Lebanon – Casino, Cedars and Caves !!

In the last two parts you have read about Lebanon, Beirut and Baalbeck.  Now on to other parts of lebanon.

when my kids came again to visit us, we decided to show them around Harissa.  Harissa church is situated on a high mountain and we can reach there by car or by ropeway.  Since my wife is quite afraid of ropeways, we reached there by car.  The church is at the height of around 2000 feet.  The main attraction is always the statue of Our lady of Lebanon or statue of Mary.

Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus,  has a special link with Lebanon. She is known there as “Our Lady of Lebanon”. Marry is said to have visited Lebanon with Jesus! There is a sanctuary in the south of Lebanon dedicated to the Virgin of Mantara, a place where Mary stayed awaiting her Son, when Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon. The Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church is located in Harissa, a small town about 20 Kms north of Beirut. The Blessed Virgin Mary was named the Queen of Lebanon by the Maronite Patriarch in 1908 upon completion of the Basilica. The Shrine was visited by Pope John Paul II in May of 1997 in his effort to support Eastern Catholicism and to evangelize the youth. Located between Jounieh on the coast and Bkerke, Harissa is surrounded by numerous churches and monasteries.

Lady of Lebanon - Harissa

Lady of Lebanon - Harissa

The statue is made of bronze with its hands spread. There are spiral stairs reaching the top of the statue.  It is said that the face of the idol, changed direction turning from Beirut towards the christian side, after the civil war where many christians were killed by muslim extremists.  Not going into religious faiths, I may still believe it because it is possible due to movement of tectonic plates.

Before, the main statue there is this famous replica of Michelangelo’s celebrated masterpiece, the Pieta sculpture of Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus.

Statue of Mary & Jesus - Harissa

There was a small church, beneath the statue of Marry.   It was quite peaceful inside… and people just pray there silently without any sound or voices. It was quite surprising to see christians talking in Arabic and most of the names of churches, signboards and antecedents written in Arabic, because normally Arabic language is linked with Islam.

Small church below the statue of Mary

The main church of Harissa is quite big and is very beautiful.  There is big prayer hall with colored glass pictures from christianity.

Inside the main church of Harissa

Main Church of Harissa

CEDARS

The Cedar Tree is the national symbol of Lebanon. This coniferous plant was first found in Lebanon, on the Mount Lebanon range at Sannine, Barrouk, and the eastern and western mountain chains. The Mount Lebanon area used to be almost completely covered with cedars.

A cedar tree

Cedar tree ( also known as Cedrus Libani) has been famous in Lebanon since early written history. Many writers throughout history have been highly impressed with the majestic aspects of the cedars, and have referred to them metaphorically to indicate such qualities as strength, beauty, endurance, grandeur, majesty, dignity, lofty stature and noblesse. For instance, in the beautiful “Song of Songs” in the Bible, the poetic description that begins “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand …,”

For many hundreds of years the Cedar of Lebanon has been the national emblem of Lebanon.

After Harissa our next visit was to cedars and Farayya, a ski resort of Lebanon.  Farayya is at the height of about 1300 meters and is the most famous ski resort of not only Lebanon but all the middle east. Normally Middle East is thought to be a hot deserted land, but Lebanon is different, with beautiful snow slopes and ski resorts.  When we reached there, the ski season had already ended but there was lot of snow all around.

On Way to Farrayya - skii resort

Farrayya skii resort

Farayya is on top of Mount of Lebanon and the view of sea from this height is awesome.  The other speciality of Lebanon is that we can do skiing,  in shivering in cold, and after 20 minutes we can talk a bath in sea, in shining sun rays.

A view of Beirut from above the hill

After enjoying an hour’s stay at cold Farayya, we descended towards Jeita-Grotto caves, a wonderful place in Lebanon, which was finalist in the new 7 wonders of the world.  The descent was steep but beautiful, with some awesome waterfalls in the way.

A waterfall on the way

waterfall

Jeita-Grotto caves are a set of 2 caves of lime stone with wonderful formations of  stalactites, & stalagmites .  We reached the complex in the afternoon.  The place was well maintained, with polite staff.  The upper caves are on the top of the hill and we have to reach there by a short journey by cable car.  The tickets purchased for this place include, journey by cable car, upper cave entry, lower cave entry and return by a small road train.

Jeito gretto caves

rope way to the caves

The complex was almost empty, so we comfortably took our seats in the cable car and reached the top in 5-6 minutes.  The upper cave is about 500 meteres long.  They have marked a clear path for visitors and it is strictly forbidden to leave the path.   At the end of the tunnel, the air was dense, humid and lacking oxygen.  The formations were wonderful and amazing.

