The Sun City in the Vigilant Valley


The shrine of Sayyida Khawla, in Baalbek, Lebanon

The ring of steel surrounding the great shrine of Sayyida Khawla, daughter of Imam Hussein and great granddaughter of the prophet Muhammad, is an indication of the vigilance being shown in the Bekaa Valley these days. Whether because it is the month of Ramadan, or the growing security threat the valley’s Shia residents face from terrorist groups operating on the border in Syria, the shrine was well-guarded on my trip to the area.

The Temple of Bacchus, "the small temple"

The Temple of Bacchus, “the small temple”

A two hour car ride from Beirut to Bekaa will net you almost a dozen security checkpoints along the way. Many of the checkpoints are manned by local militias, while some are  maintained by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). You’re quickly waved through them all as a foreign tourist, and despite calls from friends and family living back in Beirut to stay away, you feel perfectly safe walking through the small towns nestled within and the tourist destinations, like the Roman ruins.

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