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French Version

Cities and Ruins of the Ancient World: Lebanon’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Lebanon is a country rich in history, and has some of the most impressive ancient cities and ruins in the world. For thousands of years Lebanon has been the home of civilized nations that have played a part in some of the major empires of the world.

During the time of the Greeks, Lebanon was named Phoenicia and was home to a Semitic culture which flourished with the use of ships for trading. The ancient Lebanese people explored much of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean, and set up colonies as far away as Cadiz in present day Spain. It became part of the Roman Empire during the first century, and was heavily influenced by both Christianity and Islam after the deaths of Jesus and Muhammad. It became a melting pot of different cultures and religions, where a variety of different influences shaped what is now modern-day Lebanon.

Lebanon has managed to retain much of its heritage despite suffering from hostilities at the end of 21st century, which threatened to destroy much of the ancient cities which help tell the story of the history of present-day civilisation. Luckily, a variety of these important sites were granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, and are now protected and preserved by the United Nations organisation. If you are looking for a last minute holiday, and want to explore some of the most impressive ruins and important historical sites in the world, a tour of some of Lebanon’s World Heritage Sites can be awe-inspiring.

Baalbek – The Roman Temples of Heliopolis

The modern day city of Baalbek is home to one of the most extravagant examples of Imperial Roman architecture in the world. The ancient city was was
known as Heliopolis, the City of the Sun, and it was here that the Roman Empire decided to build a Temple complex that is now considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. The site is made up of different temples dedicated to different gods. There is the Temple of Venus, the Temple of Jupiter, and the Temple of Bacchus. Among these temples is a magnificent Great Court, and close to the main complex is another temple dedicated to Mercury. The temple ruins are thought to be the largest buildings used for religious purposes within the entire Roman Empire. The ruins are remarkably intact despite their age and the amount of times they have been plundered over the centuries. For a glimpse back into the past, a visit to the Roman Temples of Heliopolis are a must.

Byblos – the oldest city in the world?

This ancient city competes for the title of the oldest city in the world with Damascus and Jericho, because is absolutely certain which is the winner.
What is known is that Byblos has been continually inhabited for thousands for years, and was a settlement from around 6230 BC onwards. People may well have been living here long before this date, but archaeological digs can only reveal so much information. It is widely believed that is was the first city of the ancient Phoenicia civilisation. The ancient buildings that can be found in Byblos tell a story about the city through the centuries. There are a number of ancient Phoenician temples that can be visited here, including the Great Temple and the Temple of Baalat Gebal, both built sometime in 2700 BC. A third temple was also built here in 1600 BC, called the Temple of the Obelisks. Moving forward a few thousand years, Byblos Castle was built sometime in the 12th century, by crusaders from Europe, and was the site of numerous battles. Around the same time the St John the Baptist Church was constructed, again by crusaders, which was later used as stables when Islamic forces took control of the city. Along with these temples, castles and churches, Byblos also has a fascinating historic quarter within the city, where you can find antiques to buy from traders selling along the old cobblestone streets.

Anjar – Umayyad Palace

Moving away from Phoencia, Roman, or the Crusades, the Umayyad Palace is the result of a completely different group of people. Its original name was Ayn Gerrha, the order to build the palace was given by Al-Walid ibn Abdel Malek, a Umayyad Caliph who lead successful conquests for the Arab Empire.
The Umayyad Caliphate helped the Arab Empire grow into one of the largest empire the world has ever seen, something that it is rarely recognised for. The palace is near the town of Anjar, next to the Lebanese border with Syria, away from the more built up Lebanese coast. The palace was abandoned in the same century it was built, and the ruins that now exist are in remarkably well-preserved.

Beirut 26-03-2012
First Lebanon
First Lebanon

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