Located about an hour-and-a-half’s drive east of Beirut , it’s not difficult to see why people find Anjar, Lebanon, safe and peaceful. Named after the Anjar Spring that lies just a little over a half mile east (it’s name in Arabic meaning “running river”), the village’s inhabitants are mostly Armenian refugees. Some fled the Ottoman genocide in 1915 Turkey while others gathered here after the Lebanese took back their country from the French in 1939. After all their eyes had seen of war and occupation, it’s easy to understand why they would want to settle here, in this tranquil and picturesque village nestled in the Bekka Valley and set against the backdrop of the beautiful and majestic Anti-Lebanon Mountains.
The village is thought to go back much farther than its Armenian occupants, however, with many attributing its founding as a palace-city by the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I at the beginning of the 8th century. Still others, like the Byzantine Greek chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, claim it was actually not al-Walid I, but his son, al-Abbas, who founded Anjar around 714 A.D. Whatever the case, the Umayyads left behind a number of well-preserved ruins years later and Anjar was pretty much abandoned until the Armenians came to inhabit it several centuries later in 1915 A.D.
Besides the quaintness of the village, Anjar’s biggest tourist draw is the impressive Umayyad ruins. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, the ruins cover 114,700 square meters (about 137,00 sq. yds.) encompassed by large, fortified stone walls over two meters (6.5 ft.) thick and seven meters (23 ft) high. Based on Roman city planning and architecture (with stonework borrowed from the Byzantines) the rectangular city design of the city is 370 m by 310 m (405 yds. x 340 yds.)
Two large boulevards – Cardo Maximum, which runs north to south, and Decumanus Maximus, which goes east to west – intersect at the center of the city diving it into four parts. These two main boulevards, lined with colonnades and what were about 600 shops, meet under a large, very ornate tetrapylon. Smaller streets on the city’s western side divide the city that was into even smaller quarters.
The main monuments that can be found among these unique ruins are:
- The partially rebuilt Grand Palace with a central courtyard surrounded by a peristyle.
- The almost square Small Palace with its many decorative fragments and its splendidly ornamented central entrance.
- A mosque which is located between the two palaces.
- Thermal Roman-style baths
- Various fragments of friezes decorated with plants, figures of animals and humans, and shapes from the once richly decorated buildings.
Again, we can’t mention traveling within Lebanon without mentioning its delicious cuisine, so after your tour of the ruins, rest your feet in one of the many village restaurants for lunch or dinner and enjoy their sumptuous Lebanese mezze and enjoy the Anjar, Lebanon, weather.
If you’re thinking about a visit to the ruins at Anjar and would like to perhaps learn to speak Arabic a little to talk to the locals, why not try one of those Arabic learning apps like the Kaleela Arabic learning app? Visit our website and find out what’s the best way to learn Arabic. Additionally, you can learn Levantine Arabic or any of the other Arabic dialects spoken throughout the region by downloading the Kaleela Arabic learning app to your IOS or Android mobile device today. It’s free from kaleela.com