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 Home > National Heritage > Beqaa > Aanjar 
 


(58 kilometers from Beirut)

        

Aanjar is exclusively the Umayyad period, going back to the early 8th century A.D., thus making it completely different from any other archaeological experience you'll have in Lebanon.

Unlike Tyre and Byblos, which claim continuous habitation since the day they were founded, Aanjar flourished for only a few decades.

Today's name, Aanjar, comes from the Arabic Ain Gerrha, "the source of Gerrha," the name of an ancient city founded in this area during Hellenistic times.

Aanjar has a special beauty. The city's slender columns and fragile arches stand in contrast to the massive hulk of the nearby Anti-Lebanon mountains--an eerie back-ground for Aanjar's extensive ruins and the memories of its short but energetic moment in history.
 
 

HISTORY

The Umayyads, the first hereditary dynasty of Islam, ruled from Damascus in the first century after the Prophet Mohammed from 660 to 750 A.D. They are credited with the great Arab conquests that created an Islamic empire stretching from the Indus Valley to southern France.

Skilled in administration and planning, their empire prospered for 100 years. Defeat befell them when the Abbasids--their rivals and their successors-took advantage of the Umayyad's increasing decadence.
  

EXCAVATING AANJAR

What attracted the antiquities experts to Aanjar was not so much the ruins themselves as the information they held. Beneath the impersonal grayness of Aanjar, the experts suggested, lay the vestiges of the eighth century Umayyad dynasty that ruled from Damascus and held sway over an empire.

That idea was particularly interesting because Lebanon--that unique crossroads of the ages--boasted ample archaeological evidence of almost all stages of Arab history with the exception of the Umayyad.

Early in the excavation, engineers drained the swamp. Stands of evergreen cypresses and eucalyptus trees were planted and flourish today, giving these stately ruins a park-like setting.

To date, almost the entire site has been excavated and some monuments have been restored. Among the chief structures are the Palace I and the Mosque in the south-east quarter, the residential area in the southwest, the Palace II in the northwest and the Palace III and public bath in the northeast.
 

Nearly 60 inscriptions and graffiti from Umayyad times are scattered on the city's surrounding walls. One of them, dated 123 of the Hegira (741 A.D.), is located in the western wall between the fourth and fifth tower from the southwest.

Today visitors enter through the northern gate of the site, but as the main points of interest are at the southern half of the city, it's better to walk up the main street to the far end of the site. You are walking along the 20-meter-wide Cardo Maximus (a Latin term meaning a major street running north and south) which is flanked by shops, some of which have been reconstructed. At the half-way point of this commercial street a second major street called Decumanus Maximus (running east to west) cuts across it at right angles. It is also flanked by shops. In all, 600 shops have been uncovered, giving Aanjar the right to call itself a major Umayyad strip mall. The masonry work, of Byzantine origin, consists of courses of cut stone alternating with courses of brick. This technique, credited to the Byzantines, reduced the effects of earthquakes.

At the city's crossroads you'll have your first hint that the Umayyads were great recyclers. Tetra pylons mark the four corners of the intersection. This configuration, called a tetra style is remarkably reminiscent of Roman architecture.

Along both sides of the streets you'll see evenly spaced column bases and mostly fallen columns that were once part of an arcade that ran the length of the street.
 
The columns of the arcade are by no means homogeneous; they differ in type and size and are crowned by varying capitals. Most of them are Byzantine, more indication that the Umayyads helped themselves to Byzantine and other ruins scattered around the area.

The great or main palace itself was the first landmark to emerge in 1949 when Aanjar was discovered. One wall and several arcades of the southern half of the palace have been reconstructed.

 


IF YOU HAVE TIME ...


Make a point of visiting:

Ain Gerrha
, Aanjar's major spring is located 3 kilometers northeast of the ruins.

Majdal Aanjar. A Roman period temple sits on a hilltop overlooking this village, which is one kilometer from Aanjar.

The Mausoleum of El-Wali Zawur is the burial spot of a religious personage from medieval times. Until the early 1980s fertility rites were held here.

Kfar Zabad. Roman temple ruins and a cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Special equipment needed for the cave.
 

 


Getting There ...
Aanjar
is situated just off the highway to Damascus not far from the Syrian Border.  (
See Beqaa Map)
 

 

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