'Anjar, Lebanon

Located 58 kilometers from Beirut and just a short distance from the Litani River, 'Anjar is a planned town dating to the Umayyad period. It is of particular importance in that it is the only exclusively Umayyad site in Lebanon and one of the best examples of a planned town from this time period that has survived relatively intact. The name 'Anjar is a contraction of the longer Arabic name attested in medieval sources, "'Ayn al-Jarr." This name likely refers to the toponym "Gerra" attested in pre-Islamic sources, which has tentatively been identified with the immediate area. The Umayyad town of 'Anjar was commissioned by the caliph Walid I in the early 8th century. It prospered as a trading city, situated strategically at the crossroad of the north-south and east-west trade routes, but by the conclusion of Umayyad political domination, no more than thirty years later, 'Anjar fell rapidly into disrepair and eventually was abandoned. Historically, it remains unique as the only inland commercial center in Lebanon. 

Walls extending 370 meters from north to south and 310 meters east to west contain this 114,000 square-meter town. Structurally sound at two meters thick, the walls combine a mud mortar and rubble base flanked by large stones on the exterior and significantly smaller ones on the interior. Umayyad inscriptions can be found throughout the enclosure. With forty towers and a gate at the center of each facade it is an impressive site from the exterior, especially in that 20-meter wide avenues connect the opposing gates to each other. Heavily influenced by Roman planning in its organization, these two main colonnaded streets, the Cardo Maximus (north/south axis) and the Decumanus Maximus (east/west axis) bisect the city with four Tetrapylons located at the corners of the intersection. Numerous shops operated on these main thoroughfares, set back from the rows of columns by a 4.5-meter arcade. The columns themselves vary in both type and size, most being of Byzantine origin, most likely remnants near and around the site at the time of construction. 

The main structures at the site are two palaces, a mosque, and a public bath. The main palace is located in the southeast quadrant of the city off the eastern edge of the Cardo Maximus and behind the row of shops. Its two main entrances are located in the center of its western and eastern facades. A triple-arched façade frames the western façade from the main street replacing the space with what would have been three shops. The palace rooms are organized around a 40 square-meter, central courtyard. Its most pronounced characteristics are the triple arcade window on the upper façade, a feature for which Anjar is most well known, and its masonry consisting of an alternating layer of stone with three layers of brickwork, again reminiscent of Byzantine technology. 

The mosque at 'Anjar is located directly north of the palace with one of the palace's exits located directly opposite an entrance to the mosque. With just a three-meter wide street in between the two buildings, this clearly acted as the caliph's private doorway into the maqsura. Two other entrances were available for the public. The overall structure is approximately 47 meters wide by 30 meters deep. Both its sanctuary and its side riwaqs extend two aisles while the northern riwaq simply extends one. 

Across the Decumanus Maximus to the north of the mosque al-Walid positioned a smaller palace for his wives. It can be reached from the street through its main entrance. This palace is organized around a square courtyard with five-room suites bordering the opening on the east and west with another one seeming to have existed as well on the north side. Framing the palace to the east extended an indoor souk containing eleven shops per side. While not restored like the greater palace, this building is graced with much more refined and intricate decoration, including engravings of various birds, seashells and acanthus leaves. 

In the northeast quarter of the site near the northern gate, there are the remains of public baths , evidence of a traditional Roman influence. They were standard in their design, including a square-hall vestibule for changing, supported by two arcades consisting of three arches each, and three separate rooms for cold, warm, and hot water baths. The vestibule also functioned as a forum for community interaction. 

Thus far, most of 'Anjar has been excavated with some restoration initiatives, including one of the tetrapylons, and the southern half of the great palace. However, continued excavation is necessary to uncover the vast remains of a substantial residential section to the southwest of the site.


"Anjar." Al Mashriq Website. http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/900/910/919/anjar/. [Accessed February 14, 2007]

"Aanjar." Middleeast.com. http://www.middleeast.com/anjar.htm. [Accessed February 14, 2007]

"Anjar." UNESCO World Heritage Website. http://whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31&id_site=293. [Accessed February 14, 2007]

Creswell, K. A. C. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, 122-124. Edited by James W. Allan. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989.

'Anjar, Lebanon
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Associated Names
Part of Site
714-715/96 AH
Style Periods
370 x 310 m (area of walled city)
Variant Names
Building Usages