An entire palace-city from the Umayyad dynasty today lies in ruins. The name “Anjar” is a modification of the Arabic “Ain Gerrha,” the name of an ancient city founded in this area in Hellenistic times. In contrast with other historic cities in Lebanon that are still inhabited, such as Tyre, Saida, Beirut and Byblos, Anjar’s glory did not last long because of the Umayyad’s short-lived 100-year rule in the 8th century. Today, a large Armenian population lives around Anjar, which incidentally means “unresolved or running river.”
This iconic site once housed three grand palaces, Roman-inspired public baths, a residential area, a mosque and a commercial center. Its grand architectural scheme is made to be an almost perfect quadrilateral, with perpendicular streets and alleys that intersect at the city center. This tidy division into four quarters is based on earlier Roman city planning. Because Umayyad history is steeped with war and conquest, Anjar’s first people would have needed the defense and security of its tall walls and towers, which you’ll notice, are abundant features of the city’s architecture. Most striking about the ruins are the fragile and slender columns that stand in sharp contrast to the massive and bulky anti-Lebanon mountain range. The city also lies near gushing springs that feed the Bekaa’s most vital water source, the Litani River.
Visitors usually enter through the site’s northern gate, but since the main attractions are in the city’s southern half, it's better to walk up the main street to the far end of the site. You’d be walking along the 20-meter-wide Cardo Maximus (Latin for major street running north-south), which is flanked by shops, some of which have been reconstructed. At the midpoint of this commercial street, a second major street called Decumanus Maximus (running east-west) cuts across it at a right angle. It’s also lined with shops. In total, 600 shops have been uncovered, giving Anjar the right to be called a major Umayyad strip mall.
There are a number of restaurants close to Anjar that offer fresh trout plus a wide array of Lebanese and Armenian dishes. Some of the restaurants are literally built over trout ponds. Anjar has no hotels, but lodging can be found in Chtaura 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.
After taking the Dahr al-Baidar mountain pass from Beirut towards the Bekaa Valley and Chtaura, and before reaching the Masnaa checkpoint at the Syrian borderline, you’ll find a sign post indicating the direction to Aanjar on the left side. The ruins can be seen from the left of the town’s entrance.
If you have time, visit:
Ain Gerrha, Anjar's major spring is located three kilometers (1.8 miles) northeast of the ruins.
Majdal Anjar, a Roman-era temple sitting on a hilltop overlooking the Majdal, which is one kilometer (0.6 miles) from Anjar.
The Mausoleum of Al-Wali Zawur, the burial spot of a religious personage from medieval times. Until the early 1980s fertility rites were held here.
Kfar Zabad, Roman temple ruins and a cave with stalactites and stalagmites. Special equipment is needed for cave exploring.