Lebanon, she captured my heart – Baalbek (I)

I have my eyes opened all the time when I travel, even at night time. My travels are not quite usual sightseeing trips, although I do visit all the sites that are available in that country. You know, when you are in that corner of the world you would give anything to get as much of that place as possible. This mostly marked my trip to Lebanon. I was there two years ago, during the September 2007. In the December that year started the rumours again. When we returned home that time we thought that we captured the last opportunity to see the country. Maybe we were wrong, but after what we saw, we were absolutely convinced, that the tension, hatred, wish to revenge the dead and unjust, make the air explosive like cave full of gun powder.

We entered the country from Syria, trough Masnaa border, coming from Damascus. After our journeys to Russia we remembered very strongly how they left us waiting on the borders for eight hours, without water, toilet, or any place to rest. So we were worried a little bit what would happen here. In this kind of countries you never know. Sometimes we had feeling that even they don’t know. But to our astonishment nothing happened and after a while we were heading to Baalbek, centre of Hezbollah movement, Phoenician Sun City of the ancient world, the most impressive ancient site in Lebanon.

When we travelled here we saw for the first time the Palestine Camps enclosed by a barbed wire, with their poverty shouting loud, muddy ground underneath the shabby tents, and in between parked old Mercedes and steel bicycles, tyres and hanged washing waving in the wind. And around them rich green plains full of grain, corn, vegetables, and round water reservoirs dag in the ground and isolated with plastic foil, through the whole Bekaa Valley. The contrast was breathtaking. But another breathtaking view was the Anti-Lebanon Mountains with their white caps on top, so unbelievable in this 40 degrees Celsius heat. Lebanon was famous for its possibility to ski in the morning, bath in see in the evening same day, drinking delicious Lebanon wine. Yes, there was tourism long ago, before the rumours killed all the courage to travel here.

But now we were completely alone here. When we left bus, stepped onto the dusty ground, all the eyes moved toward us. The local craftsmen and souvenir selling guys did not have many customers these days. The last foreign foot which whirl dust into this air was here quite long ago. The souvenirs were old, dusty, grey from everyday sun. Even the sellers were too burned to move and force us to buy something really needles but cute. For two pens and one lighter we handled yellow Hezbollah T-shirt with green fist holding a gun.

The site war barred. Losing the breath of ancients day by day. The hot sun shining on our heads through the roofs that once was here was gradually turning out the feeling of power, might, glory and grace. Originally was here a temple dedicated to Baalbek built around 1000 B.C. It is supposed to be used for all manners of sexual forms of worship. Sacred prostitution and insatiable bloodlust featured in cults were practiced here. After the conquer of Alexander the Great the city was renamed into Heliopolis, but the temple worshiping the ancient gods remain untouched. Only in 60 A.D. began the construction of Temple of Jupiter. Somewhere around 140 A.D. starts the construction of Temple of Bacchus, and although both temples are almost complete, they were never finished.

It is supposed that such a great and majestic buildings had rather politic and social character than spiritual. It was an answer to the spreading Christianity to keep the pagan worship as long alive as possible. It was a great mixture of cults. Like glorious cake of beliefs and gods with all kinds of spices and ingredients cocked in a giant pot of this valley. It might have been a powerful divine centre once. But now we could not wait until we leave for the shore – direction Byblos.

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