The town of Akkar AlAtiqah is located at 750 meters of altitude and is 57 km away from Tripoli. The town was named as such in reference to "Akkar AlQuda'i" who existed during the reign of the Umayyad Caliphate "Marwan ben AlHakam" 64-65 H/684-685 CE. Akkar AlAtiqah is famous for its historical castle, built by Sultan AlZaher Baybars about 670 H/1272 CE. The castle stands on a narrow spur at 694 meters, but the best view is from the village itself - just follow the road over the bridge. The Sultan also constructed a mosque inside the castle. On both monuments, he engraved his motto, "the Lion". The mosque was destroyed during the fight between the Sayfa family - which included the governors of Akkar and Tripoli - and Prince Fakhreddeen AlMa'ani AlThani. This later destroyed the castle and its neighbouring monuments and transferred their stones to the town of Deir AlQamar in Mount Lebanon. The mosque was abandoned since that time and very little remains of it. The mosque was originally constructed on a stone hill between the valleys of Akkar AlAtiqah and the original streams of Ustuwan River. The mihrab of the mosque is still preserved in the Takiyyah district close to the castle. Above the mihrab, is the dome of the mosque. On top of the mihrab, is an inscription that dates the restoration of the mosque during the Ottoman period upon the orders of the Prince of the Hama Governorate. Near this mosque, is another Mameluke mosque constructed upon the orders of Sultan Mansour Qalawoon. The inscriptions on the mosque clearly indicate this fact. One of the inscriptions read the following: "This blessed mosque was restored during the days of our master the Sultan of the World the Just, the Brave, the Mujahid, the Supported, the Victorious AlMansour the Sword of this World and Belief Qalawoon AlSalihi".
In Akkar AlAtiqah, there also exists a historical Takiyyah that was constructed by Prince Youssef Pasha Sayfa, the Governor of Tripoli and Akkar. The Takiyyah resembles that of the Mawlawiyyah Takiyyah in Tripoli. Above the portal of the Takiyyah is an inscription stating the name of the constructor of the Takiyyah and the date of construction (1007 H/1598 CE). The inscription is adorned with lily engravings. The portal has a wide arch made of alternating white and black stones (Ablaq Style) surrounded by a frame engraved in the wall.
Besides these monuments, Akkar AlAtiqah also includes, the Roman Shih Palace, the Roman Heir Bea'ara remains, the Roman Nejm AlSouhour Palace, the Valicium Castle, the Takiyyah of Yousef Sayfa, the Blood Prison, Saint Georgios Monastery, AlMeri Monastery, Abboud AbdelRazzak AlMour'ebi Castle, the Roman Salasel Citadel, and a large Phoenician burial site. The town is also famous for its apple and pear orchards.
Arqa is an archeological site that is at 22 km from Tripoli. The site goes back to the Neolithic Period. To reach the site, go through the modern village and take the road that passes over a single arched bridge.
The ancient town of Arqa played an important role in the area's history, and its name appears many times in the Bible, in Egyptian texts of the 2nd millenium BCE, and in the Assyrian texts of the 1st millenium BCE.
In Roman times, it was called Caesarea of Lebanon, and the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235 CE) was born there. In 1108 CE, the Crusaders took control of the startegic castle from the Banu Ammar, but the Mameluke Sultan Sultan Baybars captured it in 1266 CE.
Archeological surveys and excavations, which began in the 1970's, have revealed numerous important structures representing almost every occupation level of the site from the Early Bronze Age to the Mameluke period.
Bazbina is a village that is at 40 km north east of Tripoli in the Akkar region. It consists of a fertile plain of about 170 Hectares at an altitude of 600 meters above sea level. Bazbina is surrounded by high mountains reaching an altitude of 1,300 meters. Water is plentiful in the village and it irrigates all kinds of fruit trees planted in the plain while the mountains are mainly covered with oak trees and is still a virgin beautiful land and the village is adamant to keep it that way. The village experienced a steady immigration since 1880 CE. Many of its people are in the Dominican Republic, Brazil and in New Kensington, a town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1918, young immigrants established the "Bazbina Club" in New Kensington which is still running until present.
