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Hanging out

Byblos

Lebanon Travel Guide - August 17, 2013, 10h42
 Byblos

The old city of Byblos (known today as Jbeil), is located on the coastline, around 40 km to the north of Beirut. Byblos is one the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world. Its first residents were fishermen whose presence in the city goes back 7000 years ago (i.e. in the Neolithic period). Its early habitats consisted of circular huts surrounded with small pieces of land used to cultivate cereals. Step by step, these huts became houses, sometimes rectangular with stone-made walls and a roof made of trunks and clay mixed with gravel. Back then, Byblos was called Gebal; that was the name it was given in the Old Testament.

As of the fourth century BC, the harbor of Gebal was used for exportations to Egypt: cedar essence, cedar wood (used for Egyptian shipbuilding), resin (for religious practices, especially mummification), as well as wheat, grapes and wine. In return, ships used to come back to Gebal filled with gold objects, linen textiles and papyrus rolls: this is how Egyptian papyrus was distributed in the Mediterranean region. The city became thus the biggest trade seaport in the region. It was as well an important religious site: for example, Egyptian divinities such as Osiris and Isis were venerated there. The relationship with Egypt was translated also by frequent donations from the Pharaohs. Many pieces of Egyptian silverwork were found in the tombs of Gebal kings. Until the tenth century BC, Gebal was a flourishing Phoenician center. It witnessed the invention of the phonetic alphabetical writing which served as a basis for modern alphabets. According to many specialists, this alphabet was definitely constituted in the tenth century (currently, on the parking built in front of the public beach, there is a monument that honors this Phoenician alphabet).

Byblos, Jbeil

The city was then invaded by several populations: Persians, Greeks of Alexander the Great (who called it Byblos), Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Crusades. When these civilizations abandoned Byblos it lost its aura and became a port like any other.

In 1984, the Unesco registered the name of Byblos on the Unesco World Heritage List based on the following criteria: the place « bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared»; it “is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history”; It is « directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.»

Byblos, Jbeil

Things to Be Seen in Byblos
Today, Byblos preserves its historical harbor. This old city is surrounded with walls going back to the medieval period: its walls include antique column shafts (building technique that can be found at the Chateau de la Mer Saint Louis in Sidon). In the city one can visit a church built by the Genoese, a small mosque, a local artisan souk, the crusade chateau, the port and, definitely the antique site: it includes the antique fortifications, a natural well, tombs of Byblos kings among whom Ahiram (in the tomb of Ahiram was discovered the sarcophagi on which is written the most ancient known Phoenician transcription: this sarcophagi dates from the 13th century or the 10th century BC. It is nowadays exhibited in the museum of Beirut). Among the ruins that surround the crusades chateau there are hut remains that go back to the fifth century, the temple of goddess Baalat Gebal, the Lady of Byblos (2700 BC), and an amphitheatre from the Roman period.

What to Do in the Antique Site?
Learn how to write one’s name in Phoenician alphabet: climb the ramparts and admire the sea view and the mountain; have a walk in the fresh air in what remains of the temples and the roman amphitheatre.
And…
Other places to be visited in Byblos: the wax museum where can be found a series of impressive tableaux representing the history and the culture of Lebanon, St. John Church built by the Crusades.

Tags
#Byblos, #CitiesofLebanon, #Heritage, #HistoricalSite
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