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Baalbeck, Zahle and Anjar

Monday, February 22nd, - BAALBECK, ZAHLE’ AND ANJAR, LEBANON

Travels north of Beirut

Wadad woke me at 6:45 a.m. to prepare for our day today. We had to be at our meeting- place at 8:00 a.m. for the trip to Baalbeck, Zahle’ for lunch and Anjar afterwards. She had arranged four the tour for us ahead of time. Wadad was so thoughtful to make arrangements for me to see and enjoy Lebanon. We were picked up and went in a small van. We were a group of only eight or so people. The van drove over the mountain range to Baalbeck, and we were very near the Syrian border at one point. It is a tense relationship.

Checkpoint in Mountains

The mountain ranges we crossed are Jabal Barouk, Jabal Sannine and Jabal El Mnaitri. We crossed the river Nahr El Latani. Baalbeck is 1 ˝ hours from Beirut and one sees many armed uniformed soldiers along the way, and we passed several checkpoints. Our little van sailed through them all.

Roman Columns at Baalbeck

Baalbeck is one of the most ancient cities in the world, built for pagan worship and transformed into a temple in honor of the god, Baal. After Alexander the Great, the Greeks named it Heliopolis, city of the sun. The Romans later built a colossal temple to Venus, Bacchus and Mercury here. The Christian Crusaders came later and built a church in honor of St. Barbara. And while we were here, we could hear the muezzins calling the Muslim faithful to prayer. Whatever your religion is, or not, you will find a place in the ruins of this ancient city.

Modern Mosque near the ruins

We spent hours walking and climbing the stone steps—seeing the snow-covered mountain range in the background. We could have spent all day and not seen it all. It is awesome to see what colossal things ancient man has done, which are still standing. I wonder what part of our present culture will remain an one or two thousand years from now. Probably only the roads.

Saralee and Wadad

We stopped at “the biggest cut rock in the world” which was merely resting on the ground; one corner beneath the ground. It rests, unused. Too big, I guess! I bought souvenirs at the shop there. Our driver took us back up into the mountains to a charming town called Zahle’. This is where Wadad worked as a teacher, and where she met Eva, who I will meet soon.

Casino Arabi at Zahle'

We had lunch at a resort-hotel called “Casino Arabi”. It is ancient (but not as ancient as Baalbeck!) and nestled along a little river that has been enclosed in stone walls which cascades downward, with bridges crossing above it. The vines are so old they have become a living part of the ironwork fences. The stained glass windows were rainbows of color.

Our Group; a very special lunch!

We were served by waiters in tuxedos, who brought course after course of “mezzeh” each of which reminded me of Armenian dishes. The meal culminated in a dish of grilled chicken, beef and “lulukabobs” (ground, seasoned beef grilled on a skewer). Then fresh fruit, and their national drink, Arakh. Each course was better than the last. Of course, they served coffee at the end. Such a delight. I went out to the front desk to thank the man there and report how wonderful it was, asking for a card. He gave me his card and he turned out to be Jean Arabi himself, the owner of the place! He was very gracious and asked me to please return. I hope to do that.

email him at: sarabi@inco.com.lb

After lunch we were driven to Anjar, where the Armenians were told they must live separately. I believe this was when the Ottomans were in power. It is a lovely ancient city; Greek and Roman ruins placed in a lush green forest with wildflowers growing everywhere. The masonry was interesting; it was built using alternating stone patterns, to withstand earthquakes.

Anjar - Roman Ruins where Armenians Lived

Wadad rested for part of this stop. By then the whole group was in love with her. “Where’s Wadad?” they asked as I came along alone. I reassured them that she was all right, resting in a safe place. Afterwards, I bought some beautiful handmade Armenian sterling silver jewelry from a man named Christ Handian.

Green Grass and Wildflowers at Anjar

The drive back was a good time to rest from the long day. The driver dropped us off right at Wadad’s door! We were both tired, but we stayed up talking until 8:30, when we went to bed. I was not hungry, but Wadad insisted I have a slice of apricot cake! It was delicious with whole pieces of apricot baked right in. What an incredible day.

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