Baalbek
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The Most Impressive Roman Ruins in the Middle East
I went to Lebanon in spring to visit friends. But also because in the back of my head I thought, "This might be the last time that I'll be able to safely see Lebanon intact for a while." While car bombs had gone off in Beirut in recent weeks, and Hezbollah was drawn increasingly into the civil war in Syria, angering many in the Sunni community, the atmosphere in Lebanon was more tense than it had been in a while. And therefore, I recommend checking the State Department website (though I imagine it will tell you, nay, warn you explicitly NOT to go due to the recent flux of Syrian refugees over the nearby porous border and a spate of kidnappings) and other local sources before planning a trip. Still, if you have the chance, Baalbek, reached on a two-hour car trip through the "land of milk and honey" Bekaa Valley, through Lebanon's wine region and deep into Hezbollah country, passing billboards and posters of ayatollahs and party leaders, is an amazing site to behold. Dating back 9,000 years to the pre-Hellenistic era, the site is home to layers of ruins from different periods that include temples, domestic quarters, and theaters. It boasts one of the most impressive intact Roman temples in the world, made of 42 twenty-meter columns. The site also houses a museum. The ruins themselves are not well marked, and it is advisable to take one of the official guides, who are as entertaining as they are knowledgeable.
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