Baalbek to Beirut, Lebanon
Had Ibn Battuta seen the ruins of Baalbek floodlit at night, he might have managed to spare a word or two about them. The Mamluks were in power in 1326 and had made their own additions to the site, but Baalbek belonged to the ancient world; its gigantic proportions the ultimate in imperial power, wealth and might. The site was, like most other temple sites across the Middle East, a place of religious significance dating back to the third millennium BC, and in the first millennium it became a place of sacrifice. Between the 4th and 1st centuries BC the Ptolemies, who ruled this area, dedicated the site to the sun god calling it Heliopolis. But the transformation of Baalbek into the history books began under Augustus at the end of the 2nd century BC, although it took another 300 years for the completion of the complex, by which time Christianity had become the religion of the Roman Empire and Jupiter's pagan rites and symbols were abolished. The irony of Baalbek; despite is massive size and show of power, the gods to which it was dedicated became defunct not long after completion.
The Grand Courtyard with its porticoed surround and one of eight rectangular exedras - to the right is one of two ritual pools.