(communicated by Manuel Hazim, webmaster of Bazbina.com)
The town of Beereh is situated in Akkar some 30 kms away from Tripoli. It has an old Serail that was probbaly used by the Crusades as a castle. It also inlcudes a mosque surrounded by large trees.
The mosque has a central dome lying on top of a hexagonal base. The minaret stands at the northern corner of the prayer room. Above the main portal of the mosque is an inscription that includes two verses from a poem. Below the inscription are decorations that include the date of construction (1300 H/1882 CE). Black volcanic stones, highly abundant in the region, were used in the construction of the mosque.
Halba is the capital of Akkar Governorate in northern Lebanon. It is located at 150 meters of altitude and 20 km away from Tripoli. It has cemeteries that are engraved in the rocks. The town is famous for planting peanuts, tobacco, corn, and vegetables.
The village of Mash'ha neighbors the town of Halba from the south-east and is situated midway between the towns of Qobayyat and Berqayel. Mash'ha is located some 25 kms away from Tripoli. It includes the Ottoman Hamidiyah Madrassa, built in 1311 H/1893 CE upon the orders of Sultan AbdulHameed II. The madrassa was a center for education and was used as a prayer house. The prosperity in this structure was mainly because of the generous support of Othman Pasha ben Mohammed Beyk, a Prince in Akkar. The portal of the madrassa is adorned with the Ottoman Tughra (motto) of Sultan AbdulHameed II, verses of a poem, and the date of construction. The madrassa includes a library with a collection of rare manuscripts.
The town of Menyeh is located at the northern entrance of Tripoli. Up to the 1980s, Menyeh used to be the favourite place for picnics for Tripolitans because it includes wide green pasture-lands, orchards, springs, flower pastures, and a seashore.
In a nearby stone cave, that is 15 meters underground, is the tomb of Prophet Yusha'a. The tomb is 3.6 meters long and 1.5 meters high. It was visited by Jews, Christians, and Muslims because of the belief that it belongs to the Prophet "Yusha'a ben Noun". Some others believe that it is for Yusha'a, the son of Moses, May Peace be Upon Him. What complicates the matter is a historical tablet, described by AbdulGhani AlNaboulsi in 1105 H/1693 CE, that reads as follows: "This is the tomb of the humble slave Sheikh Yusha'a constructed by the Sultan AlMuqtafi AlSalihi in Tripoli at year 684 H." This statement is baseless since the name of the Sultan indicated in the tablet does not match with historical records. In fact, Tripoli was at that time ruled by the Crusades! Minister Mohammed Pasha AlKurji, the Ottoman Governor of Tripoli, built a tomb over the grave in 1175 H/1763 CE. Two verses of a poem are engraved on the tomb. Above the tomb is a stone cylinder through which the water dripping from the stone is collected. It was also said: "When the water in the town becomes scarce, water in this cylinder continues to flow upon the orders of the Almighty". At the entrance of the tomb is a small prayer space that has a mihrab. Above the prayer house and the cave is a large and elevated Ottoman mosque that is accessed by climbing few stairs. The whole site is still visited by many tourists and visitors to collect its blessings.
Qal'at AlBurj is situated in AlJumah district in Akkar some 50 km away from Tripoli. Ali Pasha AlAsa'ad AlMer'ebi, the governor of Tripoli and Akkar, constructed a mosque inside the strong tower, where the large serail. The mosque is composed of a large hall surrounded by arches on the sides made of sandy stone, as in the mosques of Tripoli. At the center of its entrance hall is a huge supportive column. On its left side is the portal of the mosque decorated on top with a three-line inscription telling the date of construction of the mosque (1224 H/1810 CE).
The mountain of Qammoua is at 55 km away from Tripoli. It is a small paradise of streams, rugged mountains, and sturdy gnarled pines. In winter, the snow-covered peaks are particularly arresting.
Take the road to Fnaideq village, continuing through the town to a paved road that leads up the mountain. This is a good place for picnicking, hiking, and photography. Keep your eyes open for ruins and other remnants of the past. About half way across the flat-topped mountain there is a hill where three standing structures can be seen, possibly the ruins of an old monastery.
Qobbet B'shamra is situated in the plain of Akkar close to the seaside and the Qulay'at (René Moawad) Airport, the small town of Qobbet B'shamra includes a historical mosque that belongs to the Mameluke period as concluded from the architecture of its dome.. Inside the mosque is a rectangular tomb that is about 10 meters long and known as the "Martyr of the Sea". At the southern side of the mosque is the mihrab.
