It is not difficult to find your way to the archeological site: just walk to the Crusader Castle, which is the highest building in the area. After paying the ´foreigners´ entrance fee of 8000 LBP (4 EUR), I started the long circuit of the complex. Paths lead to all corners of the site, with information boards in English, French and Arabic to explain what once was here. The origins of Byblos lie in the neolotihic and chalcolithic, so remains of this period are limited. Better preserved is the Roman heritage: a small theatre at a splendid location overlooking the sea, and a row of columns along a former Roman road. At the far end of the complex lies the Temple of the Obelisks, an Egyptian/Phoenician construction. A group of obelisks still is standing upright, which makes it look like a cemetery.
My walk ended at the Castle – the first Crusader Castle I have ever been to. I admired its sturdy construction. Inside a museum covers two of its floors. The best pieces that were found in Byblos are shown in the Lebanese National Museum however: the sarcophagus with the first Phoenician writing, the colossal Egyptian-looking Bronze Age statue that dominates the main hall, the little delicate, flat bronze statues that were used as votive offerings.
I spent about 1.5 hours on site, and enjoyed walking around it slowly. It was the busiest tourist site I have visited so far in Lebanon: there were about 30-40 other people, most of them in small tour groups. Before taking the bus back to Beirut, I had another good Lebanese lunch at Fenicia restaurant near the souk.
Byblos is apparently/claims to be the “oldest continuously inhabited town in the world”. The “idea” is however more impressive than the reality. It is a pleasant enough town with bustling little harbour overlooked by the remains of a crusader castle (photo) – much like many a small town around the Mediterranean. On the hill by the castle there is an archaeological site with a range of ruins from Roman times going back to Bronze Age and Neolithic but in all honesty there is not a lot to see. If you have made it to Lebanon however you should go up there – it is an easy trip out of Beirut either as part of a circuit up to the Cedars of Lebanon or as a return trip. It is all very relaxed and there are some good restaurants and pleasant cafes.
Date posted: June 2005
Have you been to Byblos? Share your experiences!