Baalbek, Bekaa, Lebanon
GPS: 34.007197618373, 36.206267399078
Baalbek is an ancient site located 85 kilometres from Beirut in Eastern Lebanon. Its ruins overlook the fertile agricultural plain of the Beqaa Valley (El Bekaa). The construction of this city is attributed to the Phoenician civilization towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC. It was renamed Heliopolis, the “city of the sun”, by the Greeks in the first century BC (Hellenistic dynasty of the Seleucids). They were followed by the Romans, who annexed the city to integrate it into the province of Syria, and transformed Baalbek into an important place of worship. This jewel of the ancient world developed at the gateway to the main trade and caravan routes between East and West.
The visible ruins of Baalbek date back to the 3rd-century BC after the conquest of the territory by the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great. They are among the greatest ancient wonders of the Middle East and the Roman Empire. It was during the reign of Julius Caesar in the 1st-century BC that the city reached its golden age. A series of temples and sanctuaries were erected to form the most illustrious group of Roman temples. Their massive foundations, of unparalleled proportions, are mainly dedicated to Bacchus, Venus and Jupiter (the divine triad of ancient Rome). They attracted many pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire. According to specialists, the city of Baalbek has the largest ancient columns and stones ever extracted and cut by man (including a set of three colossal stones called trilithon). Of these, the fabulous Temple of Bacchus and the massive columns of the Temple of Jupiter remain and remind us of the greatness of the place in Roman times.
Baalbek has seen various monuments built and then destroyed in its history. These episodes occurred with the advent of Christianity in the 4th-century (coinciding with the building of a basilica), the Arab occupation in the 7th-century (during which a fortified citadel and a mosque were built) and the military conquests of the city (including the Mongols in the 13th-century who laid waste to its richness). Altered by the wear and tear of time, earthquakes, wars and looting, the ruins of Baalbek were discovered in very poor condition following a German archaeological expedition launched by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898 while the region was under Ottoman rule. It was not until the second half of the 20th-century that restoration missions carried out in cooperation with the Directorate General of Antiquities of Lebanon rebuilt the ruins of Baalbek to their former glory. Since 1956, the site has been the setting for one of the largest music festivals in the Middle East, which has contributed broadly to the international renaissance of this Lebanese sanctuary.