Beqaa Valley

Beqaa Valley

The Beqaa Valley is a narrow valley in Lebanon located between the mountain ranges of the Lebanese and Antillebanon Mountains. It is one of the most important regions in Lebanon, both economically and culturally.

The Beqaa Valley is of great geopolitical importance as it is the center of Lebanese agriculture and the largest source of wine production in the country. It is also home to some of Lebanon’s most important archaeological sites, including the ancient city of Baalbek.

The Beqaa Valley has also become a center of violence and conflict in Lebanon in recent decades. There was heavy fighting here during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and more recently the Beqaa has been a site of activity for various armed groups and terrorist organizations.


The valley’s archaeological history goes back to the 6th millennium B.C. The first ancient state, which Roman historians link in part to the Bekaa, was Phoenicia, whose city-states had a great influence on the development of all of West Asia. The Phoenician civilization reached its peak by 1200-800 B.C.

Evidence survives that it was then that the Phoenicians began trading wine from the Beqaa Valley. Another proof of the antiquity of life in it can be seen in its topography. The valley is a wide natural corridor surrounded by mountainous regions of the Middle East. In the foreseeable past this corridor was used for the passage of trade caravans and armies by the ancient Persians, the troops of Alexander the Great, the legions of Rome, and the Crusaders, but it may well have happened earlier.

The main witnesses of the past in the valley and its world-famous attractions are archaeological complexes in Anjar and Baalbek. When archaeologists discovered Anjar in the 20th century, they were looking for Hapzis, the capital of the Ituerites, a people who spoke the ancient Aramaic language. They found their other city, Guerra, which the Turks renamed Anjar in the I century, but some archaeologists believe that it was Chalcis, which existed in the II millennium BC. In Anjar, during the Umayyad dynasty (661-750), a complex of buildings and fortifications was built in the image and likeness of the Roman, combined with some Byzantine and Eastern traditions of architecture. The palace was the residence of the caliph Wal i Da I. In 750 AD, Anjar came under the power of the Abbasids, who destroyed much of Lebanon, but they did not lay a hand on this city. Abandoned by them, he himself fell into decay, but its ruins, graceful even in this state, admired by tourists, archaeologists continue to work here, the benefit of unexplored areas of the cultural layer is still a lot.

The first mention of Baalbek dates back to the XIV century BC (ancient Egyptian sources). The city’s main temple was the sanctuary of Hadad, the god of sun and fertility, or Baal-Labnan, the patron saint of Phoenicia. The Greeks renamed Baalbek Heliopolis the City of the Sun, perhaps by analogy with a city in Egypt. With the same name, but most likely following the tradition of the Phoenicians. The final appearance of Baalbek was given in the 1st century BC. – III century AD, the Romans who built several temples here, so grandiose that a short story about them is impossible. It is better to read on your own about this ancient ensemble, or rather, its ruins, rediscovered in the early XX century by German archaeologists.

Ancient Baalbek has left many mysteries. The main one is how the Phoenicians delivered here and stacked granite blocks weighing hundreds of tons, but so that between them the needle will not go? Ufologists, as it is a custom, refer to know-how of alien civilizations. But such arguments are too improbable and have no serious evidence. In the scientific world there is another assumption: perhaps Earth people in ancient times possessed such technologies, of which we know absolutely nothing? Therefore even sensible hypotheses cannot be formulated.

The explanation is why the millennial tradition of winemaking in the valley was interrupted for about 400 years – it happened under the Ottomans. The revival of “winemaker rules” began at the end of the Middle Ages, when the first French monks-missionaries appeared in the Bekaa. Little by little, the locals also joined the occupation. In 1857, the Jesuit brothers founded the famous Xara winery, named after the village that sheltered Christians fleeing Muslim persecution. Today, Xara is Lebanon’s largest winery, and tourists are invited to tastings in its natural cellar-corridors inside the cave.

General Information

  • The region of Lebanon ( Beqaa Province) in the eastern part of the country.
  • Language: Arabic.
  • Ethnicity: Arabs 95%, Armenians 4%, others 1%.
  • Religions: Islam (Shia and Sunni), Christianity (Maronites and members of the Armenian Apostolic Church).
  • The currency unit is the Lebanese pound.
  • Major cities: Zahla, Baalbek, and Rayat.
  • Major rivers: the Litani Orontes (Asi).
  • The largest lake: Karaoun.
  • Major mountain ranges: Lebanon, Antiliwan.
  • Nearest airport: Rafik Hariri International Airport (Beirut).
  • Area: 4,429 sq. km.
  • Population: 750,000 (2010).
  • Population density: 169.3 persons/km2.
  • Average altitude: 900 m.
  • Highest point: 1130 m (Baalbek).


  • Agriculture: growing potatoes, grapes, fruits, vegetables, sheep and poultry breeding.
  • Winemaking.
  • Services sphere: trade, tourism.

Climate and weather

  • Mediterranean, subtropical, with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters.
  • The average temperature in January: +7°C.
  • The average temperature in July: +24°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 400 mm.
  • On the leeward side of the Lebanon ridge, precipitation is much less than in the center of the valley (up to 585 mm).
  • In the northern areas of the Bekaa Valley sand and dust storms are frequent.


  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Baalbek Temple Complex, Anjar – the ruins of the palace of Walid I, and the surrounding area
  • Zahla: The Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation (1720), the Chapel of Our Lady of Salvation, a 54m high tower with a 10m tall statue of the Virgin Mary, or Our Lady of Zahla and the Bekaa (1968) above it. Town Hall (Old Seraglio, Ottoman architecture. 1850), Menshi Park, Souk el Blatt (Tile Bazaar).
  • Chateau Xara winery.

Fun Facts

  • The Bekaa Valley covers 42.4% of Lebanon’s total area (10,452 km2).
  • The Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek was surrounded by 54 white marble columns. Only six of them are extant. But when the Arabs conquered Baalbek, they saw this temple in all its grandeur and were convinced that only the almighty Djinn could have built it.
  • Anjar was surrounded by two-meter walls with 40 towers and had drainage and sewage systems.
  • In the mosque of Karak-Nu, 30 km south of Baalbek, according to local legends, the leg of the biblical Noah is buried, and it is a giant size. But it has been established that a fragment of an ancient drainage system actually “rests” there.
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