Lebanon’s stand out tourist attraction is the colossal Roman remains at the city of Baalbek, a two-hour mini van ride from Beirut. The journey is easy enough, although it does include a number of security checkpoints given the proximity of the Syrian border, and a relentless pursuit of lung cancer as every passenger chain smokes the whole way, opening the window just a little in order that they can then blow smoke back into the middle of the bus.
A one-night stay in Baalbek is more than enough as once the sun goes down over the Roman temples the quiet sleepy village turns in to a racing track where locals have nothing better to do than speed around bends, hit the handbrake and then wheel spin off again from a standing start. Entertaining stuff – for two minutes – it lasts all night!
That said the temples are absolutely fabulous and according to the world-renowned archaeologist professor specialising in Roman temples, Louise Kirk, is far better then the Acropolis – FACT. It is spectacular – a huge site of towering colonnades, ruined temples (the largest temple in the world if you believe the tourist spiel) and altars that give a real hint into the glories of the Romans and make you shout at the TV whenever you hear the line from Life of Brian: what have the Romans ever done for us?
Also in Baalbek is the largest piece of cut-stone in the world, presumably intended for the temple, but as far as tourist attractions go the huge piece of stone doesn’t do a lot, although the locals have stuck a Lebanese flag in it to make it more photogenic. There’s also some beautiful mosques and an abandoned train station used during the Baalbek heyday.
The photo’s don’t really do the place justice: it’s amazing to wander around the vast complex and feel the history and see all the engravings literally, just scattered about. Definitely glad that we made the effort to travel here, despite so-called security risks: it’s OK mum, we’re safe!!