What to See in Baalbek (Lebanon)
According to ALLUNITCONVERTERS, Baalbek is located in the central part of the Bekaa Valley, 85 km northeast of Beirut. at an altitude of 1170 m. Its history goes back about 5000 years, which is confirmed by archaeological finds. In 2000 B.C. the Phoenicians came here. They built here a temple dedicated to the god of the Sun – Baal, from where the name of the city came from. Later, the Greeks who conquered the city named it Heliopolis, in honor of their sun god, Helios. With the advent of the Roman Empire, Heliopolis became the center of Roman power in the Beqaa Valley. On the site of the Phoenician sanctuary at the end of the 1st century BC. the Romans began to build a new temple of Jupiter, which, after 2 centuries, became one of the most outstanding buildings of the ancient world and the largest Roman temple. The temple has a length of 88 m, a width of 48 m and in ancient times was surrounded by 54 columns. For centuries the ruins of the temple complex of Baalbek were underground, archaeological excavations in these places began in 1898. The architecture of the buildings that have survived to this day differs from the classical Roman one, since in subsequent years many conquerors supplemented them. In 313 AD, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the temple of Baalbek was closed, and in the 4th century, a church was erected using temple stones. In 636, the Arabs rebuilt all the local churches into fortresses and mosques. However, today, through the efforts of archaeologists and restorers, the appearance of the temple complex is as close as possible to what was built under the Romans.
Temple complex of Baalbek consists of 4 zones: the monumental entrance (propylaea), the hexagonal courtyard, the main courtyard and the temple itself. At the entrance to the area of archaeological excavations, the Propylaea extend. The Propylaea were completed in the middle of the 3rd century AD. They consist of 12 granite columns, which are reached by a partially restored staircase. The hexagonal courtyard was rebuilt into a church during the Byzantine Empire. The Main Courtyard following it in ancient times had dimensions of 134×112 m and contained the main places of worship. There is a restored altar, a tower, the remains of several columns and a pool for ritual ablutions. Behind the Main Court is the Temple of Jupiter. A monumental staircase leads to it. The temple stands on a podium, which rises 7 m above the Main Courtyard. The podium is built of huge stone slabs, each of which weighs several hundred tons. This gives rise to disputes about how the builders transported them here. It is difficult to imagine that in those distant times a person could do this. In the western part of the podium, you can see two colossal stones weighing 800 tons each. Of the 54 columns that surrounded the temple in antiquity, only 6 have survived to this day. The columns have a height of 22 m and a diameter of 2 m and are considered the tallest columns in the ancient world. They are decorated with ornaments depicting the heads of bulls and lions. Near the temple of Jupiter, you can see the ruins of the temple of Bacchus, or, as it is also called, the Small Temple. Its construction began immediately after the temple of Jupiter was erected. A staircase of 33 steps leads to the entrance to the temple of Bacchus. The temple stands on a 5 m high pedestal. In its western corner you can see a tower that was built in the 15th century by the Mamluks. In front of the temple of Bacchus, an Arab citadel and a mosque have been preserved. To the east is the Temple of Venus from the 3rd century AD. During the time of the Byzantines, it was rebuilt into the church of St. Barbara – the patroness Baalbek.
In the vicinity of the temple complex, many sights of various eras have also been preserved. In front of the entrance to the temple complex is the Great Mosque, which was built in the 7th-8th centuries under the Umayyads on the site of the Byzantine church of St. John. Nearby are the Shiite mosque of the 17th century, the ruins of public baths and the market, the Roman cemetery, the remains of the temple of Mercury, built under the Romans, Turkish houses of the 19th century and the Orthodox Church of St. George and the Maronite Church of the Virgin Mary built at the beginning of the 20th century. To the northwest of the temple complex, the remains of the city gates and the medieval wall have been preserved. Near the city gates is an early 15th century mausoleum that served as the burial place for the governors of Baalbek.. At the southern entrance to the city there is an interesting quarry. Here you can see the largest stone block in the world ever used for construction. It is called “stone of the pregnant woman”. The stone measures 21.5×4.8×4.2 m and weighs about 1,000 tons.
Every year in July-August Baalbek hosts an international festival of folklore and classical music, which lasts for 4 weeks. This is the best time to visit the city when the ancient Baalbek comes alive.
In the north of the Bekaa Valley, about 60 km from Baalbek, it is worth visiting the city of Hermel. In its vicinity is the Hermel Pyramid., which was built in the 2nd century BC. It is a stone tower 19 m high, standing on a pedestal 8 m high. The pedestal of the pyramid is decorated with images of animals. Not far from here, the Maronite monastery of Deir Maar-Marun is of interest . It was built in the 5th century AD. It is believed that this place was the temporary home of Saint Maroun, who founded the Maronite community in the 4th century.