Day 2 with my driver Mohammed turns out to be my favourite. We are heading inland into the mountains through the Bekaa Valley. My first stop is a morning wine tasting at Chateau Ksara. The winery is modern and efficient and the wines are smart and very cheap by western standards.
The centre piece of the day and arguably in Lebanon is Baalbek home to the best preserved Roman temples in the world. Our visit there starts with the modern built Muslim sacred site the mausoleum shrine of Sayyida Khawala, the great granddaughter of the prophet Mahomed. She is buried here and legend has it that a dead stick was placed in the ground beside her tomb. That has come to life and is a massive tree that the building wraps around. The actual mausoleum is garishly decorated but pretty in a kitsch way.
What disturbed me were the mortar shells all around refashioned with a slot to become a donation box for the terrorist group Hezbollah. A large room behind the mausoleum is similarly appointed to look like a religious shrine but it is packed with artillery, machine guns missile launchers and a big yellow Hezbollah flag. The middle of the room has a pretty little fountain which runs with red coloured water to symbolise the blood of those fighters who have lost their life in war against Israelis. The military propaganda in a supposedly holy place grates with me and, dare I say it it’s a stark complex to the serene peaceful environment around Our Lady of Lebanon statue yesterday.
The Roman ruins here surpass all expectations. They are a massive complex of a number of different temples . They date back to the first century AD and are astonishing in how much remains intact. Enjoy the pictures.
Temple of Jupiter
Temple of Bacchus
Temple of Venus
The afternoon concludes with a drive deep in the eastern Lebanese mountains to see Lebanon’s national symbol. So what does the title of this entry refer to? Have a look.