"Stubborn little pass" Mohafazat Beqaa by mikey_e

Mohafazat Beqaa Travel Guide: 223 reviews and 908 photos

A region to explore

Baalbek is indeed the main city in the Beqaa, but more than that I wanted to create a page in which I would be able to provide an insight into the diversity and division that is present in the Beqaa. The places that are included here are fairly far apart, but they are all along the same north-south axis, and they all share a tenuous stability ensured by the political forces that currently make up the Lebanese government. They’re also the mirror image of the Sunni north of the country, a tensely stable sliver of land buffered from the conflict in Syria by the relative calm immediately across the border and the alliances that link the political lords of this region with the régime in Damascus. I wanted to visit the Beqaa when I first came to Lebanon in 2010, but perhaps it was better that I did so in 2012. First, I had my own car, and thus was not dependent on, frankly, an insane cab driver to take me through some of the more dangerous parts of the country. Secondly, my Arabic was better, granting me the freedom to roam without worrying that I would not be able to explain myself if I got in a bit of trouble. And finally, after nearly two years in the Middle East, I had a better idea of the context in which the Beqaa finds itself, and the links between the various factions.

A tortured path

Beqaa is essentially a short history of the Middle East in a few dozen kilometres. The main force here is Hizbullah, which is linked to the large Shia community that dominates the south of the country. The approach to the Syrian border along the Beirut-Damascus highway is firmly in the hands of the central government, though, and it is clear that the Lebanese Republic is doing all it possibly can to extricate itself from the reverberations of the Syrian conflict. Despite this, there are pockets of diversity all along the way. Anjar and its surrounding countryside contain the settlements of Armenian refugees brought here by the French after their rescue from Musa Dag in the aftermath of the First World War. The town also includes fantastic ruins of the Umayyad Caliphate. To the west of Baalbeck itself are a collection of Maronite Catholic villages, perched precariously on the slopes of the mountains that contain the cedars featured on the national flag, rising above a pastoral setting more reminiscent of the American Midwest than of the Middle East. And all along the valley are found small settlements of the most pitiful of this mix, the Palestinian refugees and Bedouins who have largely been denied a full settled existence in this turbulent country.

Continuum of the Arab world

Beqaa and Baalbek represent more than just a melting pot and contradiction. They are marked by a distinct draw to the plains and desert lifestyle of the Arabs to the south east, and not to the cosmopolitan and Mediterranean lifestyles of the coastal and mountainous towns that are Lebanon’s most attractive settlements. The towns here have a dusty, lonesome feeling to them that is mirrored much more in the outskirts of Amman than in Beirut’s suburbs. You are far more likely to see men in jalabiyas here than along the coast, and some of the accents are distinctly different from Beiruti slang. This valley is firmly anchored to the Arab heartland, and, despite all of the pronouncements of Lebanese factions about their Phoenician credo, remind the visitor that they truly are in a solid chunk of the Arab World.

  • Last visit to Mohafazat Beqaa: May 2012
  • Intro Updated Nov 30, 2012
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mikey_e

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