[Published here August 28, 2014]
Ten minutes before sunset, the muezzin’s call to prayer goes out over the megaphones. In the summer heat, the bustle of Byblos pauses for a moment, then quickly resumes. Fresh fish is slapped onto steaming grills, beer is poured into iced glasses, and visitors – both Lebanese and foreign – stroll through the cobblestone pathways of what is reputed to be the world’s oldest continually inhabited city.
For perhaps 7,000 years it has been thus, in one form or another. People have lived in this picturesque coastal city in the north of Lebanon probably longer than any other. It is home to ruins from the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders and others. It was the launching point for the spread of the modern European alphabet. In the swinging 1960s, it emerged as a leisure destination where Brigitte Bardot frolicked in the marinas along with other icons of the decade. To this day, late-night outdoor bars and restaurants continue to thrive.