Saturday, August 1, 2009

Christus est Dominus, Allahu Akbar, let's build a castle and fight about it, Part 1

Byblos (Jbeil) is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, according to some accounts. It is said to be founded in 5000 BC by the Phoenicians, who so graciously gave us this thing we call an alphabet. They actually called the city Gebal. It was the Greeks who gave it the name Byblos and for some reason us Westerners still call it that even though its official name is Jbeil.

While the castle itself is not so big, the entire area of ruins of the medieval city is pretty extensive, and it was fun to walk on the paths between tall grass full of geckos and birds I've never seen. I wondered if snakes could be in the grass. I didn't know if there were poisonous snakes in Lebanon but I knew they had them in Egypt and later I found out that Lebanon does indeed have vipers and in fact they are called Levant vipers. They also have Palestinian vipers, puff adders, and saw-scaled vipers. Leave it to me to think of something irrational to be afraid of. I was glad I didn't have on shorts despite it being ninety something and my clothes being soaked. There probably aren't even any snakes in such a touristed area but I heard something in the brush (that turned out to be a gecko) and my life flashed before my eyes. Of course, I'm not afraid of war breaking out in Beirut or walking past militia buildings with M-16 wielding men or wandering narrow streets in unfamiliar neighborhoods and I had no problem darting across roads in the insanity of Lebanese traffic, but when it comes to animals or airplanes, those things freak me out.

In addition to the castle, part of which is shown here to the left, the grounds holds two temples, one called the L Temple because it was an L shaped temple and the other called the Obelisk Temple because it has obelisks. Creative. There's also a place that was used for nymph worship. All of these predate the castle by thousands of years. The whole area is one archaeological site on top of another. I'm not sure there's a country on the planet that has been controlled by more rulers than Lebanon. One group would conquer another and just build right on top of what was already there. In many ways, they're still doing it. The rich people in Lebanon (who aren't always Lebanese but often come from the Gulf States) start to build, discover ruins, and just build on top of it.

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