The history of Baalbek goes back roughly 5000 years. Very early in the city’s history an enormous structure was built, it was considered to be the largest in the world at that time. Unfortanitly very little is known about this structure. Many years later, along came the Phoenicians around 1500BC and picked Baalbek to build their temple for the sun god Baal, on top of the remaining foundation. The Romans came around 64BC and built what is currently standing, a temple to their sky/sun god Jupiter. The Temple of Jupiter took three century’s to build, it became the most massive religious building ever constructed in the Roman Empire. The city and temple became an important holy shrine and pilgrimage destination. The other temple on the grounds is the Temple of Bacchus. It is slightly smaller and is the best preserved and grandest Roman temple remaining in the world. It is lined by 42 massive granite columns some 65Ft high. What is still one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world is the large stones that make up the old foundation. They range in size roughly 30 ft in length, 14 ft in height and 10 ft deep, weighing around 450 tons each. How they were quarried, transported and placed is beyond the technological ability of any known ancient and modern builders.
Baalbek sits in the fertile valley of Baqaa about 53 miles from Beirut. It has plenty of water from the streams and swamps in the area and gets the spring snow melt from Mount Lebanon. It lies between the coastal town of Tyre in Lebanon and the city of Palmyra in Syria. Baalbek was in an ideal place with plenty of sun and water and in a fertile valley making it a wealthy and splendid city at the time.
After our visit to Baalbek we headed down the valley in the other direction in wine counrty. Yes wine country! Lebanon is one of the oldest areas to produce wine in the world. Despite the many conflicts in the region Lebanon boasts of over 30 wineries shipping some 650,000 case of wine a year. Yes it is hard to believe, in the Middle East visiting wine country! We stopped at Chateau Kefraya for some wine tasting. We bought a bottle and enjoyed a snack in the late afternoon. We drank Lebanese wine during our entire visit to Lebanon. They make good wine.