According to aparentingblog, 58 km east of Beirut in the Bekaa Valley is the famous city of the Umayyads – Anzhar. It is believed that Anjar was founded between 705 and 715 by the Umayyad dynasty on the site of the ancient city of Guerra. The Umayyads became the first hereditary dynasty in Islam to rule after the Prophet Muhammad. The place for the founding of Anzhar was not chosen by chance, because trade routes leading to Damascus, Homs, Baalbek and the southern regions of the Middle East intersected here. This predetermined the fate of Anzhar as one of the largest shopping centers in the region. The historical heritage of Anzhar is truly unique. First, unlike other ancient cities Lebanon, whose age is several millennia, Anjar reached its peak of development in the first decades after its foundation. Secondly, it is an excellent example of a prosperous trading city located not on the coast, but in the hinterland. Thirdly, it is the largest surviving monument of the Umayyad empire. The area of the Anjara archaeological zoneis 114 thousand sq.m. At the main entrance to the excavation area, sections of the fortress wall with gates and towers have been preserved. On the walls you can see ancient inscriptions and drawings, the oldest of which date back to 741. From the fortress walls stretches the main street of the city – Cardo Maximus 20 m wide, decorated with stone arches and columns. Along the street you can see the ruins of several hundred small shops. In the place where Cardo-Maximus Street intersects with another Decumanus-Maximus Street, there is the so-called tetrapylon – a building in plan that looks like a square, at the corners of which columns rise. A little to the south, the remains of the Grand Palace are interesting. To date, the southern section of the wall and several arcades have been preserved from it. Near the Grand Palace there is a mosque and the Small Palace. In addition, in Anjara public baths were excavated, the architecture of which was completely borrowed from the Romans.
8 km northwest of Anjar is the wine capital of Lebanon – the city of Zahle. It is located at an altitude of 900 m and is surrounded by vineyards. It is the only city in the Middle East with a predominantly Catholic population. Zahle was founded about 300 years ago. In 1885, a railway was launched through the city, which connected the Bekaa Valley with Syria. The city center is located on both banks of the Barduini River, on the west bank is the Old Town, on the east – banks and shops. In the Old City, old private houses are interesting, among which are the house of the Turkish sheikh Khalil Geh of the 17th century, the Government House of 1885 with a museum on the history of the city, numerous hotels the end of the 19th century, the oldest church in the city is the Sayudit Zalzali Church of 1700, the Church of St. Elias of 1720 and the Monastery of the Virgin Mary of 1720 with the largest bell tower in the country, where the icon of the Virgin Mary is located, donated to the city by the King of Prussia. Also in Zahle is the tower of the Virgin Mary, which the locals consider the patroness of not only the city, but the entire Bekaa Valley. The tower is located on the Tel Chia hill and has a height of 54 meters. It is crowned with a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary 10 m high. There is an observation platform on the tower, where tourists are delivered by an elevator. On the northern outskirts of Zahle, along the banks of the Barduini River, the Wadi El-Araesh valley stretches, which means “wine valley”. Here, several centuries ago, restaurants of traditional cuisine began to appear. Now in the valley are the best restaurants in the city, surrounded by picturesque landscapes. In Zahle, tourists are offered numerous wine tours. Of particular interest are tours to the city of Ksara, where the wine of the same name is produced, as well as the national alcoholic drink – arak.
Jebel (Byblos) (Lebanon)
Jebel, known in antiquity as Byblos, is located on the Mediterranean coast, 40 km north of Beirut. It is believed that Byblos was founded in 5000 BC. It is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world. It was in Byblos on the lid of the stone sarcophagus of King Ahiram that the most ancient writings were found – Phoenician, dating back to the 13th century BC, and it was here that the foundations for creating books were born. This is confirmed by the fact that such words as the Bible, bibliography, etc. have come from the name of the city. During the time of the Phoenicians, Byblos was a major trading center in the Mediterranean, but under the Mamluks and Turks, the city turned into a small fishing village and lost its significance.
Today, Jebel is a living history of the country: visiting it, you can see the buildings of various eras, from the time of the origin of civilization in these parts to the present. The historical part of the city is a vast area of archaeological excavations, it is surrounded by a wall. Right at the entrance to the Old City, you can see the medieval Byblos Fortress, which was built in the 12th century by the Crusaders. Also, the fortifications of the Crusader era are represented here by the remains of the fortress walls. Under the Crusaders in 1150, the church of St. John was also built in Byblos. Of the more ancient city buildings, the ruins of the Phoenician temples are interesting: the Great Temple and temple of Balat-Jebel 2700 BC, as well as the temple of the Obelisks 1600 BC. Next to the Byblos Fortress is the Wax Museum, where the history of the region is told through wax figures. Nearby is an old market where you can buy souvenirs and antiques. Next to the market is the Fossil Museum. It contains an extensive collection of bones of ancient sea inhabitants found in the vicinity of the city, whose age reaches several million years. The Old City of Jebel hosts the international Byblos Festival every summer.
Ruins of ancient Byblos can be seen not only on land, but also in coastal waters. Items and remains of buildings from the time of the Roman Empire, which lie at the bottom of the sea in the vicinity of Jebel, attract a large number of divers. Also from Jebel you can go north to the popular beaches of the cities of Chekka and Batrun or south to the main resort area of the country – Jounieh . In addition, 30 km from Jebel is the most popular and most developed ski resort in the country – Faraya-Mzaar.