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The ruins of an ancient town at Byblos in Lebanon – video

When I toured Lebanon last summer we drove an hour north out of Beirut to stop at the coastal town of Byblos or Jbeil which is ideal to visit as a day trip. The city has a long history and became important as a city state and trading port under the Phoenicians thousands of years before the birth of Christ.

The crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

The crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

The city’s name is thought to derive from the Greek word bublos meaning papyrus, as it was a stopping off place for papyrus shipments on their way to Egypt and the linear alphabet is thought to have been invented here as a way of recording trade transactions. Apparently the name of the Bible derives from the same source as it was the book made of Papyrus.

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The archaeological site and crusader castle that you visit today is only a small part of the ancient city and was excavated in the last century by French archaeologist Maurice Dunand and others from the 1920s onwards. At that time the site was covered by houses just as the rest of the area is now and many families had to be moved and houses cleared to enable the archaeological work to begin.

The crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

The crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

Roman ampitheatre at Byblos in Lebanon

Roman ampitheatre at Byblos in Lebanon

When we arrived at the site and paid our entrance fee we decided that we needed some help to make sense of the ruins and found our guide, Wahid who had his young son with him and took us around showing us all the points of interest – without a guide I don’t think we’d have got nearly as much out of the visit.

He told us how the archaeological work required the building of a railway track, now somewhat overgrown, in order to enable the earth to be removed from the remains more easily. The site contains layer upon layer of different civilisations who all built one on top of the other, stealing stone from each older building to construct their own. Even the archaeologists moved some of the things they uncovered such as the Roman ampitheatre, re-locating them to other parts of the site, so that they could excavate the older buildings beneath.

Stone Sarcophagus at Byblos in Lebanon

Stone Sarcophagus at Byblos in Lebanon

The entrance to the site is dominated by the crusader castle built from enormous blocks of stone in the 12th century and with towers that have been more recently restored, with wonderful views from the terrace out to sea. There is a Roman ampitheatre which was originally much larger and has been moved to its current location overlooking the sea from a different part of the site where it was sitting on top of an ancient temple.

Another interesting feature of the site are the royal tombs of the Phoenician kings dating back to 1200 BC,  who were contemporaries of the Egyptian Pharohs. Some of the heavy stone sarcophogus have been moved to museums but we ventured down some steep steps to take a look inside the stone tomb of one that was too difficult to move, although its broken edges showed that someone had tried hard to see what treasure might be inside.

Crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

Crusader castle at Byblos in Lebanon

Wandering around the site at Byblos , covered with grass and bougainvillea made me realise what a peaceful place this coastline would have been before Beirut became such a fast growing city, with appartment blocks encroaching up the coast and nibbling at the edges of the town.

A music and cultural festival is held every summer in Byblos and was originally held on this site, but had been moved to a purpose built theatre by the sea to prevent any deterioration of the remains. This is a highlight of the summer in Lebanon as music festivals are held all over Lebanon in the ancient and historical sites such as Bettadine and Baalbek – although my friend who attended an operatic performance  told me that the Lebanese lady in front of her chatted all the way through.

Have you visited Lebanon? If so do share your stories – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

More places to see in Lebanon

Road Block etiquette in Lebanon
Wine tasting stop at Chateau Ksara – in Lebanon
A lacklustre lunch at Pepe’s Byblos Fishing Club – in Lebanon


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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Amila Kanchana
    May 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Lebanan seems a very nice place. Thank you for sharing this info and lovely photos.
    .-= Amila Kanchana´s last blog ..Happy Time At Lake Bolgoda =-.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    May 10, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Wow, what a piece of history finding the origins of the bible and the linear alphabet. I’d love to visit the middle east some time.
    .-= Mark H´s last blog ..The Oldest Bridge in Australia (Richmond, Tasmania) =-.

  • Reply
    Anil
    May 10, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    17 civilizations! That’s incredible and that the city could be lost and just recently found at that is amazing.
    .-= Anil´s last blog ..Interviewed By Life After Cubes And More eBook Reviews =-.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    May 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    How cool! I can’t believe they moved those huge buildings. Plus I love the fact that it was all built on top of each other…talk about piling on!
    .-= Sherry Ott´s last blog ..signs =-.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    May 11, 2010 at 12:53 am

    You had me hooked with the words “crusader castle.” Maybe it’s all the Dan Brown books these days, but I am fascinated by anything that smacks of Knights Templar, etc. Once again, you have me adding Lebanon to my travel list.
    .-= Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels´s last blog ..Blogging Boomer Carnival #161 at Contemporary Retirement =-.

  • Reply
    arlene
    May 15, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Heather, this is so excellent. I got chills watching and reading and thinking about history there. I can imagine what you felt actually being there.

    You are such a gifted travel writer. You should be on your own show. 🙂 I love every one of the pieces that I read here. I wish you would consider visiting the travelblogroll. You would make such a wonderful addition and I am sure the rest of the community could benefit by someone of your caliber and skill. We are at http://www.travelblogroll.com
    .-= arlene´s last blog ..Travel Tip of the Week – Order Out of Chaos =-.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    May 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

    @ Thanks Arlene – I’m heading over to Travelblogroll to join now

  • Reply
    Pierre Bassil
    June 13, 2010 at 7:22 am

    A Big Thanks from:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/JBEIL-BYBLOS/26439386060?ref=sgm

    Best Regards
    Pierre
    .-= Pierre Bassil´s last blog .. =-.

  • Reply
    carlos alvarez
    April 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Heather is it safe to travel to lebanon? I will like so much to see those ruins
    thanks, Carlos

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    April 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    @ Carlos I believe that things are pretty stable politically in Lebanon right now, so it’s a good time to visit, but things can flare up in this part of the world, so just keep your eye on the news and take local advice. I certainly had no problem and had a great trip.

  • Reply
    Anthony
    July 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I love to read history of different places and after read this Lebanon historical places and i love to visit this place..thanks for sharing the valuable information..and please update more information.:)

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