Located in Akkar at the northern Lebanese-Syrian borders at about 31 kms from Tripoli. It includes a historical mosque decorated with a central lobed dome standing on a hexagonal base. The date of construction of the mosque is unknown.
Batroun is a coastal town located 15 km south of Tripoli. It was known as "Batruna" in the famous Tell AlAmarna letters of the 14th century BCE, although its history goes back even further. The town was called "Botrys" in Greco-Roman times and during the Crusader Era it was a seigniory dependent on the County of Tripoli.
Batroun's fishing port, undoubtedly of great antiquity, still supplies local markets with fresh fish. The city's sights can be best appreciated by heading on foot through the old part of town. On your way look for remains of the crusader castle with the walls of the 19th century souks and traditional houses.
Along the sea front starting from the north end of teh town you will find the century-old Maronite Cathedral of Saint Stephan (Mar Stefan), the beautiful 19th century Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George and the tiny chapel known as "Sayyedat AlBahr" (Our Lady of the Sea). This simple white-washed building has a wide verandah overlooking the sea and an excellent view of Batroun's sea wall that is about 40 meters heigh and 225 meters long and is what remains of a huge quarry famous in Hellenistic and Roman times.
Batroun has also a rock-cut Roman theater. Today it sits in a private garden, but your visit is welcome. Compare the motifs carved on the arch of a doorway near the theater with those over the door of the Church of Saint George. These were made by the same hand that decorated the tombs near the Mar Estephan Church in the neighbouring village of Wajh AlHajar.
(communicated in part by Fouad El-Khabbaz, webmaster of Batroun.com)
The village of Douma is located in the Batroun Qaza. The name of the village derives from a queen, named Doumna, who used to stay in the village for the summers. Douma is at 1,100 meters of altitude and is 45 km away from Tripoli. It can be reached from Tripoli by using the road connecting Koura, Amioun, Bziza, KfarHalda, and Douma. The surface area of Douma is about 11 square kms and its population is about 2,500 individuals.
Douma is characterized by its grape, apple, and olive orchards. It also includes several olive oil pressing facilities. Douma has a wealth of monuments that include about 17 structures dating to some hundreds of years before. In the town square, sits a 4th century CE sarcophagus, bearing a Greek inscription recording that this was the burial place of Castor, who died in 317 CE. He was a priest of the two gods Hygeia and Asklepios (health and healing). Other ancient remains are set in the walls of the churches of Mar Doumit and Mar Shalleeta. On the post office lawn nearby, are some mill stones and oil presses, probably from Late Roman or Byzantine times.
Near the roadside just above the town is the ancient church of Mar Nohra built into the rock. From the wooden-door fashioned from tree slabs to the yard shaded with a large Holme or Mediterranean oak, this charming spot is definitely worth a visit. Stone picnic tables are provided.
Expatriates of Douma living in North America founded a theater in year 1895 CE. Douma organizes a festival every two years. In the festival, theater plays, cinema shows, exhibitions, and other cultural and artistic events are organized.
Sourat is one of Batroun's Qaza villages located in North Lebanon. It is 500m above the Mediterranean Sea level, 65 km north of Beirut and is only 17 km away from the seacoast. Sourat's population amounts to around 700 residents and there are thousands more spread out around the world. The village enjoys an active community with its dynamic church association, its elementary and middle school.
Sourat is surrounded by the following villages: Artez, AlFtihat, Herbonah, Kfarhay, Hilta, and Kfarchlayman. The villages of Rachkedeh and AlDahr are considered part of Sourat.
(communicated by Dan, webmaster of Sourat.cjb.net)
The town of Tannourine is located at 1250 meters of altitude. It is famous for the plentiful streams, scenery, fruit gardens, and the nearby Cedars Forest. Set in a quiet spot besides a stream and shaded by poplar and walnut trees, the churches of Mar Antonios (Saint Anthony) and Saydet ElAzraa (Our Lady the Virgin) share a single roof. Each has an independent floor surmounted by a small window, while on the inside a communicating door links the two parts of the building. These churches, which are unique in the Tannourine region, were not built at exactly the same time and have slightly different dimensions. The Tannourine area is also known for its more than 50 churches.
