Before it was called Phoenicia and Byblos, it was known as “Gabal,” and the area throughout the coast was known as Canaan. Byblos means papyrus, and the Greeks called it that because the commerce of papyrus was elemental in the trade activity. Besides that, Byblos is one of the most ancients’ cities in the world and a hot spot for historians and archeologist due to the extensive material and information discovered through excavations.
Byblos is Located north of Beirut on the Mediterranean Sea. While some historians have dated it back to at least 7000 years ago, no one knows its exact age.
Around 1107 AD, the Crusaders destroyed much of the land as they gathered stone and granite to build their castles. Once they left, however, peace came to the town and it became a fishing village.
Today Byblos is a contrast of fanciful, modern buildings and the beachfront antique gem, the Castle of Gibelet, which was a leftover from the multiple creations the crusaders put together. From the castle one can hear the Athan (call for pray for Muslims) and observe multiple churches and mosques.
They say summer is the best time for tourists to visit Byblos, but I found it too hot and too humid, almost insufferable (and remember, I am a costeña—a woman raised in the Caribbean coast under the sun and heat).
The castle appears to be one of a few left from the past. In front of it the Mediterranean glimmers under the shine of the sun. However, behind it, a modern city opposes the remnants of the old generations.
Surrounding the castle there are a lot of informal shops, restaurants, cafes, and ice cream stores. The shops offer traditional Lebanese clothes, overpriced gold, and objects typical from the area. The cafes offer a great variety of brewed coffee. Yet, I always order Lebanese coffee, which is a coffee bean from Brazil that is ground into powder with cardamom. It’s like a shot of espresso with Middle Eastern essence.
During this trip I realized that tourists often think all the stores in Byblos are ready to bargain. But, some stores do not like the bargaining; so, one must know where to go. For example, small stores in little alleys that place their merchandise outside are good places to bargain. The big air-conditioned shops, instead, have set prices and get offended if one tried to get a better deal than the stablished on the tag.
Lebanon is a tiny country and I will be traveling all around it. For instance, I will be in Harissa tomorrow, where Our Lady of Lebanon resides.
There is something about the smell of the Lebanese breeze that embraces me. I have not figured it out yet, but I think it’s the memories I have of this country. If you come to Lebanon, Byblos is a site you do not want to miss—at least for a day. It is a lot of fun and portraits very clear where all this people’s traditions come from.
I will be in Harissa tomorrow. Until then, enjoy the pics.