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Published: July 30th 2009
About 40 km north of Beirut, you will find Byblos or Jbeil, the oldest inhabited city in the world. Historians estimate that the first settlers date back to 6000 B.C. After investigating my transportation options, I decided to head to Jbeil by public bus. The journey takes about an hour, but depends on traffic and on the way there only cost me $2 or 3000 Lebanese Lyra - my taxi ride to the bus station cost more ($5)! Officially the bus goes to Tripoli, but you can ask the driver to drop you off on the highway at Byblos.
The bus itself was comfortable and had functioning air conditioning, essential with Lebanon’s humidity. The drive to Byblos is pretty amazing because you drive at the foot of the mountains with apartment buildings built on the sides of the mountains- think Monaco. After jumping off the bus, I pulled out a map to try and orient myself. Byblos is describe as a small town, but the surroundings definitely didn’t seem small and therefore I was worried that the bus driver might have misunderstood me and dropped me off at the wrong place. I began to walk towards the Sea, trying to
find my way. Several seconds later, a car pulls up and begins to ask me for directions in Arabic. Myself being disoriented, I responded with “mish a’arif” (I don’t know).
I finally found my way to the old town and the souk. Right before I entered the souk, I mentally prepared myself for all the hassle and unwanted solicitation I would receive from the shop owners, as I always receive when shopping at Khan Al-Khalili in Cairo. I started through the souk at a quick-paced walk and as I passed through, I realized that I didn’t receive any comments such as “Welcome to Lebanon”, “Free Look”, “Good price” “Hello Brad Pitt, looking inside for one second”, “How can I take your money” or many of the other one-liners I’ve received in the past while living in Cairo. I decreased my speed the further and further I walked through the souk and was able to browse the shops without any hassle! Something I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time. I decided to move on from the souk and get to the sites, leaving the shopping for later.
Many of the archaeological sites weren’t standing anymore: however I
could imagine how powerful this settlement was in the past.
After exploring the archaeological sites, I headed to port to find a place for lunch. I had lunch at one of the restaurants at the historic port, where trade ships would dock coming from all parts of the world, including Egypt, even during the time of the pharaohs!
After dinner, I tried to find a bus back to Beirut. I was able to catch one for $1, but this one came without air conditioning and took a more local road compared to the bus to Byblos. I appreciated this because it allowed me to see more of the local life-style. On the ride back to Beirut, I saw a bunch of sandy beaches filled with young people, enjoying the sun.
Since I was able to conquer the microbuses to travel, I was excited and started to plan my trip for the next day - Baalbek. However, I later decided not to go because locals were reporting instability and fighting in the region.
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