In the same region stands the Monastery of Saint Anthony Houb at some 1,400 meters above sea level in a lush green area amid the streams that branch into AlJawz River. The monastery was built around 1700 CE. The large two-story building has a red tile roof and its church has been carefully restored.
Besharri, 1,500 meters high, commands a prime position at the head of the Qadisha Valley just below the famous Cedars of Lebanon. In Crusader times, it was known as one of the fiefs of the County of Tripoli. Bsharri can be reached from Tripoli through Ehden or through the Koura District or starting at Shekka on the coast.
Bsharri is terraced for the cultivation of vines, apples, and mulberries. Waterfalls and gorges close to the Qadisha Valley make it a place of enchantment. Bsharri's name is related to the international writer Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931 CE). A member of the New York Pen League, he is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. His tomb is in the center of town, as well as a museum where of his paintings and books in many languages are at show. The museum opens daily in winter from 9 am to 5 pm, except Mondays, and every day during the summer. The paintings of Gibran Khalil Gibran have been in many successful exhibitions in Boston and New York. Gibran himself illustrated his books, which were originally written in English, with mystical delicate drawings and watercolors.
Bsharri has also the biggest cathedral in the region, the Saint Saba Cathedral, built by Anthony II Peter Arida. Bsharri is sometimes called "the city of churches" as it houses some 37 churches.
The Cedars Forest is famous for its snow and historical trees. It is at 45 minutes drive from Tripoli. Not much is left of the famous cedar forests of Biblical times, but what does remain is certainly impressive enough. Most of the trees, known as the "Cedars of the Lord" grow, near Bsharri, at an altitude of 1880-1936 meters. Of the 2000 trees remaining, 400 are more than 1000 years old. In 1998, the forest was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
In the heart of the Cedars Forest and at an altitude of 1916 meters is a church called the Church of the Transfiguration. It is a relatively small structure with a remarkable bell hanging on a cedar tree. The altar is all made of cedar wood.
From November to May, Lebanon offers its snow-covered mountains to winter-sports enthusiasts. It is a really popular sport, it has large numbers of devotees, and the resorts bear comparison with the best in Europe, as regards the quality of their slopes, their equipment, the length of the snow season and the quality of their hotels chalets and hotels. The Cedars is a delightful summer resort, as well as being a winter sports center with chair-lift over 7,000 feet long. The Cedars is the oldest and liveliest of the Lebanese resorts, in spite of the fact that it is the furthest from Beirut - 125 kms as opposed to a more 30 kms in the case of some other centers. The ski area at 2,066 meters offers a combination of slopes, most of them with an ideal northwest exposure. Five T-bar tows carry skiers up to 2,300 meters. Every year, the Lebanese ski-ing championship, and number of international contests, take place against this impressive background. In summer 2005, The Cedars resort installed three new chairlifts to replace the old T-bars and extend the ski runs. Hotels, chalets, restaurants and snack bars are in good supply and ski rentals and lessons are available.
Not far from Bsharri (7 km), sheltered by cedar trees and dense vegetation, is the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch in Diman. It is a graceful building with a red tile roof, many exterior arcades and a grand courtyard overlooking the Qadisha Valley. The church is decorated with the superb murals of the Lebanese artist Saliba Douaihy. The site overlooks the Monastery of Deir Qannoubin, an early seat of the Patriarchiate. From here, a steep path takes you to the Qadisha River in the gorge. Another half hour brings you to the Monastery of Deir Qannoubin.
Like red roses in a bouquet and surrounded by lush greenery, Hasroun, a charming town of North Lebanon, sits on the brow of the holy Qadisha Valley. Its sweet smelling scent rises toward the ancient hills blanketed with snow, where the centuries-old Cedar Trees lay like a flock of goats in their corral, huddled and dreaming under the silky of the highest top of the proud Lebanese Mountains. The village of Hasroun is located in the district of Bsharri, North Lebanon, and it is 105 km from Beirut and 1,400 m above sea level.
Hasroun is one of the last villages in Lebanon to preserve its traditional red-roofed houses. It is a town of beauty, of roses and green vegetation, where water springs murmur with healthy and delicious water to drink. A good road system, regular taxi and bus services and comfortable hotels attract thousands of tourists who come to spend their holidays.
