Deep in the Bekaa Valley in northeast Lebanon near the Syrian border lies a very well preserved example of Roman civilization, Baalbeck or Heliopolis (as the Romans called it – Sun City) which was the site of massive temples dedicated to the gods Jupiter and Bacchus and date back to the 2nd century AD. The Roman city survived countless (including recent) wars and occupations to continue standing for nigh on 2000 years.
Baalbeck is Lebanon’s shining glory of Roman heritage and home to the best kept temples this side of the Colosseum.
Wall of Fame
Baalbeck’s International Festival, the Middle East eldest and most prestigious music festival, brought to the city the greatest celebrities.
During Lebanon’s golden age – the two decades leading up to 1975 – great artists performed in Baalbeck such as American trumpeter Miles Davis, folk singer Joan Baez and queen of jazz Ella Fitzgerald play against the stunning backdrop of the Roman temples.
The city has also witnessed the memorable performances of Arab-nation-loved icons: Fairouz and Oum Koulthoum.
Lebanon’s 15-year civil war brought everything to a halt in 1975, and it was only in 1997 that the festival was revived. The annual spectacle has been clawing back its prestige ever since, attracting big artists like Sting in 2001, Massive Attack in 2004, and Phil Collins in 2005.
Other attractions of the city, like its iconic Palmyra hotel has also hosted big names of history, like Nina Simone, and late French president Charles de Gaulle.
Baalbeck’s known for its generosity. Whether on household’ tables or restaurant ones, the diversity of Lebanese and Baalbaki culinary art is mouthwatering.
Besides the diverse Lebanese dishes and mezze offered by almost all restaurants in Baalbeck, the local specialties to try are:
– Sfiha: Miniature Minced Lamb Pies.
– Kishk: Dairy product/dish based on a fermented mixture of grain and yoghurt or fermented milk.
– Makdous: Eggplants stuffed with walnuts, peppers, soaked in olive oil.
– Tanoor bread.
– Nammoura Bel Ashta: Lebanese Semolina Cake with cream.
Baalbeck is a touristic city, used to welcoming tourists from across the globe, particularly during summertime. People are friendly and helpful. Most local shopkeepers can speak enough English. Prices in restaurants and boutiques are generally correct, despite high tourism.
– Baalbeck’s old souk (for Lebanese souvenirs, jewelry, metalwork, ceramics and clothing).
– Ras el Ein Public Garden
– The old Mosque
– The old Church of Baalbeck
– Al Habli Stone
– Al Jawhari Sweets
– Al Lakiss Dairy and Sfiha
– Mountain House Cafe and Restaurant