Saturday, August 13, 2005

Out of the frying pan ..... into the fire!

 Resistance Martyr

Here we go again.....Beginning to hate internet cafes in Lebanon as they keep on making one lose one's work..... conking out just vas one is saving one's work...Oh well... here we go again...We have left the frying pan of Christian extremism and arrived into the fire of Muslim martyrs.... pictures of them line the street outside this cafe. All in military fatigues, fronted by red tulips, a picture of Al-Aksa Mosque on their right shoulder, a full moon on their left hand side. One after the other, all looked over by the banded head of the national Hezbollah leader....

We are in Ba'albek. Heliopolis. Sun City. Hot. High in the Bekaa Valley at 1,750 feet between the Mt Lebanon Range and the Anti-Lebanon Range, towards Syria.

Lebanon - Lion's head, Temple of Venus, Ba'albek

Outpost of pagans, long after the others had been bullied in to Christianity.. in fact they almost missed out on Christianity altogether as the Muslims moved in shortly afterwards. In the meantime, they were having great fun honouring Venus/Astarte and Bacchus with wine and sex parties in the biggest temples ever built by the Romans. No wonder the Syrian monks and saints on their pillars didn't make much impact!

The temples are still here, the Temple of Venus, still virtually intact and make for the most popular site in Lebanon. They are SO BIG, some of the biggest man-made monuments even to this day, with 1,000 ton slabs of stone and others 400 tons and soem columns rising to 50 metres above ground level. Of course, the archeaologists have NO idea of how these stones were moved. We could only do it now with specially built machinery, if we would try.

Not only big, they are also very beautiful, especially being so complete (also the Temple of Jupiter/Baal is very well preserved). We checked into a tatty guest house right opposite the ruins, so we will have a good view of the concert later this evening.Atrtached to the site are two museums... the official archeaological museum, in an old Muslim building, with many sarcophafi recovered from the local necropoli... and then an unofficial museum of resitance, with very different figures from the ones we had seen in Bcharre... these ones all being Muslim, and resitance fighters in the war against the Israeli invaders in the south of the country, showing the seven occupied villages, paraphernalia from the dead miliatry heoes and also weapons captured from the Israelis. There were many wars going on during 'the Civil War' and they are all rememberd in different ways.

at the summit

But first, we had to come over the Mount Lebanon Range, with Tony the taxi man who came to collect us at 8.30, as agreed. We reached up top almost 3,000 metres high, as high as I think I have ever been, as we passed over the range, leaving behind views of the Qadisha Valley behind us, snow above us, near the peak of what is locally referred to as the Black Mountain, the tallest peak in Lebanon. Over the other side, facing towards the sun in the east, were some foothills, which turned out to still be Christian, then a wide flat plain of the Bekaa and then the anti-Lebanon mountain range taking us to the Syrian border.We stopped here and there for photos, in a local village with its Maronite priest and by a potato field full of Palestinians digging up the largest potatoes one has ever seen. One of the guys made it clear to us that it was not so long ago that they were harvesting hash, in the opposite field. It had to be dug up quickly before the government inspectors came. Officially, Lebanon is not supposed to grow hash anymore, as this annoys its US and French backers alot. Anyway, it was a colourful site and we managed to chat to a few a take a few photos before moving on to Ba'albek, where we finally had to say goodbye to our last Bcharre Tony.

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