Today was super busy seeing lots of tourist things. This morning we went to the Khalil Gibran museum which was a two hour drive from Beirut. This was our first time to drive through the mountains. We were able to see the full extent of how beautiful Lebanon is. The museum was small and simple, but a great collection of Gibran’s artwork in his former home. Linda read us an excerpt from The Prophet while we were in the bus on the way to our next stop. She read one of my favorite sections which I had quoted on my Twitter about a week ago:
@laurakisthardt: Khalil Gibran on children: “You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts.”
After the museum, we walked around the preserved Cedars. They were incredibly beautiful, but are unfortunately very over harvested. When you look from the top of the mountain the grove where we had walking among the cedars it was such a tiny section of land.
While on the bus to our next destination after the cedars, we stopped at the top of the mountain where there was snow and ice! Our group had a mini snowball fight. I also bought some nuts that a vendor was selling, several other people also bought a variety of nuts. We continued on our drive in the country, noting along the way Christian villages or Muslim villages. Since it was Sunday, many of the Christian villages were nearly impossible to drive through because of all the cars completely parked any which way in the streets.
Our next stop on the tour was the Roman ruins at Baalbek. I seriously can not express how amazing this place was! It truly looks the same as in Greece or Rome. There were originally three temples at Baalbek. One is still unrestored and buried in the ground. There are two temples to walk around in. The temple of Bacchus is the most complete Roman temple in the entire world. It is the only temple in the world to have any part of the ceiling remaining. It was all incredibly detailed and beautiful. The other temple which was more destroyed was to honor Jupiter. Even though it was not as intact as the other temple it was still incredible to imagine how grand it must have once been.
The reason that the these ruins are so well preserved in because the Muslims built fortresses around the temples. They used them as a defense against invaders and inadverntantly protected the Roman temples. Specifically the temple of Bacchus was later used as a dungeon and storehouse. When it was no longer in use it was just filled with dirt. For this reason, there is writing on the walls of the temple about 15 feet in the air from the 1800’s when the ground was at that level. It was truly an interesting sight to see!
After the wonderful tour of Baalbek, we went for an ice cream in Zahle. Zahle was a very cute little town with a nice river flowing through it. The section where we stopped for ice cream had a sort of mini-amusement park and arcade games. I tried the traditional ice cream covered in pistachios which was a fruit flavor that was very sweet and tasted creamy, but not like vanilla. Our guide did not remember the word for it in English and said he would look it up and get back to me.
As if the day was not full enough, we came back to the hotel after the long drive back to Beirut for a quick rest and then change for dinner. We went to a traditional Lebanese restaurant for dinner. It was amazing! We tried so many different dishes. My personal favorites were stuffed grape leaves, a pizza that I could not describe at all, and simply the pita bread and olive oil. This was the best olive oil I’ve ever had in my life. The delicious meal made a great end to an amazing day all around Lebanon. We came back and reflected for a bit with the group at the hotel and then headed up for bed!