The Temples of Baalbek

On our third day we decided to drive from Hamra, Beirut east to visit the Baalbek Temples. Having visited Jordan in July we weren’t expecting anything too dissimilar (to quote my father ‘Once you’ve seen one Roman ruin – you’ve seen them all!’), but we were pleasantly surprised.  Baalbek was very picturesque and the mild, cooler weather sure made it far more enjoyable than the sweltering Jerash.  The drive there was also incredible, passing through the snow capped Lebanon Mountains.

On our way to Baalbek, which is in the Bekaa Valley, we stopped at a quaint town called Zahle.  Located across a scenic valley and mountain side it reminded me of Europe.  Having not had any breakfast we decided to stop for lunch at the Monte Alberto Hotel, located on the edge of a mountain.  Our table had lovely views of the town. We opted for Lebanese mezze which consisted of shanklish, baba ganoush, fattoush and kibbeh.  I also sampled the local aniseed beverage, Arak, which was very strong, fragrant and a bit like Sambuca.

Monte Alberto Restaurant ZahleMonte Alberto Restaurant ZahleMonte Alberto Restaurant overlooking Zahle

As we approached Baalbek we noted the yellow and green Hezbollah flags lining the streets.  The Baalbek temple was easily spotted from the main road.  Five massive Roman pillars dominated our view.  Upon entering the ruins, we were approached by a guide and accepted his offer to show us around for $20USD.

He told us stories of how the Phoenicians first came to the area in ancient times, then the Romans, then the Arabs, then the Christians – and how basically each layer represents each empire.   I enjoyed his descriptions of Bacchus the Roman emperor who was ‘born from a grapevine’ as the stone carvings depicted (his temple was built for decadence and debauchery – wine and women was what he was famous for).

We stayed till sunset, enjoying the pleasures of taking photos with no one around but us.

Ruins of Round Temple and Temple of VenusPropylaea entrance to Hexagonal ForecourtHexagonal Forecourt with horse stables
Roman inscriptionsGreat Court with ruins of Basilica and High Altar of Burnt SacrificeGriffon and Pegasus
Swastika meanderLion headwater spoutRoman columns and entablature
Snake Goddess AngitiaRemains of Temple of JupiterSonya and Travis inside Temple of Bacchus
Temple of Bacchus facing EastDetails inside Temple of BacchusGreat Court with ruins of Basilica and Altar
Sonya and the Great CourtGreat Court exedraSonya and Travis Great Court
Sonya and Travis Great Court exedraSilhouette of Temple of JupiterRemaining columns of Temple of Jupiter
Sonya with the columns of Temple of JupiterTemple of BacchusLion headwater spout