The leaving of Byblos was a gradual affair thankfully, as many of us were sorry to quit this rather charming place. We brought our cases down to the lobby, had breakfast and then set off to the old town. At the entrance to the crusader castle Haytham insisted on explaining it all to us, when all I wanted to do was get inside and look around on my own! Eventually we were allowed in and we had about an hour to investigate the castle, which has a very fine donjon, and the whole archaeological site around it. I sprinted ahead and climbed half way up. Haytham caught up with me and gave a very thorough explanation of the site down below – interesting, but…… From the top of the keep the views were stunning (see photo sharing) and it was possible to imagine the small city in its Phoenician and Roman phases.
From the donjon I dropped down to the archaeological site and made straight for the amphitheatre which was repositioned facing the sea by the C20th archaeologist Marice Dunand. Railway lines cross the site which presumably were used to move the stones around as he uncovered each layer of civilisation down to th Neolithic. The amphitheatre was small bu beautiful. Behind it were the remains of Roman columns which once lined the road down to the port. A little further on ere were Phoenician remains, including 3 temples 2 of which had originally been on top of one another but had been separated and moved by Dunand so each could be viewed. We were later to see some of the exquisite finds from these temples in the Hational Museum in Beirut. Rather unusually a typical Lebanese house of the C18th has also been preserved on the site facing the sea. I ran around like a child in a sweet factory, quite aware I couldn’t really do the place justice, but hoping that with the guidebook and my pictures I could try to piece a bit more of it together once back home.
Leaving Byblos at about 10.30 we got into Beirut and the Anglican Church in plenty of time for their 11.15 family service. This was a lovely event with a very mixed congregation from the various nationalities visiting or working in Beirut. The sings were a bit ‘mid-Atlantic pap’ for my liking, bu we did get ‘Amazing Grace’ sung to ‘The House of the Rising Sun’. Afterwards we joined everyone for coffee and Christine and I met a young Rwandan who was thrilled that we had visited his country. He was clearly very bright as he was studying chemical engineering in Beirut on a scholarship.
Our next stop was the National Museum which is a case study on how a museum should be. Some amazing finds, superbly displayed. Many of the large tombs, reliefs and mosaics had had to be encased in concrete during the civil war to protect them. The green line between East and West Beirut ran down the street where the museum was situated so it was badly damaged. The restoration has been fantastic and it was well worth spending an hour and half wandering around. Unfortunately one of our party slipped on the steps and may have broken her ankle. She is in hospital as I write.
It was good to arrive back at the Mozart Hotel. This time we are o the second floor, which is much easier than the eighth……particularly if you are like me and don’t like lifts! We dumped our bags and walked up the road to the Hamra Cafe where we drank cool drafts of mint lemonade and ate a very good Fatouch salad with haloumi. Our guide seems to forget about lunch and we were starving.
Tonight we are having a meal out and a walk through the city centre.