Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bekaa, Lebanon - What to do & see

Baalbek  


Baalbeck
Located in the Bekaa Valley ("the breadbasket" of the Roman Empire), the city of Baalbeck originated as a place of worship to Baal, the Phoenician Sun God. Later, in Greco-Roman times, Baalbeck was known famously as Heliopolis, or "City of the Sun." Today, Baalbeck is world renown as the site of some of the largest and best preserved Roman temples in the world.



Great Umayyad Mosque: Al Oummawi Al Kabir Mosque
Located outside the Arab walls that surround the Baalbeck temple ruins is the 7th-8th century Great Umayyad Mosque. The remains of the eastern courtyard, three rows of columns supporting arches, and an octagonal minaret can still be seen. The granite and limestone columns are believed to be from a previous Roman forum and later a Byzantine church located on the same site. This is one of the few ruins in Baalbeck from the Umayyad period. Note: According to Islamic tradition, non-Muslims are typically not allowed to enter mosques or sacred sites. However, non-Muslim visitors may be able to visit the courtyard gardens and may find someone they can ask for permission to enter. Visitors should be appropriately attired and remove their shoes before entering. Entry is not permitted during prayer hours and not permitted at any time during the month of Ramadan.

Ham
This village was located on the caravan route in ancient times. Surrounded by the high mountains of the Anti-Lebanon Range, it still houses numerous archaeological ruins (e.g., Roman temple, inscriptions, and tombs). This area is also known for its rich biodiversity.

Qasr El Banat: Palace of the Maidens
The ruins of a small Roman temple built on a high rocky plateau overlooking the Bekaa. Superb view of the Anti-Lebanon Range. Accessible only on foot.

Saydet El Borj
Church built on the ruins of a roman temple dedicated to the god Jupiter. Some roman inscriptions are still preserved in addition to some architectural elements of the temple.

Yammouneh Nature Reserve
Located on the north-eastern side of the Mount Lebanon range where Jebel al Makmel meets Jebel al Mnaitra, the Yammouneh Nature Reserve was established in 1999. It is distinguished by its variety of Juniper trees. The altitude of the reserve extends from 1,200m to 2,000m above sea level. Yammouneh translates as the "little sea," because of the Yammouné Lake. On the shore of the lake lie the remains of a Roman temple. Trekking and hiking, as well as cross-country skiing can be done here. 

El Hermel


Al Jord Ecolodge
An NGO-private partnership to support ecotourism activities in the Akkar, Hermel and Donniyeh regions of North Lebanon. The company organizes transport, food, lodging and outdoor activities (cycling, trekking, donkey rides, kite flying, star gazing) for visitors. Lodging choices include a traditional goat hair tent, bungalows with stonewalls and traditional beds, or cotton tents. Traditional meals are served, cooked with local products by local people.

Bu Sawaya
Roman and Byzantine ruins located near a small lake on the Marj-Hine plateau at the foot of Mount Makmel (north face). Only accessible on foot.

Monastery of St. Maron: Deir Mar Maroun
This three-level rock-cut monastery is sculpted into the cliff and caves overlooking the Nahr al Aasi River. It is believed that the monastery was established in the 5th century by St. Maron (founder of the Maronite Church) and served as a refuge for his disciples. The monastery was destroyed by Justinian II in the 7th century, when hundreds of people were killed as heretics and fled to the Qadisha Valley. Within the monastery caves, there are several levels of rooms (monk cells) connected by spiral staircases. The caves were later fortified by the Arabs during the Crusades, as shown by the arrow slits carved into the monastery entrances.

Pyramid of Hermel: Qamoua Al Hermel
Sitting atop a small hill in the remote area of the northern Bekaa Valley, the 27m high stone pyramid can be seen for many miles in several directions. The monument sits upon a black marble base, and three of its faces are carved with hunting scenes suggesting its purpose as the tomb of a Syrian prince in the 2nd century BC, although its true origin and purpose is a mystery. 

Rachaya

Ain Hircha Roman Temple
Ain Aarab
Ain Aarab is a small village located in the western Bekaa. An ecotourism project has been inaugurated to support the local people. Possible activities in the surrounding area include hiking, donkey rides, walking the trails to the old watermills. Accommodation includes a local guesthouse. The church of St. Thomas is located here.

Ain Hircha
One of the best preserved Roman temples in the western Beqaa is located here. An inscription written in Greek gives the date of 114 AD. You can reach the temple via a 2km walk from the village.

Mount Hermon: Jebel esh-Sheikh
The highest peak in the Anti-Lebanon range, Mount Hermon is 2,814m high. Some scholars believe Mount Hermon is the site of the transfiguration of Christ, that is mentioned in the New Testament. It is also an important site in the Druze religion, known as Jebel esh-Shiekh, or “mountain of the chief,” because the founder of the Druze religion retired here from Egypt in the 10th century A.D.

