Baalbek, where can I start?
No words are enough to describe your colossal beauty and your historical value. You’ve been carrying centuries of heritage on your shoulders, carrying the weight of history in tons of ruins, and carrying Lebanon’s greatness and pride, all alone. You are Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, yet you’ve been left with no one to admire your beauty but seasonal flocks of tourists…
Despite everything, you’re still standing, hoping your glory days will be back. Perhaps you’re also smiling a little bit today, knowing that after long enough, your UNESCO world site heritage is in the spotlight again, and not for its yearly summer festivals this time. This time and for the first time, your world-famous Roman ruins will be home for a first-of-its kind contemporary art exhibition that will attract locals and foreigners alike for a whole month.
The Silent Echo exhibition, organized by French non-profit curatorial platform Studiocur/art, will take place as of tomorrow, September 17, in your archaeological museum, featuring the works of nine local and international artists who aim at reflecting, through art installations, a dialogue between contemporary art and heritage. The exhibition will show how art can stimulate your past, how your heritage can be revived and your culture celebrated, how your outstanding historical value will never fade, and how you can be on the world’s map of contemporary art.
For more info about the event, check more details here.
Visitors of the exhibition will also have free access to the Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus temples during the whole month of the event, till October 17. (Below pictures of the temples and ruins were taken during my last visit to Baalbek).
They can also enjoy Baalbek’s many beautiful landmarks, mainly:
The Palmyra hotel
Built in 1874, Palmyra Hotel is synonym of Baalbek itself. Having hosted famous international icons and Lebanese artists over centuries and witnessed history for many an era, Palmyra is a landmark itself not to be missed in Baalbek. Visit the hotel for a coffee on the terrace, to check its authentic charm and its priceless collection of art pieces, or maybe to enjoy a night in this iconic place.
The Mercury stairs
The Mercury stairs are all what remains from the fourth temple that was dedicated to Mercury. 40 meters long, the immense staircase is located on Sheikh Abdallah hill. Climbing the hill from the side facing the Palmyra hotel offers a breathtaking panoramic view on the town, its Acropolis, and the vast plains of the Bekaa.
The Stone of the Pregnant Woman
The “Stone of the Pregnant Woman” or “Hajar al-Hibla” is the largest ancient carved stone in the world, located on the side of the city’s entrance. The monolith was said to be found in a quarry because it could have been damaged during its transport.
St. Barbara Cathedral
What is nowadays the Saint-Patron of the city of Baalbek used to be a part of the Temple of Venus or the “round temple”. It wasn’t transformed into a church until the Christian era.
The Umayyad Great Mosque
The Great Mosque dates from the Umayyad period (early eight-century) and is located in front of the entrance of the Roman archeological site. It was turned into the St. John Byzantine Church in the 4th-5th century, and incorporates granite and limestone columns taken from the site.
Coffee in the Square
Take the time to walk round the down and enjoy a coffee in one of the many outdoor cafes in the main square of the town.
Don’t miss the famous typical dish of Baalbek, the Sfiha, which is another version of Lahm Baajeen, but made in miniature pies. Delicious!
For more tips on what to do in Baalbek, check Baalbek’s Municipality’s website.
Baalbek, I promise that you will not be deserted this fall, and I hope that your “City of the Sun” will always be shining.