Byblos is one of the top contenders for the "oldest continuously inhabited city" award. According to Phoenician tradition it was founded by the God El, and even the Phoenicians considered it a city of great antiquity. Although its beginnings are lost in time, modern scholars say the site of Byblos goes back at least 7,000 years.


Ironically, the words "Byblos" and "Phoenicia" would not have been recognized by the city’s early inhabitants. For several thousand years it was called "Gubla" and later "Gebal," while the term "Canaan" was applied to the coast in general.
It was the Greeks, some time after 1200 B.C., who gave us the name "Phoenicia," referring to the coastal area. And they called the city "Byblos" (papyrus" in Greek), because this commercial center was important in the papyrus trade. 

Today Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic) on the coast 37 kilometers north of Beirut, is a prosperous place with glass-fronted office buildings and crowded streets. But within the old town, medieval Arab and Crusader remains are continuous reminders of the past. Nearby are the extensive excavations that make Byblos one of the most important archaeological sites in the area. 
Roman theater built near the sea



Before Byblos was excavated, the ruins of successive cities had formed a mound about 12 meters high covered with houses and gardens. The ancient site was rediscovered in 1860 by the French writer Ernest Renan, who made a survey of the area. In 1921-1924 Pierre Montet, a French Egyptologist, began excavations which confirmed trade relations between Byblos and ancient Egypt. Maurice Dunand began his work in Byblos in 1925 and continued with various campaigns until 1975.


Byblos Today


A thriving modern town with an ancient heart, Byblos is a mix of sophistication and tradition. The old harbor is sheltered from the sea by a rocky headland. Nearby are the excavated remains of the ancient city, the Crusader castle and church and the old market area.


For a real taste of Byblos, stroll through the streets and byways. This part of town is a collection of old walls (some medieval) overlapping properties and intriguing  half-ruins. Don't hesitate to explore. Should you happen to intrude on someone's property the hospitable townspeople will be pleased to show you around.




The area of excavations is surrounded by a wall with the entrance at the Crusader castle. To get a good view of this large, somewhat complex site, either climb to the top of castle or walk around the periphery from outside the wall to identify
the major monuments.


After visiting the archeological site, a quick and entertaining introduction to Lebanon's past can be found at the Wax Museum near the castle. The wax figures illustrate scenes from the history and rural life of the country. There is a modest entrance fee.
With its many restaurants, snack bars, souvenir shops and hotels, Byblos is well prepared to welcome tourists. 

If you have time


Out of old Byblos and into the town's higher elevations in the foothills are a number of very old churches such as the catacomb-like Mar Nohra cut from rock and the Mar Semaan chapel.


Just north of Byblos, Amchit sits on the coast and climbs briefly up the lower elevations of Mt. Lebanon. This town has the country's only organized campsite, a pleasant, clean place with attractive beaches available to campers. The town is well known for its lovely traditional houses. Among others, there is the home of the French writer Ernest Renan who lived in Amchit in the 19th century.


Nahr Ibrahim, 6 kilometers south of Byblos. This valley of the ancient Adonis River is one of the most wild and beautiful in Lebanon. The road leads to the source at Afqa high in the mountains, where you will find the ruins of the great temple of Aphrodite-Venus in front of the cave.