(communicated by Alan Farah, webmaster of Hasroun.com)
It is at 45 minutes drive from Tripoli. The deep gorge of Qadisha Valley opens dramatically at the foot of Bsharri village, then branches into many small valleys to make its tortuous way to the sea.
The word "Qadisha" comes from a Semitic root meaning "holy", a fitting name for this gorge whose depths lie at the bottom of sheer clifts and which is rich in water from melting snow. In Medieval times, Christian monks rediscovered the caves and shelters that had been inhabited in antiquity and reused them to build chapels, hermitages and rock-cut monasteries in the valley. Monks of all confessions, even Muslim soufis, secluded themselves here to lead a life of contemplation and meditation. They prayed in many languages: Arabic, Greek, Syriac, and Ethiopian.
The area is famous for Deir Qannoubin, which from the 15th to the 19th centuries was the residence of the Maronite Patriarchs. It is this monastery, - "Kenobion" means "monastery" in Greek - which its atmosphere of piety, that gave its name to this part of the valley.
Built into the rock, the monastery's church is a model of simplicity and austerity. Among its wall paintings, dating from the last two centuries, is the representation of the coronation of the Virgin by the Trinity. An inscription above it in Syriac is from a passage in the Song of Solomon: "Come from Lebanon, my betrothed and you will be crowned."
A nearby annex to the monastery is the chapel of Saint Marina where 18 Maronite patriarchs are entombed. It is said that Saint Marina was falsely accused and performed long and hard penitence here. Later, she was consecrated as the spiritual grandmother of the valley.
The town of Bakh'oun is at 700 meters of altitude and 30 km away from Tripoli. It has lots of streams, springs, and fruitful fields. Some hotels are present in the city too. In recent years, the town witnessed an urban renaissance, which divided it into two sections, one modern and one old, separated by huge buildings, restaurants and hotels, which gave it a distinctive character and made it the focus of attention of the people of the region.
Ein Yaaqoub is located at 800 meters of altitude and 25 km away from Tripoli. It is famous for its fresh waters and old antiquities especially those of the Halyounah Hill.
The Forty Mountains are at 1540 meters of altitude and could be reached from the nearby village of Seer AlDhanniyyah.
The town of Sfeerah is located at 1400 meters of altitude and 30 Km east of Tripoli. It is bound on the north by Kfarbnine, on the south by Beit El faqs, on the west by the mountain of Sfeerah, and on the east by the western Lebanese chain. From the summer ressort of Seer AlDhanniyyah ask the way to Sfeerah village, some 9 km along a narrow winding road. The temples are located on a mountainside on the far outskirts of town.
A five-minute walk will get you to the first site, known locally as "Qalaat AlHosn." This 2nd Century Roman temple was built by the Emperor Alexander Sfirruos and survived almost intact except for the pediment and cornice. It is a large, imposing building with a surprising number of structural details remaining. Look for carvings on the front of the main temple and the popular acanthus leaf design. In the floor you can still see square holes used for door jambs. There is a Greek language inscription on the outside wall.
From the larger temple, a steep patch winds left up the hill to the ruins of a smaller monument and some standing clumns. In this temple, which is half in ruins, note the fine altar, fallen on its side, with a bull's head carved within a wreath on the three exposed sides. The stonework on the interior of the standing wall is particularly fine.
In the southwest part of Sfeerah itself can be found the remains of yet another temple, this one hidden among the modern-day buildings. If you are in the mood to explore, ask for "Beit AlKebir" (The Big House). Villagers will help you locate it.
The town of Seer AlDhanniyah is a place of water, which everywhere flows in fountains, springs and falls. The most important streams of Seer AlDhanniyah are the streams of AlQesam, Seer, and AlSoukkar. Seer AlDhanniyah is at 900 meters of altitude and 25 km away from Tripoli. It is one of the most important summer places in North Lebanon. It has lots of cafes, restaurants, hotels, and it is famous for its apple, pear, peach, and apricot orchards. From Seer AlDhanniyah, hikers can walk to the Cedars in about six hours by way of Lebanon's highest peak, Qornet AlSawda (3,088 meters).
