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Ticket to Baalbek

19 March, 2013

The Author has kept this slip of paper, the admission ticket for the Roman ruins in Baalbek, Lebanon, for the past five year.  She saved it more as a reminder of the experience than to have an interesting bit of ephemera.


Baalbek has some of the most incredible Roman ruins the Author has ever seen in person or in photograph.  There are 4 temples, one of which, the Temple of Bacchus, is almost entirely intact.  In its prime, it was one of the most extravagant temples in the Roman Empire.  The ceiling is particularly impressive and the Reader is invited to admire it here and here.  Unfortunately, the Author’s street-market-purchased disposable camera yielded predictably disappointing results so she must rely on others to capture the sights.

The temples are astonishing, but perhaps the best part about the Baalbek ruins is the fact that it was almost entirely empty: no security guards, few other tourists.  One would certainly never find that in Rome, Ephesus or Pompeii.  The Author and her friends had free reign over the entire site and took advantage of it by running around and climbing to the top of the sacrifice platform, where one has a wonderful view of the ruins—as well as a good idea of what it would have been like to be one of the women who was thrown from the sacrificial tower.  How jolly.


The sacrifice platform (Photo credit to LW)


View from the sacrifice platform (Photo credit to LW)

Baalbek is also noteworthy because it is a Hezbollah stronghold. The Hezbollah flag is flown throughout the town and men waving green and yellow Hezbollah t-shirts for sale run up to tourists. Driving along the road leading into Baalbek, the Author’s taxi driver pointed out the hovels in which Palestinian refuges live. Hezbollah banners depicting the Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were on every street. There was an Israeli tank in the center of the main road: a monument to the most recent war between Israel and Lebanon. The driver, who was from Baalbek, said he didn’t like Hezbollah, firstly because he’s a Sunni (a minority in Lebanon) and secondly because he thinks Hezbollah is disruptive and destructive.

For other Baalbek memories, please recall Kids, Guns and Coca-Cola.

*footnote: the Author went to Baalbek in November 2008, so times might have changed in regard to the ruins, souvenirs and Hezbollah-ness. Also, the Author is aware that some will not approve of what could be perceived as a lack of respect for the ruins. Aware of the charge, but not repentant.

Some more photographs of the ruins at Baalbek. All photo credits go to LW. The Author neglected to bring a camera to Lebanon and had only a crummy street-purchased disposable.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. donnahardees permalink
    19 March, 2013 4:32 pm

    An especially fascinating and evocative post. This Reader feels she was there (and knows she will, most likely, only ever experience Baalbek vicariously through this blog). Thank you, D.O.

  2. Charlotte Lancaster permalink
    19 March, 2013 7:45 pm

    That was SO interesting!  I never heard of Baalbek. And it gave me the shivers to see the children playing with their guns.

    Love,  Gama

  3. Diligent Reader permalink
    20 March, 2013 1:25 pm

    Such interesting layers of history in Baalbek.

    The Diligent Reader likes this attitude: Also, the Author is aware that some will not approve of what could be perceived as a lack of respect for the ruins. Aware of the charge, but not repentant.

    Does the D.O. happen to know why women were tossed / fell / jumped from the sacrificial tower? This Reader was under the impression that Dionysian sacrifices usually turned out badly for the young man caught observing, but this information is based entirely on her experience watching Euripides’s Bacchae performed by Ancient History students in the Yarnall auditorium in the early part of this century. There may be additional scholarship beyond the 10th grade history curriculum. She is interested to know more but there is no need for the D.O. to do any research on the subject.

  4. 21 March, 2013 1:12 pm

    My source for the sacrificial tower info comes from the guidebook we used–which guidebook, I don’t recall! I really must get better at recording details!

    Re: Dionysian ceremonies–Pentheus certainly met a violent end! It often turns out poorly for peeping Toms. Actaeon, for example, who was turned into a stag by Artemis for watching her bathing naked. When he was turned into a stay, his own dogs attacked and killed him.

    Speaking of unpleasant moments for men, devotees of Cybele danced around a fire and worked themselves into a frenzy in the ceremonies devoted to her. The excitement culminated in self-castration. Oh my.

    Thank you, Donna and Gama, for your comments!

    I worry that I’ll never be able to return to many of the sites I visited in Lebanon and Syria–especially Syria, of course. Krak des Chevaliers in Syria is a fantastic fascinating 12th Century crusader castle. It became a mosque after the crusaders were defeated in the 13th Century, but you can still see the many crosses carved into the stone by the crusaders. I read that the Syrian army has shelled Krak, badly damaging it parts of it.

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