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Aanjar: Commercial Hub of the Umayyad Dynasty

Most notable for its graceful stone arches and wide arcades, the ruins of Aanjar offer visitors a unique opportunity to step foot upon an ancient Islamic trading hub connecting Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. Situated at the southern end of the Békaa Valley, Aanjar is among the world's few known ruins of the 8th century Umayyad dynasty and is one of the region's only examples of an inland commercial center.

At only 1,300 years old, Aanjar is one of Lebanon's newer archaeological sites. The ruins were discovered by accident relatively recently (in 1949).

The Umayyad Dynasty, which flourished for 100 years (660-750 A.D.) in the first century after Muhammed, was the first of two dynasties of the Arab Islamic empire. The Umayyad caliphs were notable for establishing a large empire, which extended from Spain, through North Africa, to Central Asia. They established Arabic as the official language of the empire, and they are remembered in the pages of history for their excellent city administration and planning and their patronage of early Islamic art and architecture.

Thought to be the summer home of Caliph Walid I, Aanjar survived only a few decades before the Umayyads were defeated by their rivals, the Abbasids (who founded the second Arab Islamic dynasty). Aanjar later fell into disrepair and was abandoned.

The city of Aanjar was a major trading and commercial center for the entire region. It was built at a strategic location on the main caravan routes between the inland Umayyad capital of Damascus (Syria) and the coast, close to the abundant spring of Aain Gerrha and near the rich agricultural land of the Békaa. Visitors can still see the remains of over 600 small shops, running along colonnaded boulevards – the ancient equivalent of a modern-day shopping arcade.

The city's wide avenues are also lined with mosques, palaces, baths, storehouses, and residences. The city ruins cover 114,000 square meters and are surrounded by large, fortified stone walls, over two meters thick and seven meters high. The rectangular city design is based on Roman city planning and architecture, with stonework and other features borrowed from the Byzantines. Two large avenues – the 20-meter-wide Cardo Maximus, running north to south, and the Decumanus Maximus, running east to west – divide the city into four quadrants. At the crossroads in the center of the city, four great tetrapylons mark the four corners of the intersection.

As you walk through the ruins of this stone city, marvel at the beautiful stone archways of the city's palace facades… Explore the elaborate Roman-style baths… Duck inside the small residential quarters of the city residents… Search for intricate Greco-Roman-style stone carvings or Umayyad-era graffiti on the stone walls… And imagine yourself transported to this short period in history when the Umayyad caliphs ruled the region and the city bustled with traders en route to the four corners of the globe!

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