On a high flat-topped hill or "tell" surrounded by olive groves, Amioun lies in the heart of the Koura region. It is situated at 380 meters of altitude and is only 20 kms away from Tripoli. The town includes Roman and Arabian antiquities. It is famous for its olive orchards and olive-oil distillation.
In Amioun there is a wealth of churches whose stones testify to the passing of several civilizations. The church of Mar Georgios (Saint George) was built on the ruins of a pagan temple and then remodeled after the Crusader era. There are numerous indications that a tunnel (since collapsed) once linked this church to a cave near the church of Saint John.
The red-roofed church of Mar Youhanna (Saint John) sits on a steep cliff riddled with cells like a huge bee hive. The cells, seen in the cliff above the main road, are, in fact, funerary caves from Phoenician and Greco-Roman times that later served as monks' rooms and shelters.
The little church of Mar Fawqa (Saint Phocas), built amid a jumble of old houses during the Crusader period, is noted for its fine wall paintings. On the pillars, are painted figures of Christ, Saint Phocas, Simon Stylites, and other saints.
The town of Anfeh is situated 10 kms south from Tripoli. Romans and Byzantines used it as a military base. The most important antiquities of this city are the churches, tombs, and a castle. Anfeh is better known for fishing and salt factories. Most of the ancient fabric of this site lies buried. What has been unearthed on the rocky peninsula are remnants of two eras in the settlement's history-from its earliest origins in the second millennium BCE and the seventh century BCE (two medieval rupestrian chapels remained exposed). Discoveries include a Phoenician town wall, Roman wall, mosaic flooring, wine presses, millstones, and stairways. Despite its designation as a national historic site, Anfeh receives little respect. Houses encroach on the ruins and excavated archaeological remains lie open to the elements. The most serious threat is a proposed port project that will include jetties, a sea wall (some of the Roman wall has already been quarried for it), marinas, and a 100-meter pier that would be erected over part of the site.
Along the quiet shoreline of Anfeh with its salt flats and its incredibly blue sea, are three churches worth visiting. Saydet AlRih or Our Lady of the Wind, built in the Byzantine era, is now in ruin and open to the sky. Nonetheless, this little chapel retains traces of wall paintings representing Saint George and Saint Demetrios on horseback, the Omnipotent Christ, two evangelists, some saints, and the Virgin calming the tempest.
The church of Saint Catherine, which dates from the time of the Crusades, is partially restored and still used by the Greek Orthodox community. Its facade is decorated with one of the largest rose windows seen in a Crusader church of this period.
In the old quarters of Anfeh is a church with a double altar, dedicated to Saint Simon Stylites and Saint Michael. Dating from the 17th-18th centuries, Saint Simon's part of the church is interesting for its ceiling that incorporates jars in its masonry to absorb echoes and improve acoustics.
Eight centuries ago, Cistercian monks founded their first overseas abbey on a promontory 20 kms south of Tripoli and gave it the name of Belmont. Known today as Balamand, it is the seat of a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to the Virgin and Saint George.
Balamand possesses a remarkable library with important manuscripts, two inconostases and a collection of important icons the work of painters from a number of countries who came here at different times to contribute to the iconographic heritage of the monastery.
A masterpiece of austerity, the arrangement of structures around the cloister's courtyard is characteristic of a Cistercian monastery plan. The Church of Our Lady of Balamand is composed of a single nave ending in a large apse flanked by two rectangular rooms. The inconostasis of carved wood was made in Macedonia at the end of the 17th century, although one part of it was made by local artisans. The bell tower, a gothic monument of local workmanship, is one of the most remarkable exterior elements of the church and is the only stone bell tower extant in the Middle East. Today, a well known seminary with a distinguished library operates on the premises and the University of Balamand (opened in 1988) is located nearby.
The town of Dahr AlEin is located at 100 meters of altitude and is only 1 km south from Tripoli. It is famous for its night clubs and restaurants.
The origin of the name is uncertain, but a legend says that a man, called "Qahel" or perhaps this was the name of his camel, sent his camel to graze over some land. Where the camel rested, the tribe decided to settle, and establish a village. The area of Kafr Qahel has had human establishments for a few thousand years at least. Testifying to this are old ruins, wherever one digs, the reminants of graves, their treasures taken by grave robbers, and olive trees that may have born witness to at least the birth of Christ.