Yanta
Roman Temple. The ruins are about two kilometers along the road to Yanta village. The ruins are sparse, but there are a few upright stones still in place. Going out of the village for about 1 km to the west, the road leads you to the mausoleum of the prophet Ayloun, identified by the Druze community with the prophet Elias.


West Bekaa

Chateau Kefraya (winery)
Chateau Kefraya (winery)
Château Kefraya is the largest winery in Lebanon, producing over a million bottles each year. Located in the Bekaa Valley, the Kefraya vineyards are 50 years old and the winery is only 20 years old. Nevertheless, its wines have won more than 60 prizes. Visitors can tour the winery and dine in the Dionysus Restaurant. Chateau Kefraya also plays host to a wine festival held each year.

Monastery of St. Youhanna
In this Greek orthodox monastery, the first printing press in Arabic was founded by Abdallah Ez-Zakher in 1734. The church dedicated to St. John the Baptist goes back to the XII c. 

Zahle
Great Palace, Aanjar
Aanjar
The city of Aanjar, and notably its palace and mosque, are thought to have been built by Caliph Walid I during the first Arab Conquest (660-750 AD). Located in the Beqaa Valley, Aanjar served as a strategic commercial center between the coast and the interior during this period. The ruins were only discovered by accident in the 1940s, but they are very important, because they are the only known ruins from this time period. The site is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chateau Ksara (winery)
The oldest winery in Lebanon, Chateau Ksara’s natural wine cellar was a grotto discovered by the Romans who consolidated part of the vault and dug several narrow tunnels from the cave. The winery was founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests who brought vines from Europe. Today, Ksara is one of Lebanon’s big three in wine production.

Chateau Nakad (winery)
Joseph Nakad, the father of four sons, founded Nakad Winery in 1923. The business remains in the family. Located in the Bekaa Valley which has a history of wine-making, excavation has revealed that the present-day winery is built on the site of a Bronze Age winery. Chateau Nakad produces a variety of wine, including Cabernet-Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Semilion and Merlot.

Clos St. Thomas (winery)
Founded by Said Touma, the Clos St. Thomas winery and vineyard are spread over 50 hectares. Perched at an altitude of 1,000m on the eastern slope of Mount Lebanon, the winery overlooks the Bekaa Valley. Perfect natural conditions for growing grapes, the ancestral know-how of the Lebanese growers, and the art of the winemakers blend harmoniously to produce an exceptional wine.

Domaine Wardy (winery)
A longtime producer of arak, the company launched its first wines in 1999. The wines have been well received, with Domaine Wardy’s Perle du Chateau and Chateau les Cedres brands earning international awards. The winery and vineyards are located in the Bekaa Valley.

Grotto of El Habis
A rock-cut sanctuary, most probably from the Phoenician period, that was used later as a grape-pressing site. Habis translates as “hermit.” Several other rock-cut sanctuaries are located nearby, which makes for good exploring.

Kerak Nouh: Noah
Nouh is the Arabic name for Noah, referring to the Noah in the Old Testament who is famous for surviving the great flood. The tomb of Noah is believed to be located in a mosque in the village of Zahle.

Massaya Winery: Tanail Property
Located in the Bekaa Valley, the Tanail Property is home to the Massaya winery and arak distillery. A Lebanese-French collaboration, the wines combine the Lebanese flair of the Ghosn brothers with the practical expertise of leading French winemakers from St. Emilion and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Massaya offers weekend programs that include wine and arak tasting seminars, yoga, and jazz evenings. They also tempt people to the property with great country-style food prepared by the housewives of neighboring villages and a nice outdoor setting for dining.

Monastery of the Jesuit Fathers of Taanayel
In 1860, Napoleon III bequeathed 200 hectares in Taanayel to the Jesuit fathers. Originally a marshland, the monks transformed the area into agricultural land. They established a large farm, school and seminary. The church was built in 1907.

Roman Temple of Niha
Two temples are located in the village of Niha near Zahle in the Bekaa Valley. The larger temple has undergone some restoration and is impressive for the carved figure of a priest making an offering. Next to this temple is a smaller temple dedicated to the Phoenician god Hadaranas.

Zahle
Zahle is the third largest city in Lebanon and the capital of the Bekaa region. Situated at an elevation of 1,010m on the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon range, Zahle is known for its mezzes and the nearby wineries and arak producers. The Bardouni River flows through the town, making it a splendid location for its many open-air cafes and restaurants. You will eat and drink well in Zahle while taking in the beautiful old architecture and scenery. 

Source www.lebanon-tourism.gov.lb


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