37 km north of Beirut, Byblos is one of the top contenders for the "oldest continuously inhabited city" award. According to Phoenician tradition, it was founded by the god El. Although its beginnings are lost in time, modern scholars say the site of Byblos goes back at least 7000 years.
It was the Greeks, some time after 1200 BC, who gave the name "Phoenicia", referring to coastal area. And they called the city "Byblos" (Papyrus in Greek), because of the importance of this commercial center in the papyrus trade.
Long before Greece and Rome, this ancient town was a powerful, independent city-state with its own kings, culture and flourishing trade. For several thousand years it was called Gubla and later Gebal, while the term Canaan was applied to the coast in general.
The rise and fall of nearly two dozen successive levels of human culture on this site makes it one of the richest archaeological areas in Lebanon.
Under the domination of the Egyptian Pharaohs in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC, Byblos was a commercial and religious capital of the Phoenician coast.
About this same time the scribes of Byblos developed an alphabetic phonetic script, the precursor of our modern alphabet which had traveled by the year 800 BC to Greece, changing forever the way man communicated.
The earliest form of the Phoenician alphabet found to date is the inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos which is now in the Lebanese National Museum.
Byblos was also the center of the Adonis cult, the god of vegetation who dies in winter and is renewed each spring.
The main places of interest to visit in Byblos are the Castle and church, built by the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Egyptian temples; the earliest of which dates back to the 4th millennium BC, the Phoenician Royal Necropolis, and the Roman Amphitheater.