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Martyrs' Square, Beirut

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, October 19, 2008 at 08:40:02 :: Lebanon

The Beirut Central District (BCD), popularly known as Centre Ville of Beirut, Lebanon, is the name given to Beirut’s historical and geographical core, the “vibrant financial, commercial, and administrative hub of the country.” It is situated on the city’s northern coast and includes many monuments and places of importance to the citizens of Beirut, including Place de l'Etoile, Quartier des Arts and Martyrs' Square (or el Bourj, (Arabic: البرج‎); French: Place des Martyrs).

The Clock Tower, Place de L'Etoile or Place d'Etoile, Beirut, Lebanon

Martyrs' Square is the heart of downtown Beirut.

In the 19th century, the square was known as Place des Canons. During World War I, Lebanon was under Ottoman rule. In 1915, Beirut suffered a blockade by the Allies, which was intended to starve the Turks out. The effect was a famine, followed by plague, which killed more than a quarter of the population. A revolt against the Turks broke out which resulted in hanging of many nationalists on 6 May 1916 in the renamed Martyrs' Square. Among them were Abdul Karim al-Khalil, Abed al-Wahab al-Inglizi, Father Joseph Hayek, Joseph Bishara Hani, Mohammad and Ahmad Mahmassani, Omar Hamad, Philip and Farid el-Khazen, and Sheikh Ahmad Tabbara.

Martyrs' Statue on the Martyrs' Square or el Bourj (Arabic: البرج‎), with the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque behind, heart of the downtown district of Beirut, Lebanon

Some remains of the opera and the bronze Martyrs statue are the only features left of the Martyrs' Square. The statue, riddled with bullet holes, has become a symbol for all that was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War. The Martyrs' Square is also a common location for protests and demonstrations.

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Cedar of Lebanon

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, August 15, 2008 at 17:26:01 :: Lebanon

Climate change could hit Lebanon's dwindling cedars.

Study cedar perched high in the mountains stand for many Lebanese as symbols of their fractured land's survival. But some environmentalists worry that the trees face a new threat from global warming.

"The biggest challenge now for the cedars of Lebanon is climate change," said Nizar Hani, scientific coordinator of the Barouk Cedar Nature Reserve in the Shouf mountains.

Only murmuring insects and breezes rustling through cedar branches disturb the stillness of the sanctuary, about 90 minutes' drive from the frenzied bustle of Beirut.

The cedar's natural range is now 1,200 to 1,800 metres above sea level, Hani said. A warmer climate would mean cedars could only prosper higher up.

Cedar (Cedrus) genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae, cedar in Bcharre, Lebanon

Cedars once covered vast swatches of southern Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, but their timber and resin has long been in demand, as indicated by the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in the second millennium BC, and by the Biblical tale of King Solomon importing Lebanese cedar wood for his temple in Jerusalem.

Valued by Phoenician shipwrights, Egyptian builders and many others, the forests shrank over the millennia. Ottoman Turks axed many of Lebanon's surviving cedars. British troops used cedar wood to build the Tripoli-Haifa railway in World War Two.

Now cedars cover only 2,000 hectares in Lebanon, clinging on in just a dozen high-altitude redoubts.

Almost all these are protected. The Barouk cedars are thriving and regenerate naturally. Their larger, older cousins in a walled grove near Bsherri in the north are more famous, but only a few remain. Some are thought to exceed 2,000 years old. The longevity of the cedrus libani, or cedar of Lebanon, does not make it immune from climate change, argued Rania Masri, an environmentalist at Notre Dame University near Beirut.

Cedars are comfortable at a certain altitude and like moist, well-drained soil with a certain level of humidity.

"These are aspects that climate change could very much impact, especially in this region," she said. "There could well be a decrease in humidity, a decrease in rainfall."

Cedars form part of an environment in Lebanon subject to multiple man-made stresses not limited to climate change, she added. "I'm as worried about threats to the cedars as I am about most other environmental situations in Lebanon, but no more."

A decade ago, insects were devastating cedars at Tannourin in northern Lebanon. Researchers linked the infestation of Cephalcia tannourinensis, a wood wasp, to changes in temperature and soil moisture. The outbreak was eventually controlled.

Nevertheless, Nasri Kawar, a retired professor at the American University of Beirut, who played a leading role in that effort, said he did not have enough firm scientific evidence to predict how badly climate change would affect the cedars.

"Global warming is not a matter of overnight, it's a matter of many years. We have not yet seen any serious deterioration in the cedars over the years, besides this insect," he said.

"To me the cedars are the symbol of Lebanon. They show the country's fantastic endurance," added Kawar, 75. "I hope my grandchildren will be able to enjoy them. I think they will."

View of Bsharri (also spelled Becharre, Bcharre, Bsharre; Arabic: بشري‎), Lebanese city at 1,650 m of altitude, near the Kadisha Valley, just under the Cedar forest, Lebanon

Effort to preserve the cedars of Barouk, an official nature reserve since 1996, has been led by Walid Jumblatt, a Druze politician and former militia chief whose fiefdom is the Shouf.

The reserve covers 160km2, 1,5% of Lebanon's territory, and contains a quarter of its cedar forests, said Hani, the scientific coordinator.

Lebanon's cedar, which adorns the national flag, grows into its distinctive wedge shape only after it has reached a height of seven or eight meters, he explained.

"Then the head dies. This is a natural condition, not a disease, because the underground water reservoir can only feed the tree to that height," Hani said. "This is the difference between the cedrus libani in Lebanon and in other places."

"If you plant a cedrus libani in a place with more water and more snow, you cannot see this shape, the flag shape."

Barouk is a haven of biodiversity, with 524 plant species and a rich variety of birds, reptiles and mammals, said to include wild boar, wolves, red foxes, jackals and hyenas.

