Jbail (Byblos)

Jbail (Byblos)

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One of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth is the ancient city of Byblos (Jbail). It lies about 40km (25mi) north of Beirut on the coast. Excavations found in the area show that Byblos was already populated during the Neolithic period 7000 years ago. After 3000 BC it became the most important trading port in the area. Cedar wood and oil was sent to Egypt and papyrus was brought back from it and sold to Europe and Asia. The world's oldest phonetic alphabet was developed in Byblos, as a result of language problems with the Egyptians. This alphabet can be seen in the National Museum in Beirut as well as on a small monument behind the old harbor of Byblos. The alphabet is the precursor of all modern alphabets. Until 1000 BC Byblos was the major Phoenician center. After its glory-days it was invaded by Persians, Alexander the Great, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs. After it was taken and later abandoned by the Crusaders, Byblos fell into obscurity.

Despite all the destruction the civil war caused in Lebanon in the 80's, Byblos' historic harbor and picturesque old town remain unspoilt. There are excavations just south of the old town, which can be entered through what remains of the Crusader castle. The oldest remains, in the form of floors from huts, date from 6000 BC. The temple of Baalat Gebal was erected in 2800 BC. Another L-shaped temple in 2700 BC. The site also include 2 royal tombs and another temple that dates from the early 2nd millennium BC. The Romans left an amphitheatre.

There is a Wax Museum which displays history and culture of Lebanon. St John Church, not far away was built by the Crusaders. Also not far from the Crusader castle is a small souk where souvenirs and other small artifacts can be bought. Just north from the old harbor there is a small but excellent sand-beach where some underwater ruins are located as well. Byblos offers little accommodation, but there are many small restaurants and bars.

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