The light dusting of snow on the roofs and on the leaves of confused budding plants lightly fall through sepia skies. The otherworldly glow of the final throes of a dying sunlight lights up this sleepy town. In summer the air is crisp and nature revels in its expected garden state while in winter thick snow covers the hills with a hand of white as skiers fill its ski slopes gliding from where the air is icy and brittle and serenity flows calmly unnoticed to where mechanical lifts are busy getting people from one place to another, two separate worlds a couple of minutes apart.
Cedar roots buried under mounds of aged earth stone, gripping tight like family, faith, and friends, remain the one force that holds the cedar up. These cedars look up at the sky, day and night, watching the clouds and stars. Impressive in their might, they stand forcefully, claiming this little piece of land as their own.
“…the miserable village which still bears the name of Afqa at the head of the wild, romantic, wooded gorge of the Adonis. The hamlet stands among groves of noble walnut-trees on the brink of the lyn. A little way off the river rushes from a cavern at the foot of a mighty amphitheatre of towering cliffs to plunge in a series of cascades into the awful depths of the glen. The deeper it descends, the ranker and denser grows the vegetation, which, sprouting from the crannies and fissures of the rocks, spreads a green veil over the roaring or murmuring stream in the tremendous chasm below. There is something delicious, almost intoxicating, in the freshness of these tumbling waters, in the sweetness and purity of the mountain air, in the vivid green of the vegetation.”
Sir James Frazer describing the village at Afqa in his 1922 book, The Golden Bough
The city of Gubla is said to be the first city in the world in Greek legend. Founded as a settlement at some point around 5000 BC, Byblos was originally home to a small Neolithic fishing community. The first signs of a town appeared in the third millennium BC. By the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in 3000 BC, it was a prosperous Canaanite city with one of the most important export, the cedar trees of Lebanon to Egypt in exchange for papyrus, ivory, ebony and gold, making it one of the most important trading centers on the coast with close ties to the fourth dynasty Egypt. Egyptian influence can be seen in its art and its religion. Trade goods from as early as Egypt’s 2nd dynasty have been found there.
The modern art of glass blowing may use modernized equipment, but the essence of working with glass remains an ancient art. Molding red-hot liquid glass to create a lasting glass artifact is an act that requires a creative mind, dexterous handwork, and stamina, a very physically draining work.
Funeral rites were one of the major types of religious cultic activity among the Phoenicians. It appears that burial of an intact body was the preferred method for dealing with the dead, though some examples of cremation have also been found. The wealthiest Phoenicians and members of royal families received elaborately decorated stone sarcophagi, which were placed in tombs cut directly out of rock. The bodies were typically given objects from their lives to accompany them: coins, food, cosmetics, toiletries, figurines, and so forth. The inclusion of both ritual and practical objects is often cited as evidence of belief in some sort of afterlife, possibly one in which the deceased could make use of these objects. This may be a case where the funeral rites of Egypt influenced the religious beliefs of the Phoenicians as for a long time.
The Phoenicians regularly sailed across and up the Atlantic to harvest tin from Europe at Cornwall but, to the Greeks, Europe was a dark continent (in the same way that 19th and early 20th century CE Europeans would later view Africa).
The Cippi of Melqart are a pair of ornamental pillars with engravings found by the Knights of St. John on the Island of Malta in the village of Marsaxlloc, they are considered to be from the 2nd century BCE. It is in this village that the Phoenicians reputedly landed in the 9th CE BC and set up trading posts. In the temple of Tas-Silg, the Cippi were unearthed, one cippus being gifted to Louis XVI by the grand master of the knights of St. John in 1782. This cippus now sits in the Louvre and the other in the National museum of archaeology in Valetta.
In Lebanon there is a heritage so rich in history and an influence that pervades through the ancient Mediterranean basin. The mysterious nature of this time makes myth and legend the ancient’s form’s history. The mythological assimilation of ancient Gods and Goddesses creates a weave compounded by time, mystery and interpretation. In this way a beginning can be found in a seed or a stone and the worship of the mythological Astarte, the queen of heaven and her son, Baal.
The charming coastal town of Batroun, nestled by the sea, gathers close the winding roads, the homing trails, and lanes that sleep the whole night long. Cooled by the scent of mountain breeze, it is lulled by the sea wind’s song.