Byblos: Ancient City, Modern Fun
After working as a reporter in Cairo, Theodore May wanted to know more about the history, culture, and people of the Middle East. So he decided to explore it, and use one of history’s conquerors as his guide. For the next eight months he’ll be following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, tracing the 2,000-mile path Alexander forged through the modern Middle East. Theo will be writing about his experiences for The Global Post, and you can be follow him on Twitter at @Theodore_May. He’ll be contributing glimpses from his journeys here at Intelligent Travel.
It’s a foggy, windy day on Lebanon‘s coast. The sea has turned an ominous gray against the clouds, and thick rolling waves are crashing against the rocky shore.
Not exactly the perfect beach day.
I had been hoping to spend the morning lounging on a public beach, since I’ve been walking the shore of the Mediterranean for a month now and have yet to don the bathing suit I packed.
But the weather had its say, and instead I decided to venture to old Byblos, a thriving ancient port city, and one of Lebanon’s most picturesque towns.
The earliest records of Byblos date back 7,000 years and it became a preeminent Mediterranean port by the third century BC. Since then, the city has had many conquerors, and its fate as a port has waxed and waned depending on its rulers.
45 kilometers north of Beirut, Byblos’ old city, surrounded on the hillsides by the modern town, is dominated by the imposing shape of a Crusader castle. Around it lies a souq, built in striking brown stone, boasting a range of goods from tourist knickknacks to fossilized fish. A flower-edged road runs down to the sea by a protected harbor.
Several dozen boats bob in the marina, and standing there, I find it hard not to be wowed at this port’s longevity.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The Byblos Fishing Club restaurant is also on the port, a must-see for any visitor. This is where the world’s rich and famous–including Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando–used to come and mingle. The restaurant was opened by famed Pepe the Pirate in 1963, and he was a star attraction for the who’s-who on their visits.
Unlike in, say, Cairo’s old city, the old town of Byblos has adapted with the times. Bars, with names like Barbacane and Iguana, line the streets, with Lebanese and tourists alike sitting elbow to elbow, sipping Almaza beers and cocktails made with fresh juice. The old city provides a stunning setting for a cold drink on a muggy night.
Photos: Theo May