WONDERFUL MIDDLE EAST ASIA
Bekáa Valley or Al Biqâ‘, fertile valley in Lebanon and Syria, located about 30 km (about 19 mi) east of Beirut. Bekáa Valley is situated between the Lebanon Mountains to the west and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains to the east. It forms the northeastern most extension of the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from Syria through the Red Sea into Africa. Bekáa Valley is about 120 km (about 75 mi) in length and has an average width of about 16 km (about 10 mi). It has a Mediterranean climate of wet, mild winters and dry, warm summers. The region receives limited rainfall, particularly in the north, because the Lebanon Mountains create a rain shadow that blocks precipitation from the sea. The northern section has an average annual rainfall of 230 mm (9 in), compared to 610 mm (24 in) in the central valley. Two rivers originate in the valley: the Orontes (Asi), which flows north into Syria, and the Lîþânî, which flows south and then west to the Mediterranean Sea.
From the 1st century BC, when the region was under Roman rule, Bekáa Valley served as a source of grain for the Roman province of Syria. Today the valley makes up 40 percent of Lebanon's arable land. The northern end of the valley, with its scarce rainfall and less fertile soils, is used primarily as grazing land by pastoral nomads. Farther south, more fertile soils support crops of wheat, corn, cotton, and vegetables, with vineyards and orchards centered around Zahlah. The valley also produces hashish and cultivates opium poppies, which are exported illegally. Since 1957 the Lîþânî hydroelectric project, a series of canals and a dam located at Al Qir‘awn in the southern end of the valley, has improved irrigation to farms in Bekáa Valley.
Rumah lama di Zahle
houses in Zahle
Fine houses in Zahle
Zahlah is the largest city in Bekáa Valley. It lies just north of the main Beirut-to-Damascus highway, which bisects the valley. Most of Zahlah's residents are Christian Arabs, including Greek Catholics, Maronites, and members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The majority of people in rural areas of the valley, particularly in the north, are Shiite Muslims.
Anjar, an Umayyad site
Roman ruins in Baalbek
The most noted historic site in the valley is Baalbek, an ancient city named for the Canaanite god Baal. Baalbek has impressive Roman ruins, including temples to Bacchus, Jupiter, Venus, and the sun. For many years the ruins were the site of the Baalbek festival, which attracted performance groups from around the world.
Hezbollah patriotic sign
Hezbollah Poster and Flags
More recently Baalbek has been a center of operation for members of the Hezbollah (Party of God), a radical Shiite group that advocates the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon, and the Revolutionary Guards, a powerful military force based in Iran that is involved in enforcing all aspects of Iran's Islamic revolution and extending it to other countries, including Lebanon.
In the Lebanon mountains between the Bekáa valley and Beirut are many houses built by wealthy Arabs, which were abandoned during the war (Creating ghost towns).
Syrian troops have been present in the valley since shortly after the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in 1975. In 1982 the Israeli air force tried unsuccessfully to evict the Syrians by bombing Syrian anti-aircraft missile batteries in the valley.
Byblos, ancient city of Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean Sea, near present-day Beirut, Lebanon. Extensive archaeological investigations, begun in 1921, indicate that Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with remains of civilizations dating from about 5000BC. The city was the principal city of Phoenicia and an important seaport during the 2nd millennium BC, when it exported cedar and other woods to Egypt. The name Byblos, applied by the Greeks to papyrus, which they imported from Byblos, is the source of the word Bible. Gebal was the biblical name for the city; the Book of Ezekiel (see 27:9) mentions the maritime pursuits of its inhabitants. The city of Byblos is now occupied by a Lebanese village called Jubayl.
Church of Saint John Marcus
Crusader castle, built by the Franks in the 12th century
Obelisks from the temple built at the command of Abichemou, king of Byblos in the 19 century B.C.
Roman theatre, reconstructed in 1/3 of original size
The harbor with its fortified tower
ECHMOUN TEMPLE - A Phoenician Temple (The principal God of the city of Sidon and his lover Astarte)
Podium for the Phoenician Gods
Phoenicia, ancient designation of a narrow strip of territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, now largely in modern Lebanon. The territory, about 320 km (about 200 mi) long and from 8 to 25 km (5 to 15 mi) wide, was bounded on the east by the Lebanon Mountains. The southern boundary was Mount Carmel; the northern boundary was generally accepted to be the Eleutherus River, now called the Kabîr, which forms the northern boundary of Lebanon.
Early Phoenician stonework (7th century B.C.)
Although its inhabitants had a homogeneous civilization and considered themselves a single nation, Phoenicia was not a unified state but a group of city-kingdoms, one of which usually dominated the others. The most important of these cities were Simyra, Zarephath (Sarafand), Byblos, Jubeil, Arwad (Rouad), Acco (‘Akko), Sidon (Saydâ), Tripolis (Tripoli), Tyres (Sur), and Berytus (Beirut). The two most dominant were Tyre and Sidon, which alternated as sites of the ruling power.
Hunting scene in carved figures
The Phoenicians, called Sidonians in the Old Testament and Phoenicians by the Greek poet Homer, were Semites, related to the Canaanites of ancient Palestine. Historical research indicates that they founded their first settlements on the Mediterranean coast about 2500BC. Early in their history, they developed under the influence of the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures of nearby Babylon. About 1800BC Egypt, which was then beginning to acquire an empire in the Middle East, invaded and took control of Phoenicia, holding it until about 1400BC. The raids of the Hittites against Egyptian territory gave the Phoenician cities an opportunity to revolt, and by 1100BC they were independent of Egypt.
With self-rule, the Phoenicians became the most notable traders and sailors of the ancient world. The fleets of the coast cities traveled throughout the Mediterranean and even into the Atlantic Ocean, and other nations competed to employ Phoenician ships and crews in their navies. In connection with their maritime trade the city-kingdoms founded many colonies, notably Utica and Carthage in north Africa, on the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and Tarshish in southern Spain. Tyre was the leader of the Phoenician cities before they were subjugated, once again, by Assyria during the 8th century BC. When Assyria fell during the late 7th century BC, Phoenicia, except for Tyre, which succeeded in maintaining its independence until about 538BC, was incorporated into the Chaldean Empire of Nebuchadnezzar II and, in 539BC, became part of the Persian Empire. Under Persian rule Sidon became the leading city of Phoenicia.
Throne of Astarte
Alexander the Great of Macedonia invaded Asia and defeated Persia in 333BC,
Sidon, Arwad, and Byblos capitulated to Macedonia. Tyre again refused to submit,
and it took Alexander a 7-month siege in 332BC to capture the city. After this
defeat the Phoenicians gradually lost their separate identity as they were
absorbed into the Greco-Macedonian empire. The cities became Hellenized, and, in
64 BC, even the name of Phoenicia disappeared, when the territory was made part
of the Roman province of Syria.
The most important Phoenician contribution to civilization was the alphabet. Purple dye, called Tyrian purple, and the invention of glass, are also ascribed to the Phoenicians. Their industries, particularly the manufacture of textiles and dyes, metalworking, and glassmaking, were notable in the ancient world, and Phoenician cities were famous for their pantheistic religion. Each city had its special deity, usually known as its Baal, or lord, and in all cities the temple was the center of civil and social life. The most important Phoenician deity was Astarte.
The valley, Lebanon mountains in the background
Town of Bcharré
Khalil Gibran, local artist
Even though most of his work was done in the U.S., the town has a museum of his works
Convent of Saint Anthony of Kozhaya
The church built into the hillside
Bible written in Siriac, an old church language, used during the Ottoman times for secrecy
GOD IS THE LORD WHO DOES MIRACLES
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