Lebanon's political troubles have undercut efforts to attract visitors to the reserve, despite its peaceful beauty.

Numbers hit a peak of 28,000 in 2004, but dropped to 21,000 in 2005 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Only 17,000 people came in 2006, the year of Israel's war with Hezbollah guerrillas, and 14,000 last year.

"The situation in the country is still not quiet, not 100%," Hani acknowledged. "We hope the next few months will be calmer and people will come here to enjoy nature in Lebanon."
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In The News

Baalbek, Lebanon

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, August 03, 2008 at 19:24:13

Temple of Bacchus, BaalbekApproximately 86 kilometers northeast of the city of Beirut (بيروت) in eastern Lebanon (لبنان) stands the temple complex of Baalbek (بعلبك), atop a high point in the fertile Bekaa valley (Beqaa Valley - سهل البقاع).

Baalbek is the name of an archeological site in Lebanon. In Roman times it was known as Heliopolis or City of the Sun, it was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire.

Baalbek became a Roman colony under the Emperor Augustus in 16 B.C. On its acropolis, over the course of the next three centuries, the Romans constructed a monumental ensemble of three temples - Temple of Jupiter, Temple of Bacchus and Temple of Venus - three courtyards, and an enclosing wall built of some of the most gigantic stones ever crafted by man. On a nearby Kheikh Abdallah hill, they built a fourth temple dedicated to Mercury.

The Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek temple ruins, Baalbek, LebanonThe Temple of Baal/Jupiter was begun during the reign of Emperor Augustus in the late first century BC and completed soon after 60 AD. The single largest religious edifice ever erected by the Romans, the immense sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus was lined by 104 massive granite columns, imported from Aswan in Egypt, and held a temple surrounded by 50 additional columns, almost 19m (62ft) high. The complex of the Great Temple has four sections: the monumental entrance or Propylaea, the Hexagonal Court, the Great Court and finally the Temple itself, where the six famous columns stand.

The Little Temple or the "Temple of Bacchus", next to the Jupiter complex is a separate building known as the Temple of Bacchus. Constructed during the first half of the 2nd century A.D., it has been remarkably well preserved. It was apparently consecrated to a mysterious and initiatic cult centered on the young god of Baalbeck. This god was identified as a solar and growth deity, whose birth and growth promised regeneration and eternal life to the faithful.

Temple of Venus, BaalbekThe Round Temple or the "Temple of Venus", gem-like temple southeast of the acropolis was built in the 3rd century A.D. Its design and size, as well as its orientation towards the Great Temple, set it apart from the other Baalbeck temples. These attributes also help identify it as the temple of the Fortune of Baalbeck, which is the tutelary divinity of the City, under the protection of its great gods. It was not by accident that during the Byzantine period it was converted into a church dedicated to Saint Barbara, who is the patron saint of Baalbeck to this day. Near the Temple of Venus are the remains of "The Temple of the Muses", dating from the beginning of the 1st century A.D.

"Baalbeck, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee", UNESCO reported in making Baalbek a World Heritage Site in 1984.

UNESCO World Heritage

Lebanon, Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2013 at 15:50:27

Location Qadisha Valley, Becharre District, Governorate of North Lebanon, Lebanon
Coordinates N34 14 35.988 E36 2 56.004
Date of Inscription 1998

Brief Description ( )

The Qadisha valley is one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world. Its monasteries, many of which are of a great age, stand in dramatic positions in a rugged landscape. Nearby are the remains of the great forest of cedars of Lebanon, highly prized in antiquity for the construction of great religious buildings.

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St. Lichaa monastery, Kadisha Valley Lebanon Cedar, Forest of the Cedars of God

Lebanon, Tyre

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2013 at 15:36:02

Location City and District of Tyre, Governorate of South Lebanon, Lebanon
Coordinates N33 16 18.984 E35 11 39.984
Property 154 ha
Date of Inscription 1984

Brief Description ( )

According to legend, purple dye was invented in Tyre. This great Phoenician city ruled the seas and founded prosperous colonies such as Cadiz and Carthage, but its historical role declined at the end of the Crusades. There are important archaeological remains, mainly from Roman times.

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Triumphal Arch, Tyre Al Mina, Tyre

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Lebanon, Byblos

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2013 at 15:24:36

Location City and district of Jbeil, Governorate of Mount Lebanon, Lebanon
Coordinates N34 7 9.012 E35 38 51
Date of Inscription 1984

Brief Description ( )

The ruins of many successive civilizations are found at Byblos, one of the oldest Phoenician cities. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it has been closely linked to the legends and history of the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. Byblos is also directly associated with the history and diffusion of the Phoenician alphabet.

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Byblos Castle Amphitheatre, Byblos St John the Baptist Church, Byblos

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Lebanon, Baalbek

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2013 at 15:14:56

Location City and District of Baalbek, Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon
Coordinates N34 0 25.452 E36 12 17.784
Date of Inscription 1984

Brief Description ( )

This Phoenician city, where a triad of deities was worshipped, was known as Heliopolis during the Hellenistic period. It retained its religious function during Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter attracted thousands of pilgrims. Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee.

Photos from Landolia

Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek Temple of Venus, Baalbek Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek

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Lebanon, Anjar

 Posted by Simon Laroche
Simon Laroche
, May 18, 2013 at 15:06:27

Location District of Zahle, Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon
Coordinates N33 43 32.988 E35 55 46.992
Date of Inscription 1984

Brief Description ( )

The city of Anjar was founded by Caliph Walid I at the beginning of the 8th century. The ruins reveal a very regular layout, reminiscent of the palace-cities of ancient times, and are a unique testimony to city planning under the Umayyads.

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Anjar Ruins, Anjar

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