It was now time to leave Turkey. Some travelers went home at this point, some connected to other trips, and about half of us went on to do the Lebanon extension. I figured that as long as I was over there, I might as well do that. I might never travel that way again. Going through security upon our arrival at the Beirut Airport was a fairly stringent affair. Everyone got the once over, and we were told ahead of time that if we had an Israeli stamp in our passport, we may be denied entry into the country.
Our first night was in Beirut, and as we arrived after dark, there was not much to see. I did take note of the bombed out Holiday Inn that had never been torn down after the civil war ended in 1990. By daylight many abandoned buildings could be seen.
The city had been rebuilt in a very haphazard way after the war. No city planning was in evidence. Before the war started in 1975, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Mediterranean. There were 40 casinos, and many fashion designers held the first showings of their collections there. That time is long past now.
As it turned out, the rest of the country had the same “chop suey” energy as Beirut had. A little of this and a little of that, all thrown together. On our first morning there, we visited the Jeita Grotto, which is a huge cave that has an upper and a lower part. We first walked the upper part to view the fabulous stalactites and stalagmites, and then took a short boat ride on the river that flows through the lower part. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos, but you may find some on the internet. It is worth taking a look.
Then on to the coastal town of Byblos. It goes back at least 7000 years, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a continuously inhabited town for all of that time. The current town itself is just charming,
and the harbor is picture perfect.
The whole area has layers of ruins and old habitations from the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Crusader periods.
After having a huge Lebanese lunch, we toured the ruins. Here is the Crusader castle, which had been destroyed and rebuilt several times.