Posts Tagged ‘mashnaqa’

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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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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