Anjar Archaeological Site (عنجر‎)



Location: Beqaa Valley, Beqaa Governorate Map


Description of Anjar Archaeological Site

Anjar is an ancient and medieval archaeological site situated in Beqaa Valley in the Beqaa Governorate of Lebanon. Its name is derived from Arab word of Ain Gerrah or "water source of Gerrah". Gerrah was a local deity that protected the city and its residents. Anjar Archaeological Site was found around 714 AD (according to the Byzantine Greek historian Theophanes the Confessor) as a trading post on the crossroads of trading routes in the Bekaa Valley. They linked Damascus with southern provinces of the Middle Eastern towns. Soon the city grew in size and importance. Archeological digs in the 20th century revealed a rectangular city, surrounded by defensive city walls and forty towers. City gates decorated by porticos led to two main streets of Anjar that crossed the city from North to South and from East to West thus diving the city into four equal sectors.


Most of Anjar Archaeological Site structures date back to the 8th century AD. The city was inhabited for just several decades before it was abandoned during Umayyad Dynasty period and rediscovered only in 1940. During its brief period of existence, Anjar residents constructed numerous public and private structures. The palace of Khalifa was located in the South- Eastern part of Anjar and the main mosque of the city stood in the North- Eastern part of the city. Western part of the city was largely taken by private residencies of common residents of Anjar. Many of the houses also contained large areas reserved for various animals that once lived here. During early Medieval period it had to be one of the smelliest places in the city as hundreds of camels, horses, donkeys and other animals were cramped along human residencies.




Towards the end of the 1st century BC, thanks to the disorders which mark the end of the Seleucids, the Iturean Arabs occupy the Bekaa and the North of Lebanon and found a vast kingdom whose political capital is Chalcis and the religious capital Heliopolis-Baalbek. These Ituréans are trying to extend their power across the entire western slope of Lebanon.

When Pompey, around 64/63, seized the region, he reorganized the administration of the region, a certain number of cities were removed from the Ituraean principality.


The Ottoman period

In 1618, changes at the head of the Ottoman Empire allowed the triumphant return of Fakhr ad-Dîn, then in exile in Tuscany. He gradually reconquers his territories and takes back all of Lebanon, even beyond the mountain borders. In 1623, the Ottoman vizier of Damascus, Kara Mustafa Pasha attacked Fakhr ad-Dîn. The confrontation took place in `Anjar and despite fewer forces, Fakhr ad-Dîn won, strengthening his position in Lebanon. He took the opportunity to extend his power as far as Gaza in the south and Aleppo in the north. The following year Sultan Murad IV recognized his authority over this territory. Ten years later the same Murad IV had Fakhr ad-Dîn arrested and executed.


The Armenian community

In 1939, the French authorities settled entire families of Armenians from the Musa Dagh mountains in Anjar, in the sanjak of Alexandretta, today's Turkish Iskenderun, which France ceded in 1938 to Turkey in exchange for its neutrality. in the war brewing in Europe.

Having already suffered the genocide of 1915, the Armenians were evacuated to Anjar. A city, whose six districts bear the names of villages of Musa Dagh, is created there from scratch. From this refugee camp, Anjar evolved into a town with a wealthy appearance.

The city is considered the second Armenian city in Lebanon.


Recent history

From 1984 to 2005, Anjar was the headquarters of the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon. It is also an illegal sorting and detention center, controlled by Syrian secret services.

Following the discovery of a mass grave, Syria was singled out. An investigation was carried out and it was concluded that it was an Ottoman cemetery. The oldest body is 50 years old.


The Anjar site

`Anjar is the only site in Lebanon dating from the Umayyad era. `Anjar was only discovered by archaeologists in the late 1940s. `Anjar differs from other archaeological sites in Lebanon which can sometimes boast an uninterrupted history from their founding to the present day. `Anjar appears to have lived only a few decades at the beginning of the 8th century CE. `Anjar, however, retains its mystery: is it built on the site of the ancient city Chalcis?

Rectangular in plan, modeled on the town or Roman camp on a rectangle measuring 370 m by 310 m. The city is surrounded by a wall seven meters high and two meters thick, confined by thirty-six towers and four circular corner towers. This enclosure is built of limestone forming the interior and exterior facings, filled with raw stones, pebbles and mortar.

The two main roads, decorated with colonnades, intersect under a tetrapyl as in Palmyra or Apamea. The city has all the appearances of a Roman city, despite being the work of the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid I. The mystery of this city is that it only lived for a few decades. Archaeologists managed to bring this beautiful residence back to life in the 1950s.


Main monuments

The Grand Palais, the first monument discovered in 1949, of which a wall and the main arcades have been reconstructed.
The Mosque, measuring 45 m by 32 m and located to the north of the palace, has two public entrances and a private entrance for the caliph.
The Petit Palais, covered with rich motifs in the pure Greco-Roman tradition. This monument has retained its original state.
The thermal baths, built on the Roman model.


Other points of interest

The spring that gives its name to the town is located just away from the ruins and makes a pleasant picnic spot. Excavations have only just begun on this site and a certain number of elements suggest the presence of Greek and Roman constructions: perhaps ancient Chalcis but this site is perhaps also that of ancient Zobah. Zobah was the capital of an Aramaic kingdom until the 1st century BC. This kingdom sometimes extended as far as the Euphrates towards the East and as far as the Yarmûk river towards the South. Here again the identification of Zobah with Chalcis/`Anjar is not proven.

Finally there is the place called Karak Nuh which, on the site of an ancient lake and according to local legend, would be the place where Noah's ark was stranded, and where we find Noah's tomb .