Friday, December 12, 2008

Beirut Bound - part 3

Photos & text copyright Yasir Khan 2008

The last time I briefly drove through the Bekaa valley, it was a piece of hell - cars and trucks abandoned by the roadside, plumes of smoke, stench of explosives, Israeli jets flying overhead, and tired, hungry, terrified families fleeing to Syria on foot.

This was in the summer of 2006, during the Israel-Hezbollah war, in which Lebanon took the heaviest beating.

Hezbollah still runs the valley today (see Cairomaniac's account of our encounter), and the scene here is the polar opposite of Beirut - Hezbollah flags, posters celebrating "martyrs", lots of mosques, livestock, and covered women (if we see any at all).

This time, I was a tourist. But as we drove north along the valley, to Baalbek, Francois pointed at bridges under construction - Israel had blown them up to sever road links between Lebanon and Syria. Foreign aid money is now paying to rebuild them.

It takes about 3 hours to drive to Baalbek from Beirut. We were here to see the temples of Bacchus, and Jupiter - possibly some of the best preserved Roman ruins anywhere.