Temples of Astarte and Adonis, Afqa

November 26th, 2009

I seem to have broken my post-every-other-day routine. I’ve been so busy lately. Been a very very hectic time. But I’m still here, alive and kicking.

So, anyway: Back to the hunt for the temples of Adonis in Lebanon. New pictures!

After 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 last of the precious light was gone. I cursed myself for not carrying a proper, full-size tripod with me. (I’d only taken my trusty Gorillapod – which is an amazing piece of gear but unfortunately limiting – occasionally, you might want some shots to be taken from a higher – or a different – perspective than that the Gorillapod can provide.)

Aside from the scenery, Afqa was interesting from a human point of view: The soldiers I met at the checkpoint just outside Afqa, and again in the village when asking for directions, were ever so helpful and friendly. Two shepherd boys who were tending their flock just outside the temple grounds couldn’t be more different.

The boys made such a ruckus when they saw the camera gear. They threw fits every time the camera wasn’t turned completely away – screaming they didn’t want to be photographed (At no point was I tempted to in any event). They called to each other in shrill voices, their screams shattering the peace of the place. To top it off, when my back was to them I was followed by jeers. So much for the innocence of youth.

The Collapse (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The temple in Afqa is an odd sight. Not exactly a disappointment. There is precious little left of it, most having been appropriated over the years by villagers from the nearby towns. All that is now left of what was certainly an imposing structure are piles of stones, rocks and rubble – a hillock overgrown with weeds.

Rocks & Rubble (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The far end of the temple grounds overlook the famous Afqa cave, and a waterfall that falls into the most beautiful crystal-blue pool.

Afqa Cave (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 34mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/40sec)

The Pool (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 45mm, f11, ISO 200, 1sec)

Waterfall (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 85mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1.6sec)

When about to call it a day, one of the soldiers who was with a group I’d asked directions from came to join me. Turns out he’d grown up in a neighbouring village but had never known of the ruined temple until then. The soldier, a young and friendly lad named Ahmed, told me of a hidden entrance to the temple from beneath which his friends had spoken to him about. We searched in the failing light and found a tunnel that led into the heart of the hillock.

The Half-Buried Entrance (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, f8, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

The tunnel was quite deep, curving leftwards about 15 meters in and carrying on for a bit before the ceiling dropped to less than half a meter.

Below you can see the figures of Ahmad and a friend at the mouth of the tunnel.

Inwards & Outwards (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4.5, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

Torchlight revealed that the partially collapsed tunnel went on at least a further 20 meters or more and it seems there may be open rooms or halls further in. It certainly warrants further exploration. At some point I may return there with torches and clothes I don’t mind ruining…

The Collapsed Tunnel (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4.5, ISO 200, 1.6sec + flash SB900)

On another note, I should have taken Ahmad’s portrait, but the thought only occurred to me after we’d parted ways. Ah well…

More pictures coming soon (promise)!

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Posted in Travel/Urban | Comments (5)

5 Responses to “Temples of Astarte and Adonis, Afqa”

  1. Daniel Nahabedian Says:

    Great shots Z! Love the waterfalls.

    Reminds also some souvenirs. I visited the Afqa Grotto many times with my uncle and I didn’t even know there was a temple there! My favorite by far remains the temple of Faqra (IMHO, Baalbeck is so overrated).

    Keep on buddy! Make us travel with you! heheheeee

  2. Z! Says:

    Dan! Thx ma man! :) Glad you enjoyed the shots. It’s a beautiful place, no? I’ve only been to Afqa once before. Desperately want to go back to have a wander around that cave – and a swim in the pool! Hehe. You’re right about the Faqra ruins tho – they’re something else. Will hopefully finish my run of all the Adonis temples next trip. :)

  3. The Desert Jerboa » Blog Archive » Temple of Adonis, Faqra Says:

    [...] A while back, I began a mini-project to visit and explore the three surviving temples of Adonis in Lebanon. On the same day, I managed to visit the temple at Mashnaqa, and that at Afqa. [...]

  4. Rayya Says:

    lovely photos you shared…thanks! you can find my blog within the website.

    one fall season friends and i climbed up the ‘cave’…and i got a shot from within, out into the open air.
    now i’m going back on Saturday.
    this past weekend i saw Ballou Balaa for the first time and was completely breath taken
    shee mish ma3oul shou helo!!! i just enjoyed your photos from there

  5. Z! Says:

    Hi Rayya,
    Thank you very much! Am very glad you liked the photos. Will be checking out your blog and look forward to seeing the shots of the cave and others. So many beautiful places to see and explore in Lebanon! With luck and in time, I look forward to exploring more of this unique country.
    Best, Z!

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