Kafr Qahel rose to prominence during the Mameluke Era, where it was fortified as a garrison village, being the first village in the Koura area. It thus has much Mameluke style architecture, including the Mosque, which was rebuilt in the 20th century. Several of the houses also bear Mameluke features, arched tunnels underneath houses connecting places to each other. The size of the ruins of houses and an old castle may be a reason to suggest that Kafr Qahel was apparently larger than it is now. Kafr Qahel is approximately half Sunni Muslim and half Greek Orthodox, and as testimony of the tolerance of its people, both Muslims and Christians helped to rebuild the Church, and the Mosque, which stand several meters from each other. The fighting which ravaged Lebanon for 15 years (1975-1990) did not touch Kafr Qahel. Neither Muslims nor Christians were forced to leave their houses.
Kafr Qahel today is still a village of olive harvesters, but sadly its environment is slowly being ruined. Nahr Abou Ali (Qadisha River) which runs in the wadi beside the village is polluted, fertilizers are being used on the trees without any knowledge of their side effects. Hunting, although illegal, is rampant, and over-development is slowly causing problems. However, due to the low population of the village (approximately 1000 people), and high migration rates (most people from the village live in Australia or Brazil), its problems are probably less than other villages of a comparative size. Some of the families associated with Kafr Qahel are: Mahfouz, Simsim, Ashqar, Hajj, Duwayhi, and Hadid.
(communicated by Diaa R. Hadid)
Kousba is a town located at 500 meters of altitude and 30 kms away from Tripoli. It is irrigated by the Snoubar stream and AlGharr stream. It has an artificial lake and a castle built by Dr. Elie Sarraf during the 1970s with the help of two artists. The castle is made of black volcanic stones. It symbolizes the unity of Lebanon. Around this touristic castle there are many famous historical places and many restaurants as well as a health center and a cultural one. Around the castle are also promenade areas that include grape, nut, pear, and apple orchards. The village is known by its famous and tasty ice creams (Lebanese: Bouzah).
Built into the rocky folds of the mountain, the impressive Monastery of Hammatoura can only be reached by foot. Located near Amioun and Kousba, the monastery is rich in medieval paintings, accidentally revealed by a fire in the late 1980's. The Pilgrims and those who are fulfilling a vow walk up to the monastery on foot over a winding path, while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
The historic village of Ehden is 1,450 meters in altitude and 30 km from Tripoli (some half hour by car). It has been in existence since 1000 BCE. The village and its peoples feature throughout the history of Lebanon. It was up to the 16th century where Ehdenians lived all year round until the establishment of Zgharta, lower down the mountain towards Tripoli. In fact, Ehden is both a winter and summer resort for people from Zgharta and elsewhere in Lebanon. During the summer, festivals and concerts are held in the city center. Surrounding Ehden are places of interest and natural beauty. Ehden is famous for its restaurants and cafés, hotels, holiday apartments, villas, and churches. The Natives of Ehden have a reputation of good hospitality and personal courage and are still faithful to their secular traditions.
There are many famous churches including Mar Mema (Saint Mamas) which is the oldest Maronite church in Lebanon, built in 749 CE on the remains of a pagan temple. At the highest point in Ehden stands the church of Saydet AlHosn where the whole area can be viewed down to the coast and Tripoli. The village contains may fine examples of architecture such as AlKubra and AlMidan.
Ehden is the birthplace of illustrious Lebanese thinkers and patriots. These include Patriarchs Jean Makhlouf, George Omaira - referred to as the “Light of the Oriental Church” - and Stephan Doueihi - a great philosopher and an archbishop of the Maronite Church who translated the Holy Scriptures to several languages. He is referred to as “the father of Maronite history”.
The statue of Stephan Doueihi stands in the city center. Gibrael AlSahyouni (1577–1648 CE), a native from Ehden, was the private tutor of Louis XIV of France. Youssef Bey Karam (1823–1889 CE), who many consider as a Lebanese patriot, fought for an independent Lebanon. His tomb and statue are found at Saint George's Church, which is in itself an outstanding example of old architecture. Ehden was also the birthplace of two Lebanese presidents: Suleiman Franjieh and René Moawad.
