places to Visit

Temple of Bacchus

was one of the three main temples at a large complex in Classical Antiquity, at Baalbek in Lebanon. The temple was dedicated to Bacchus (also known as Dionysus), the Roman god of wine, but was traditionally referred to by Neoclassical visitors as the "Temple of the Sun". It is considered one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. It is larger than the Parthenon in Greece, though much less famous.The temple was commissioned by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and designed by an unknown architect c. 150 AD, and built close to the courtyard in front of the larger temple of Jupiter-Baal. When the temple complex fell into disrepair, the Temple of Bacchus was protected by the rubble of the rest of the site's ruins. The temple is 66m long, 35m wide, and 31m high. Its walls are adorned by forty-two unfluted Corinthian columns, nineteen of which remain upright in position standing 19 m high. The columns support a richly carved entablature. Inside, the cella is decorated with Corinthian half-columns flanking two levels of niches on each side, containing scenes from the birth and life of Bacchus. The adyton (inner shrine) stands above a flight of steps.

Sheikh Abdullah Hill Quarry

the world's largest cut stone at the quarry on Sheikh Abdullah Hill, you'll undoubtedly hear the tale of Baalbek native Abdul Nabi Al-Afi, who saved it from life at the bottom of a rubbish dump. Measuring 21.5m by 4m by 4.5m, lying on its side, locals call this stone Hajar al-Hubla (Stone of the Pregnant Woman), and local folklore has it that women can touch the stone to increase their fertility.ither way, for many impoverished people in the Bekaa Valley, southern Lebanon and south of Beirut, Hezbollah has proved a vital lifeline, offering health, security and education where there is none on offer through other channels.

Temple of Jupiter

was built on an immense substructure over 90m long, and was approached by another monumental staircase that rose high above the surrounding buildings. It consisted of a cella in which the statue of the god was housed and a surrounding portico of 10 columns along the façade and 19 columns along the side, making for 54 columns in all. These columns are the largest in the world - 22.9m high with a girth of 2.2m.Today only six of these remain standing with the architrave still in position. It was thought in the old days that Baalbek had been constructed by giants and a quick look over the side of the temple to the foundation stones beneath reveals some of the largest building blocks to be found anywhere on earth. One of these megalithic blocks measures 19.5m by 4.3m and is estimated to weigh over 1000 tonnes - how it was moved and positioned so precisely remains a mystery.

Great Mosque

To the east of the propylaea stands the ruined Umayyad or Great Mosque, which was built from the stones of the temples using many styles of columns and capitals.Lebanon's only Umayyad ruin, outside Aanjar, it was built between the 7th and 8th centuries.There is an ablution fountain surrounded by four columns in the centre of the courtyard. On the right, immediately after the entrance, are rows of arched colonnades with Roman columns and capitals, clearly taken from the temple complex.At the northwestern corner are the ruins of a great octagonal minaret on a square base.

Ras al-Ain Spring

To the southeast of Baalbek's centre is the source of the Ras al-Ain Spring.The area has pleasant, shady parks along the spring and is the site of occasional festivities with horses and camels and side stalls.At the head of the spring is a ruined early mosque, which at some point was thought to be the Temple of Neptune.

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