Temple of Adonis, Mashnaqa

November 10th, 2009

For some odd reason, I decided to visit the temples of Adonis. I understand there are three such temples surviving in Lebanon – in Afqa, Faqra and a place with the dubious name of Mashnaqa (more on that below).

Since this was decided the day before my departure from Leb, and rather late in the day at that, I managed to only visit two of the three sites. Still, am happy as I managed to visit both sites on the same day while taking the scenic route through tiny winding mountain roads (as opposed to the Afqa/Faqra/Faraya highway, which I used on the way back, and which required a bare fraction of the time it took to get to Afqa…).

So, the temples! The first I visited was the temple at Mashnaqa.

Mashnaqa is a small village in the mountains on a forgotten road that leads up from Jbeil (AKA Byblos).

Now, Mashnaqa loosely translates in Arabic to “the Gallows”. Charming, you might say. But one source apparently insists that the word is derived from a Phoenico-Aramæan word meaning “Place of Tears”. Same difference, no?

Mashnaqa is interesting to me for another reason. It is the first of a series of beautiful Shi’ ite villages that pepper a predominantly Christian mountainside and which I passed through on my way to Afqa. Proof that Lebanon is full of surprises, at least for me (See, I was under the impression that there were nothing but Christian villages in that particular area of Mount Lebanon. When I recounted this to my parents later, they both just looked at me blankly and said, “Well, of course there are Shi’ite villages there!”).

I had a chance to chat with the locals a bunch of times in my search for the temple (which proved surprisingly easy to find, if I’d only followed the directions to the letter), and true to form, they time and again proved as friendly and as hospitable as ever. I don’t really know why I resisted the urge to ask if I could take their pictures. Some had such beautiful faces. The kind with a story to every wrinkle, and a bright spark in kind eyes. Ah well. I know better for next time.

On a side note, oddly enough the turning point for me I guess – in terms of asking people if I could shoot their portraits – was on the plane ride to Bangalore. There was this old Emirati man and his son taking the plane with us. The old man had the kindest, gentlest face. I just had to take his portrait. Three hours or so into the flight, I finally plucked up the courage to go up and ask. He acquiesced with a smile, and I had a mad scramble to switch on every seat light I could find in the dark fuselage and try and direct it at his face in just the right way to get enough, soft, light and a catchlight in his eyes.

Here it is:

Gentle Old Man on a Plane (D700, Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 @ f3, ISO 1000, 1/40sec)

If you don’t ask, you won’t get the picture.

Right. Back to the temple!

When the temple finally appeared, it was at first glance something of a let-down despite the marvellous setting. Barely a corner and a few columns remained of the once no doubt imposing structure. But closer inspection showed it to be more than just the sum of its few remaining parts. For one thing, the setting: it rests in the cosy garden of a quaint farm house overlooking a lush green valley and mountains. Absolutely beautiful.

Interestingly, the farm house seems was built in part from the stones that once made up the temple… Go figure.

Unfortunately, the light was not as soft as I’d have liked, despite the lateness of the hour. But you do what you can with what you’ve got, no?

Here are a few shots from that beautiful, peaceful place.

The Gate (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

Rana was evidently here... (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/320sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

Rise Up (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

There's a Wall There (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

The Temple (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

The Nub (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

Temple Green (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

A Terraced Garden (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

Here you can see the farm house behind the temple:

Farm House (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 36mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

And the farm house itself and its terraced walkways, built evidently from rock from the temple:

Steps and a Doorway (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

A Shady Terrace (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 44mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/80sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

As I said, it’s a farm house. Emphasis on “farm”. So here’s some produce seen being grown there:

Cabbage! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f9, ISO 200, 1/160sec + flash SB900 zoomed at 180mm)

Aubergine! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/80sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

Chili Peppers! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 70mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

Not quite ripe jabali tomatoes... (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec + flash SB900 zoomed to 180mm)

More pictures (from the India trip, the temple at Afqa and others) coming soon!


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Posted in Portraits, Travel/Urban | Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Temple of Adonis, Mashnaqa”

  1. Zooey Says:

    First, bravo once again! You certainly have mastered your way to fantastic portraits. Your people skills and your value of friendly strangers are just amazing that you could easily make them comfortable in front of your camera.
    Second, thanks for sharing a very interesting Lebanon. I enjoyed the very insightful account of your journey from the mountains, to the waterfall, up to the chapel and to the ruins of this grand temple. You can make a great tour guide you know 😉
    Third, I love the light and texture of the peppers. They’re so hot and green you just made me even more scared to eat them. 🙂 Really nice work you got there!
    But I have yet to see YOUR partay pics in Bangalore. haha

  2. Z! Says:

    Hey Zooey!

    I can’t begin to thank you for your kinds words. I’m so touched.

    Am very happy you’re enjoying the Lebanon shots – do let me know if you ever plan a trip to Lebanon (and you should). I’ll be more than happy to show you around the place. 🙂

    P.S.: I can confirm that the peppers were very hot…

    P.P.S.: As for my partay pics… I’ll email you a few links.

  3. The Desert Jerboa » Blog Archive » Temples of Astarte and Adonis, Afqa Says:

    […] taking a goodly amount of time in Mashnaqa, the race was on to get to Afqa before sunset. I got there with bare minutes to spare before the […]

  4. The Tea Cup | The Desert Jerboa Says:

    […] was setting up to make the portrait of an elderly gentleman and realised that I had packed my speedlights in my suitcase, which was *cough* conveniently in the […]

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