Photographer's Note

I go from ugly modern ruins to beautiful ancient ruins. Today's three photos were all taken in ancient cities in the Bekaa Valley northeast of Beirut, near the Syrian border.

While in Beirut in September 1995 I made two day trips organized by a travel agency. I usually do my best to avoid group tours, much rather going at my own pace, stopping where I want to stop, skipping the souvenir shops where groups are invariably taken.

But I made two exceptions in Lebanon because organized tours made it so much easier to see places far away from Beirut. Going by local buses or shared taxis would have been so much slower and more complicated.

And these two tours had a huge advantage. They both included lunch, which was served at surprisingly nice outdoor restaurants where the food was by far the best I had anywhere during my four weeks in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The first day trip brought me to the Bekaa Valley, which during the Lebanese civil war (1975–1990) had been a stronghold of Shia militias. This was still evident from the many portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian spiritual and political leader after the revolution in1979, posted on the walls in every village.

Our first stop in this long and narrow valley was Baalbek, whose history goes back thousands of years. It became an important city during Greek rule from the 4th century BC and was taken over by the Romans in the 1st century AD.

Baalbek has been a Unesco world heritage site since 1984, mainly for the ruins of two temples dedicated to Jupiter, built during the 1st century AD, and Bacchus probably from the 2nd century. Both temples were among the largest and most important anywhere in the Roman empire.

Today's main photo shows the remains of the Jupiter temple, mainly six columns and a top frieze. The lion's head seen on the frieze on the ground is a gargoyle, designed to convey water from the roof through the lion's mouth. The idea was to keep the water away from the side of the building so it shouldn't damage the wall.

Although so little remains of the Jupiter temple, I noted in my diary that the immense size of the columns and the outlines of the original temple made a deep impression on me.

I left the guide behind and walked on my own, watching closely the marks made by the chisels that had formed the perfectly identical ornaments, and touching the smooth surface of the stones polished almost 2000 years ago. I was filled with admiration for the exquisite craftsmanship.

Here is a larger version.

One WS shows the Bacchus temple, the other was taken in the nearby town of Anjar.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 11536 W: 562 N: 22227] (96656)
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