The ruins of the Umayyad city of Anjar near Beirut date back to the 8th century. Caliph Walid I (705-715) had a splendid summer residence built here. With its square floor plan, it is influenced by Roman city architecture. The buildings themselves, the palaces and the mosque, on the other hand, follow regional patterns.
Anjar Ruins: Facts
|Official title:||Ruins of the Umayyad city of Anjar|
|Cultural monument:||Summer residence with bath, courtyard houses, the actual palace, the audience hall with rows of columns and apse as well as the sparse remains of a 45×32 m mosque; walled city area of 114 700 m² with four gates and 36 towers; 60 inscriptions in the city wall, including one indicating the year 123 of the Islamic calendar (741 AD); Cardo Maximus, a 20 m wide street with partially reconstructed colonnades, in the center a tetrastyle, d. H. four columns connected by a cornice, at each corner of the intersection of Cardo Maximus and the street that runs in east-west direction, called Decumanus Maximus|
|Location:||Anjar, south of Baalbek, at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains|
|Meaning:||a unique testimony to urban planning from the time of the Umayyad dynasty. Naming: originally Ayn Gerrha (“source of Gerrha”), also known as Ayn el Jarr, changed to Anjar in modern Arabic|
Anjar Ruins: History
|705-15||Founded under the reign of Caliph al Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik|
|around 750||after the defeat of Walid’s son Ibrahim by his cousin Marwan II, the city fell and fell apart|
|1940||Studies by the French archaeologist Jean Sauvaget|
Between cardo and decumanus
It is not the age that makes the Umayyad trading metropolis of Anjar one of the outstanding archaeological sites in Lebanon, but the most impressive implementation of urban planning visions of the first hereditary caliph dynasty that ruled the Islamic world empire from Damascus in the 7th and 8th centuries.
In the southern Bekaá plain – on the western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains – the trade routes from Damascus to the Mediterranean ports crossed those from northern Baalbek to southern Palestine. At this junction, not far from one of the great springs of the Litani River, Caliph al Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik, the son of the builder of the Jerusalem Dome of the Rock, founded the city of Anjar.
According to businesscarriers, Anjar is not a grown, but a precisely planned city on a rectangular base, surrounded by a two meter thick and seven meter high city wall. This city wall, on which guards once patrolled, cleverly deceived potential attackers. Because in order to suggest greater strength, the builders used large, mighty stone blocks on the outside, but contented themselves with a mud wall on the inside. One entered the city through four city gates in the middle of each side of the wall. A wide one led from each of these city gates.
Street across the complex to the opposite gate: This increased the strategic mobility of the troops in the city in the event of an attack. According to the Greco-Roman model, the north-south axis was called “Cardo Maximus” and the shorter east-west connection was called “Decumanus Maximus”. Numerous towers, which were evenly distributed on the four sides of the wall, underlined the defensive strength of the newly founded city.
At the point where Cardo and Decumanus crossed in the center of the city, there are still four Corinthian columns connected by a decorative cornice with their characteristic acanthus leaves. Along the two main streets, traders under shady colonnades offered their goods from the distant parts of the Umayyad Empire: fabrics and silk from Persia or incense and spices from southern Arabia. Under the streets, irrigation and drainage canals provided the appropriate water supply for a total of 604 shops.
The two street axes divided Anjar into four equally large city districts with different functions. The soldiers housed in its walls to protect the trading center lived in the south-western quarter. In the opposite south-eastern part of the city stood the central mosque and the three-story Grand Palace with magnificent arcades and an inner courtyard designed in warm brown tones. On the other side of the Decumanus in the north-eastern part of the city, there was a second, somewhat smaller palace and extensive residential areas, while the north-eastern part of the city housed the public bathing facilities.
The Omajad master builders had architectural knowledge from different cultures: if the square structure of the city resembles a Roman military camp, when building the Great Palace they were based on Byzantine models: they placed three layers of mud bricks on a layer of hewn limestone blocks and thus moved them relatively quickly and earthquake-proof up the walls. The Omajad master builders did not make columns themselves, but instead made use of Roman buildings in the area. This explains the often different dimensions and decorative styles of the columns on one and the same building.
The playful arches and colonnades, the delicate architecture of the palaces and the many rows of columns raised Anjar against the backdrop of the nearby mountain range to a total work of art of great aesthetics. But this splendor was short-lived. Even if the mighty walls of Anjar never had to prove their strength, the city was soon forgotten after the fall of the Umayyads in the middle of the 8th century and gradually fell into disrepair.