After our trip to Istanbul in December, we decided that a trip to Baalbek, the site of extravagent Roman ruins and situated in the heart of the Bekaa Valley would be the perfect day trip. Baalbek would be a change from the shopping we did so much of in Turkey, and it would get us off the coast and into the heartland of Lebanon. So, we hired a taxi for the day and headed over the Lebanon Mountains and into the Bekaa.
As we entered the modern day town of Baalbek, our driver took us to the site of “The largest stone in the world.” This site was one of the quarries used by the Romans to build the temples of Baalbeck and holds a mammoth cut stone that the Romans never got out of the quarry. For years the site had been used by the locals as a garbage dump, but through the efforts of one man, it was cleaned up and is now a small tourist site with “the largest stone in the world” and a small gift shop. According to legend, the stone brings fertility to women who touch it. See the picture….
The ancient site was built between 100 B.C and 200 A.D. by the Romans. The Bekaa Valley was one of the breadbaskets of the Roman Empire and thus a very important area for them to control. In those days the city was known as Heliopolis, a testament to the abundant sunshine the area received then and still enjoys to this day. While there are remains
outside the official tourist site, the temple area itself is not terribly extensive and is compact in size. But the condition of the remains, particularly the Temple of Baachus, is spectacular.
The Baachus Temple is considered the best preserved Roman temple anywhere in the world. It is remarkably well preserved and is larger than the Parthenon in Athens. The Temple of Jupiter is mostly gone, but six massive columns, reportedly the largest ever produced by man, remain. They dominate the site and are absolutely HUGE. Sharon and I have been to Rome several times, but were still very impressed with the ruins at Baalbek.