Byblos is one of the longest continuously inhabited cities of the world. 8000 years ago, the first people build their houses at the shore of the Mediterranean at this spot, and remains of all ages have been found in the ground. That’s the reason why the archeological site of Byblos has received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984. Of course we had to visit Byblos on our Lebanon trip.
An impressive crusader castle
The most eye-catching structure of the vast archaeological site is however the crusader castle built from 1104 onwards. The big stones at the base have been in place here since the crusades. Above, the more delicate arches built with smaller stones in the upper parts are later additions by the Mamluks, who conquered the town in 1289. The informative exhibition inside the castle is definitely worth the visit and from the top of the castle we have a stunning view over the site and the glistening blue sea behind it.
Tombs of Phoenician kings
From the crusaders’ castle we walk back in time along some defence ramps until we reach the Phoenicians, seafaring people who settled in Byblos around 1200 BC. Not much is left of the Phoenicians, except for several tombs of Phoenician kings. Those tombs are not more than a few unimpressive caverns in the ground but we have seen the beautiful Ahiram Sarcophagus at the National Museum in Beirut. Nearby are also the relics of a later Roman theatre. According to the panels, this was originally much larger than what the archaeologists reconstructed after their digging.
Besides the crusader castle, what we found the most impressive structure in Byblos was the so-called „Temple of the Obelisks“. And indeed there were a lot of obelisk-shaped stones grouped together in a courtyard. Archaeologists still don’t the exact function of these stones, the “betyl” or “baetylus stones”. Presumably they were used in religious ceremonies, but some of them had niches where small statues could be placed. We had also seen some of these statues in the National Museum in Beirut.
We found the panels on site with information and pictures about the structures quite interesting. A small exhibition in the castle was also helpful to understand the history of the place. But even without reading much, the extensive area just next to the sea holds a very special atmosphere.
Should you visit Byblos?
Byblos is definitely worth the trip – besides the archaeological site there is a nice harbour front with restaurants and a bazaar where you can spend a few hours. History buffs should visit the National Museum in Beirut before, as many of the finds from Byblos are exhibited there.
How to visit Byblos
Byblos is easily reached on a day-trip from Beirut. As we were travelling around the country for almost 14 days we stayed one night at the Ocean Blue Hotel around 2 km from the historic town right at the beach. It was off-season and they offered a very good deal). On our way into town we chanced upon a small secluded surfer beach with a charming restaurant where we had coffee.
Note: Our trip to Lebanon and Byblos was not sponsored in any way and all the expenses were paid by ourselves.