Water sources are found everywhere jetting from the earth. The most famous of these sources being Mar (Saint) Sarkis, which is a “must visit” for all tourists who can sample there the famous Lebanese national food (Kebbeh, i.e., crushed wheat paste stuffed with minced meat and nuts).
The culminating point of Ehden's altitude is one formed by Sayyedat AlHosn Church from where one could have a splendid view of the Zgharta plain and the city of Tripoli. Recommended tour for the tourist must include a visit to the convent of Mar (Saint) Qozhaya. From there, the caves of hermits can be seen as well as Monasteries and churches built in the side of the valley, in particular the Monastery of Saint Anthony and the first printing press in the Middle East that printed “The Book of Psalms” in 1610 CE.
Horsh Ehden, a nature reserve 4 km east of Ehden, was established in 1992. This is a protected zone for hundreds of unique indigenous botanical specimens including rare trees and flowering plants. It also shelters some of the few surviving animal wildlife species in the country.
(communicated by the webmaster of Zgharta.com)
I'aal is a town located at 25 kms southeast from Tripoli. It can be reached from the town of Khaldiyyah near Zgharta. I'aal is famous for olive tree gardens. The most important monument of the town is the Mustapha Agha Barbar Mosque, constructed in 1230 H/1814 CE. The mosque is located near the castle of the town. Near the mosque is the tomb of Mustapha Barbar Agha, who governed Tripoli and Lattakia in different periods spanning 30 years.
The ruined castle fortress was built in 1816 CE by Mustapha Agha Barbar. Within the castle walls, which cover 5,000 m2, are stables, wells, sleeping quarters and reservoirs.
The town of Miziara is located at 20 km away from Tripoli. Miziara sits on a hilltop at 800 m above sea level, overlooking Morh Kfarsghab, Jdeideh, Zgharta, Tripoli and the Mediterranean Sea. The village is home to Our Lady of Miziara (Mother of Mercies), Saint Elias Shrines, and to Hotel Miziara the village's first hotel. The town is also famous for its mansions with weird and fancy architecture.
Our Lady of Miziara is a Marian shrine which consists of a statue of the Virgin Mary that stands at the entrance of the village. Marcel Chaghoury, a native of Miziara, built the shrine in 1979 CE. It was consecrated by Bishop Antoine Jbeir on September 6, 1992. The entrance to the shrine is guarded by two angels carved from limestone. The shrine also includes sculptural representation of Christ's Baptism, Wedding at Cana, and the Last Supper.
The location of the monastery of Mar Antonios Qozhaya in a wilderness of lush greenery gives it an aspect of primeval solitude. "Qozhaya" in the Syriac language means "treasure of life" and here the treasure was Christ himself, for whom monks abandoned wordly goods and consecrated themselves to poverty and prayer. Today, one can still see the cells, stuck to the rock like wasps' nests, that sheltered the first hermits.
The origins of the monastery go back to the 5th century when the monastic movement was taking hold in the region. A model of religious community life, Deir Mar Antonios Qozhaya was the site of the Middle East's first printing press, which was imported around 1585 CE. The first publication, in 1610 CE, was an edition of the Psalms, now kept in the library of the Holy Spirit University in Kaslik. Many other liturgical and religious books were published here as well.
The church of Qozhaya is the joint work of man and nature. Set in a natural cave, its upper part is formed of a series of rose colored stone arcades resting on a dozen rose bases. Its facade, with its small columns, its Moorish door and triple bell are hardly separate from the cliff face itself.
The cave of Saint Anthony, locally known as the "Cave of the Mad", used to shelter the possessed and demented who were brought here to be cured by the saint. Today, it is with a sense of trepidation that one regards the chains that held them.
Zgharta is 150 meters in altitude and 10 km from Tripoli. Its history and people are closely associated with the historic village of Ehden. Since the 16th century, the residents of both Ehden and Zgharta move between their homes, residing in Ehden during the summer months, for cooler days, and in Zgharta for warmer winters. The town is both the administrative and commercial center for the district (Qaza).
Zgharta has a thriving commercial center with businesses, large shops, nightclubs, hotels, and well-known cafés. The town has preserved many of its original buildings and churches. On the nearby banks of the Rash'een River, there are several restaurants and cafés serving local food.
(communicated by the webmaster of Zgharta.com)