The City of Byblos, Lebanon – the Pearl of Phoenicia

The oldest city in the world

The oldest city in the ancient world was considered to be Byblos. My walk through it was short but interesting. First I visited the archaeological park, where you can see the ruins of different eras, touch the stones that remember the contemporaries of the biblical prophets.

The most remarkable monument on the site of the archaeological excavations is the Crusader Castle. The site where it stands was originally an earlier fortification dating from the Fatimid period (969-1169).

In the early 12th century the Franks built a mighty fortress here which they used much of the old Roman masonry. During the Mameluk and Ottoman periods the castle was also used for its intended purpose, and some parts of it were rebuilt.

This temple was built in the 3rd millennium B.C. It was burned during the Amorite occupation and then rebuilt. Reshef is the god of fire and lightning, the destroyer who sends pestilence. Sometimes he appears as the god of war, the patron of weapons. The temple was an open-air site.

The Roman theater and the nine royal tombs

On the edge of the cliff above the sea there is a Roman theater dating from 218 AD. The theater was reconstructed smaller, but only 5 rows of the amphitheater were preserved. The mosaic of Bacchus, the god Bacchus, in the center of the theatre, is now in the National Museum in Beirut. Near the theater in the rock found 9 vertical wells that were the tombs of Phoenician kings.

Such wells-graves have not been found anywhere else. However attempts to protect them from plunder proved fruitless – all of them were opened by treasure hunters.

The most important tomb is that of King Hiram (1200 BC) who was a contemporary of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II. His sarcophagus bears one of the earliest known inscriptions in Phoenician alphabet, it reads “Warning. Your death is below.” Hiram’s sarcophagus is now the main exhibit of the National Museum.

Temple of Balaat Gebal

This is the oldest temple in Byblos. It dates back to the 4th millennium BC. The temple was dedicated to the “Mistress of Byblos”, the patron goddess of the city for more than two millennia during the Canaanite-Phoenician era. She was depicted sitting on a throne, dressed in Egyptian clothing, with horns on her head. Like Astarte, she may have been immortalized in the form of a sacred betil, a conical shaped stone.

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The temple of Baalat Gebal underwent repeated rebuilding after it was destroyed by fire during the Amorite period. A few centuries later the site was razed to the ground and a new sanctuary was erected there. Later the temple became a symbol of the close relationship between Egypt and Byblos. Numerous alabaster fragments of sacrificial vases – many with the names of Old Kingdom pharaohs – were discovered here. Today you can see these findings in the National Museum of Beirut (I managed to visit the museum just before my flight and took almost all the large exhibits).

The base of Byblos’ historic quarter is a small harbor. It seems hard to believe that this peaceful little harbor was once the nerve center of world trade, but it was from this small port that the Lebanese cedar and other timber for which Byblos was famous was shipped to the capitals of the ancient world. A number of archaeologists believe, however, that it was probably used by the Phoenicians only for fishing and not for trade. The depth of the present harbor is not deep enough to accommodate the large ships that were used for sea trade by the Phoenicians.

After the archaeological park, I continued my walk just inside this harbor. I just walked along the sea, observing the locals.

If you have enough time, you can relax on the beaches of Byblos, which are considered some of the best in Lebanon.

And now a brief information about the city in general.

Byblos is the Biblical city of Gebal (Goubla), an ancient Phoenician city located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, 32 km from Beirut, the current capital of Lebanon. At present the ancient site of Byblos is occupied by the Arab city of Jebeil.

In the ancient world Byblos was the largest center of the papyrus trade, which was shipped from Egypt and competed with the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. The Greek words “biblos” (papyrus) and “biblia” (book) come from the name Byblos.

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It was famous for the temples of Baal, later known as a place of worship of the god Adonis, which later spread to Greece. According to the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians it was in Byblos where Isis found the body of Osiris in a wooden box.

In Byblos were found the inscriptions composed by a special, presumably syllabic “linear writing” (protobiblical writing). The writing contains about 100 characters. This writing was much simpler than the Akkadian cuneiform and the Egyptian hieroglyphics, but it had no word divisions, which made reading very difficult.

Proto-Biblical script was probably used in the 2nd millennium BC. Until now none of the proposed decipherments (Maurice Dunant, Edouard Dorme, etc.) has been recognized by the majority of linguists. Very few inscriptions make deciphering difficult, and the forms of signs cannot be associated with any of the known writing systems of the Ancient world. Source Wikipedia, plus some of the information I took from the paradiseservice website

Below is some information that may come in handy when planning a trip to a particular country. I, for example, being in Lebanon, did not know that the list of the oldest cities in the world includes the city of Tyre and Sidon. It would have been an excuse to visit them.

This is a list of cities that have remained continuously inhabited from ancient times until today. Their true age is usually a matter of debate, as there can be conflicting points of view due to the difference in the definition of a city. Several cities on this list claim to be the oldest: Jericho, Damascus, and Byblos. For the most part, these cities have been continuously inhabited since the Copper Age, although urban settlements existed on their territory during the Neolithic period as well.

I give only the name of the city and the location. The details, if you wish, can be found on Wikipedia. Jericho – West Bank Damascus – Syria Byblos – Lebanon Souza – Khuzestan, Iran Sidon – Lebanon Fayyum (Greek: Crocodilopolis – Egypt. crocodile – Egypt Plovdiv – Bulgaria Gaziantep – Turkey Beirut – Lebanon Jerusalem – West Bank – Israel Tyre – Lebanon Erbil – Kurdistan, Iraq Kirkuk (Arrafa) – Iraq Jaffa – Israel Aleppo – Syria Mantua – Lombardy, Italy Balkh (Backtra) – Afghanistan Thebes – Boeotia, Greece Athens – Attica, Greece

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Of this list, I’ve only been to four cities so far. How many have you visited? Write it down, it’s interesting.

