Dusty is the road to glory, full of austerities and compromises. And so the road to Baalbek in a small and overcrowded minibus, towards greatest temple of the Romans, a God himself, reborn as city.
The modern city of Baalbek is more alike the dust that´s floating through the air than the glorious buildings rising next to her. Not ugly, quite charming in a way, but also really boring. Two, maybe three major streets crossing through the town, a small souk provides the people with all necessary products. And the petrol station right before the town is struggling with too small amount of fuel and way too many customers. It´s Lebanon.
The biggest strenght are without any doubt the restaurants and their excellent food. In all of my now three visits to the city, I managed to always eat in different places, different dishes and still have nothing to complain about. Far from that, especially the meat in all its forms is delicious.
The ancient name of the city was Heliopolis, the city of the sun, because there are just so many sunny days a year, over 300. That was one of the reasons the Romans wanted to build this place in such a rural area, far away from the next big cities. Three major temples dominated the area, temples of Jupiter, Bacchus and an unidentified one, often falsely claimed as Venus temple.
The amount of work that were spend into this temple must have been devastating. While the stones were widely brought from the region, the granite had to be imported from Assuan, in southern Egypt. After all the way up the Nile, these some tons heavy blocks had to be transported parallel to the Mediterranean, until the border of today´s Syria. By this, the Lebanon mountains could be bypassed. After reaching the area of Homs, the material had to brought way back south again, until Heliopolis was reached. „Crazy Romans“, how the guide wasn´t tired to repeat time and again.
The biggest stones ever used in buildings can here be found, and the art craftwork is magnificent and was produced in some meters height over the ground. In both cases, modern scientist have no idea how this was possible. A day here leaves one behind with great admiration for this unique civilisation.