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Lebanon: Baalbeck, City of the Gods

World travelers heading to Lebanon should be sure to visit Baalbeck.

Lebanon: Baalbeck, City of the Gods
Lebanon: Baalbeck, City of the Gods
Sheila OConnor
Lebanon: Baalbeck, City of the Gods
Sheila OConnor

It's not for nothing this city has been called "The City of the Gods." One of the world's most incredible archaeological sites, Baalbeck is situated in the east of Lebanon. The Beqaa plain lies here and it is surrounded by not one, but two, mountain ranges.

It was after the invasion of Alexander the Great that Baalbeck came into its glory. The emperor raised the town to the rank of Helipolis, City of the Sun. And rightly so. The town was to become a major religious site in light of the Roman conquest and the building of major temples there.

And when it comes to temples, there are actually three main ones at Baalbeck. You'll start your visit at the temple of Jupiter which is the biggest one. Building on this temple started during the reign of Emperor Augustus (which also coincides with the start of the Christian period) but it wasn't finished until 50 years later, during the time of Nero.

The temple of Jupiter was originally 88 meters long and 48 meter wide and had 54 columns supporting the structure. Visitors today can see only 6 of those original pillars, but the sheer size of them -- at 22 high and 2 meters wide -- makes them very impressive indeed.

As if this wasn't remarkable enough, you'll be stunned by the Bacchus temple, which has been remarkably preserved due to the Arab fortifications that were constructed around it. These fortifications prevented the temple from being looted and from being ravaged by the elements. The temple was constructed during the 2nd century AD and was attached to the temple of Jupiter. The only access was by means of an imposing staircase and a hefty door that was ornately decorated with mythological deities and nymphs.

Close by you can see the temple of Venus. This temple was constructed in the 3rd century and is unusual in that it was built in a circular shape.

The treasures here at Baalbeck should not be missed. It's not for nothing this site has been named as a world Heritage Site by UNESCO.

San Francisco world travelers can reach Baalbeck by flying in to Beirut via Istanbul. Deals can be found online at www.kayak.com

See here for an article on helping at the Lebanese charity event for hearing-impaired people (including children) with the ALO Foundation: 'So Lebanon Can Hear'.

For a great place to stay while in Beirut, check out this review of the Moevenpick Hotel by National Hotels Examiner, Ramsey Qubein: Room Report: Moevenpick Hotel and Resort Beirut, Lebanon

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