Jebeil

Jebeil

Jebeil (Jubeil, Byblos, Byblos) is a Lebanese city with a rich history, beautiful nature and unusual atmosphere. In ancient times, it was considered one of the major ports through which was an active trade with the Egyptian state and ancient Greece. Today, Jebeil is a portal of sorts, which, with its many ancient ruins, transports travelers to the streets of the ancient Phoenician port.

Geography and Climate of Jebeil

The city is at least 6,000 years old, during which time its name has changed several times. Because of this, many tourists are still confused as to where Beble is located. The modern city is located in western Lebanon less than 40 km from Beirut. It serves as the administrative center of the district of the same name, which is part of the province of Lebanon’s mountains.

Like the capital of the country, Byblos is located in a Mediterranean climate zone. It is characterized by mild rainy winters and hot dry summers. The maximum temperature (+40.4 ° C) is registered here in July, the minimum (+0.2 ° C) – in March. January is the wettest month in Byblos, while July is the driest.

Geography and Climate of Jebeil

History of Jebeil

According to archaeological data, the city was founded in the 4th millennium BC. It is located on a hill surrounded by two bays, fertile valleys and mountains covered with forests. It was first inhabited in the early Neolithic period. The Phoenicians who later settled in Byblos walled it and built two temples. This is where its history began.

In the early 3rd millennium BC Byblos became a center of cooperation with Egypt. It was from here that the Nile valley was supplied with timber, resin, lapis lazuli, and copper. However, with the decline of Egypt these contacts ceased. By the early 2nd millennium BC, Byblos had again become a Phoenician center of maritime trade. By the end of the same millennium it had again succeeded in establishing cooperation with Egypt. In the middle of the 8th century BC the city was subjected to the Assyrian invaders. It was then ruled in turn by Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids and the Roman general Gnaeus Pompey, who executed the last ruler of Byblos. In 1918 the town was occupied by the French who ruled here until Lebanon regained independence in 1943.

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History of Jebeil

The sights and attractions of Jebeil

Travelers choose this city either for its ancient ruins or its snow-white beaches. The center of beach recreation in Byblos is the main bay, the boundaries of which are marked by two watchtowers. Here you can not only lie on the warm sand “blanket”, but also to sign up for boat trips or deep sea diving.

In addition to the beach and the picturesque promenade, the attractions of Byblos are:

  • The necropolis of the kings of Byblos, built in the 19th century B.C;
  • a temple with obelisks, dating back to 1900 BC;
  • Byblos Castle, built in the 12th century;
  • St. John’s Church of the XII c;
  • an amphitheater established in 218 BC;
  • the ruins of the 12th century fortress wall;
  • the columns that once adorned the Roman street;
  • Monastery of St. Maron, located on a hill 90 meters above the ground;
  • Mashgara National Park.

At the end of summer, the city hosts the Byblos Festival, curated by the Lebanese president himself and the UNESCO organization. During this time, the people of Byblos come out for mass festivities, attend exhibitions, fashion shows and fishing competitions. The younger guests of the festival are entertained with clowning.

Sites and Activities in Djebeil

Jebeil Hotels

The small Lebanese city attracts lovers of ancient architecture and history. For them, there are about four dozen hotels of different levels of stardom and comfort in Byblos. The most popular of them are:

  • Byblos Sur Mer;
  • Ahiram;
  • L’Hotel de mon Pere;
  • Maximus;
  • Monoberge.

They offer guests a standard set of services – free parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast and comfortable rooms decorated in oriental style. The hotels in Byblos, Lebanon, cost from $50.

Jebeil Hotels

Restaurants in Jebeil

Thanks to its favorable geographical location and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, the city boasts an interesting and varied cuisine. Its formation was also influenced by strong trade relations with Egypt, Greece, France and a number of other countries. You can evaluate this variety in the following restaurants of the city of Beble:

  • Pearl Island;
  • Malena;
  • A la Granda;
  • Adonai Le Petit;
  • Dar L’Azrak.
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These and other establishments offer an assortment of European and international, Mediterranean, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, Asian and Lebanese cuisines.

Djebeil Restaurants

Shopping in Jebeil

As in any eastern city, the center of local commerce is the traditional market. There is a wide variety of carpets, fabrics, jewelry, spices, incense, and other goods. For the classicist shopper, you can visit the shopping malls in Byblos:

  • Antoine Saliba;
  • Miky’s Accessories;
  • La Gare;
  • Byblos Vapes;
  • Outlet Jbeil.

Here you can buy jewelry, accessories, souvenirs, items of world brands and essentials.

Shopping in Djebeil

Transportation in Jbeil.

Despite its extensive trade connections, the city cannot boast of a developed transport infrastructure. Route 51M passes through Beebele, which connects it to the capital and major cities in the country. There is no airport of its own. Also there is no developed rail transport. In the area of the waterfront is a port for small ships, where you can rent a boat for a walk. Within the city of Jebeil is easier to move on foot, by bike or by rented car.

Jebeil Transport

How to get to Jebeil?

The city is located in western Lebanon on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The map shows that Beirut is separated from Beirut by about 38 km so it is not very difficult to reach it. There are no airplanes or trains in this part of the country. But there is an established car connection between the cities. If you drive north on road 51M it won’t take you more than 40 minutes to get to Byblos from Lebanon’s capital.

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