Baalbeck is a historical town located east of the Litani River in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon. The town that was known as Helipolis during ancient times has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area contains a lot of historical buildings were built by the Phoenicians, the Romans, and other civilizations that had occupied the area over the course of the last few millennia. Visitors can find many interesting places to visit and things to do in Baalbeck.
Perhaps one of Lebanon’s most prized Roman treasure is none other than Baalbeck. It has one of the largest Roman temples that seem to have stood the test of time quite well. People today can visit Baalbeck and experience firsthand the nobleness of these temples. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Baalbeck is to go on tour of all the grand temples present here. Amongst the places to visit in Baalbeck, you should definitely visit the Great Temple. Also known as The Jupiter Temple, it has a lot of spots worth exploring. In fact, one of the first things that you will see when you first visit the Baalbeck is the six Corinthian columns. These columns are actually of the Great Temple. Your list of things to do in Baalbeck should also include visiting the Temple of Bacchus or ‘The Little Temple’. The public cult of the Heliopolitan Triad had the Great Temple dedicated to them, whereas the Little Temple was dedicated to a rather mysterious cult which worshipped a young god of Baalbeck. It is said that this god was associated with growth and all those who followed him and stayed faithful, were promised regeneration and eternal life. Tourists having an inclination towards mythology will have the time of their life roaming about these temples. One of the important things to do in Baalbeck would be to hire an official guide who would accompany you and tell you all about the temples and the histories and myths associated with them.
Other things to do in Baalbeck include visiting the Hajar al Hibra which is considered to be one of the largest blocks of stone which has been cut by hand. Upon looking at the stone closely you will get to marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship of the people who built all the temples that you just toured. What makes this place as one of the definite places to visit in Baalbeck is the fact that there is a shop and a café nearby so you can browse for some souvenirs or rejuvenate over a cup of coffee before you carry on exploring the place further. If you are looking for more things to do in Baalbeck, visit the Great Mosque which was built in the 7th century. The mosque is serene and beautiful and there is even an ablution fountain which people can use, if they want to pray at the mosque.
It is one of the best preserved temples in the Roman world, and was constructed during the first half of the 2nd century AD. Carvings of grapes and poppies on the main entrance of the temple indicate that worshipers used wine and opium in their cult. Some Bacchic scenes were also carved and suggest the dedication of this temple to Bacchus, equivalent to a local growth and regeneration deity. It is a peripteral temple with a 42 column peristyle surrounding the cella.
One of the things to in Baalbek is to admire The columns that support an entablature connected to the wall of the cella by enormous slightly curved flagstones which form a richly decorated coffered ceiling. Part of the ceiling, which collapsed on the ground, carries the relief of a snake biting Cleopatra. The gate, in its turn, is regarded as one of the most beautiful gates of the Roman world for its delicate decoration. A Mamluk tower on the south-eastern angle of the Temple of Bacchus acted as residence to the governor of the citadel, and behind the strengthened wall and the temple of Bacchus we can see a Ayoubide mosque.
The archeologists agree to allot the large Temple to Jupiter Hadad. This temple of the Sun, which was built under the reign of the Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) covered an area of 88 by 48 meter and was built on a podium of 7 meters height above the great court and 13 meters above the surrounding terrain. This podium named 'Trilithon' is made of three huge hewn stones each weighing 1000 tons. Only six of the 54 external columns remain standing nowadays, the others lie in fragments on the ground.
The columns supported an architrave, decorated with a frieze of bulls and lions heads connected to each other by garlands. In the middle of the courtyard stands the naos which held the divinity's statue. One of the things to do in Baalbeck is to experience the whole point behind the building of such extravagant temples as it was thought that giants did the job, due to the wonder of a massive construction. The Romans tried to influence the Christianity threat by building this temple resembling the power and the gods of the Roman Empire
There is a Propylaea, a monumental gateway to the hexagonal court, built during the first half of the 3rd century. This open ceiling court of 50 meters wide was surrounded by 30 columns. One of the things to do in Baalbeck is to grasp the idea behind the Four rectangular exedras, richly decorated by alcoves in a refined shell or square form sheltered the most outstanding divinities of the empire. Between the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th, the Hexagonal Court was transformed into a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The current situation gives only a partial idea of the antique magnificence of the place. As per the Archaeological Institute of America recent research implies that it was the finest classical achievement of an axial plan that we till this day are aware of. Going there and discovering the axial plan on foot and maybe imagining an exile plan! Or maybe a true game of hide and seek with your traveling companions! would be one of the fun things to do in Baalbeck.
At the southern entrance of the city of Baalbeck, the City of the Sun; lies one of the most important quarries of the region. Its stones were well appreciated by the Romans and used to build their monuments, especially the temples. The largest hewn stone of the quarry is the "Stone of the Pregnant woman". This huge stone is similar to the three huge stones that form the base of the Jupiter temple. It's dimensions are 21.7m by 4.8 m by 4.2 m, a volume of 500 m3 and weighs about 1000 tons.
The stone of the South as others call it as well is not just one of the things to do in Baalbeck, a monolith Is not just a massive stone! It was intended to be part of a future trilithon to extend the Roman temple. Other than the existing history that would leave you wondering how and why; the challenge of imagining what could’ve been is one of the things to do in Baalbeck and the Stone of the Pregnant woman similar to other monoliths discovered later are the puzzle pieces still lying there.
Created back in 1955, the Baalbeck Festival is considered one of the oldest celebrations in Lebanon’s history and a prestigious event in the Middle East. The festival comprises of several music programs which include jazz, opera, classical songs as well as song and dance. The main mission is to celebrate artistic endeavor with an exciting celebration amidst unstable geopolitical environments and bring the people of the Lebanon together. Tourists flock to the town just to take part in it which was one of the aims of President Chamoun when he first proposed it.
The festival came to a stop during the Lebanese Civil War but it was continued once it was over. Renamed the Baalbeck International Festival, the event is a main cultural activity in the country and attracts people from across the globe to Baalbeck which is located in the Beqaa Valley in the country. It is held each year in July and August in the Roman Acropolis so if you want to take part in the festivities, best plan your trip in those months. Bring the family along and make memories along the way. The event will not disappoint since it will give you a unique look at the Lebanese way of life.