The lower cave was a real wonder.  My mouth was wide open with awe on entering this cave.  This was some 20 feet wide and 600 meter long cave with a fast flowing river  inside the cave.  There is no path for walking, but we have to sit in a small electric boat which will take us into the cave.  The clear water, the beautiful formations of lime was something beyond description.  It looked like a journey into eternity….everything silent…just noise of fast flowing water !!   This water is life line of people of this area, as the same water is supplied to thousands of inhabitants living in nearby cities.

They dont allow any camera or even moblie phones inside the caves, but latest photos of caves were available as costly picture cards in their shop.  I have scanned those cards for you to give an idea of the cave.

Caves photo - scanned

Another view of cave

Awestruck, we came out and strolled outside the cave, the area had a small zoo, some statues, cafe and beer bar.

A statue outside the cave

We also saw some dwarf trees, which were not artificial bonsai, but the genes of the trees made them smaller.   I had seen such trees for the first time in wilderness.

Dwarf trees

On the way we saw some caves (man made)… they were so high I was surprised how people would be reaching there.  I was told by my driver that those caves were used by ancient inhabitabts as shelter from enemies.  They would take help of a rope ladder to go upto the cave and then drag the rope up… and no one was able to reach them.   According to unconfirmed sources Palestine and Hizbollah were using those caves to hide their weapons and their warriors.

ancient caves in the hills

Ancient caves and modern construction

The day was going to end… we came down on the sea level.  Leaving my family to shop for souvenirs, I went to see the Casino du Liban, the biggest casino in the region and a major contributor to the economy of Lebanon.  Surprisingly, some so called strict Islamic countries have their share in this casino which is earning Millions of dollars every year.  The only place where a common tourist like me could go was  the hall of slot machines.  The other 80% of casino is reserved for members, where they are given free accommodation, free meals and booze, sexy belly dances etc. in return for the hefty amounts they lose in the casino.

A view from Casino of Lebanon

The bridge, you see on the left in the above picture was destroyed by Israel in the war of 2006.  It means we crossed that bridge for the last time in our life.

So I told my family to spend money around, till I become rich and come out as millionaire.   I entered the casino, where photography is not allowed.  The hall was full of people sitting around 100 slot machines.  I changed 20 dollars and sat on a machine… and started gaining soon.  In 30 minutes I made 140 dollars… and then within minutes I lost everything and came out as a Winner !!!  when my wife asked how much money I made in casino I proudly announced that I had made an honorable contribution of 20 dollars to the economy of Lebanon !!! LOL

We then went to Saida, near Beirut and saw the ancient ruins of Saida Fort.  In Ankhen film this fort was made the den of the villain and Dharmendra entered this den and destroyed the villain’s empire.

Saida Fort - villain's den in film Ankhen

We reached home.  The children went back to UK and time passed well until  Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006. I was standing in my balcony and watching the Israeli ships which had encircled Beirut.  Half of the city was made ruins by Israel in the last 3 days, in retaliation to the Hizbullahs rocket attacks, which killed many Israelis.   I was sipping my tea, and watching the ships …and then I saw a black dot coming from ships towards me… and suddenly the dot became a black circle and then something very big… all happened in fraction of a second.  I heard a whistling sound and a big explosion.  It was a missile shot from Israeli ship and it hit the TV tower, just 300 meters from my balcony.  The explosion was so strong,  that I fell down backwards, my cup of tea shattered……hopes also shattered… because Government of India was evicting all Indians from Lebanon and within hours we were going to abandon our house, leaving all my earnings in the bank, all our articles in the home… and leaving Beirut soon !!!!

So this was all about Lebanon.  Lebanon is very peaceful now, and the number of tourists is increasing.  Beirut is about 2-30 hours flight from Dubai and Indians need visa which can be had from Lebanese Embassy in Delhi.

Casinos, pubs, night clubs, Baalbek, Cedars, Jeita Gretto caves, Harissa, Blue River, Belly dance, sufi dances, scuba diving, yachting, fishing and skiing etc are the attractions of Lebanon.  The hotels are quite cheap and arrange everything for the tourists.

And in the end friends… a Bonus … 2 small video clips of Lebanese celebrating Diwali with Indians.

Lebanon is indeed the Paris of Middle East… and it will shine more if the present peace continues.

Alhamdulillah (الحمد لله)  !!!

45 Comments

  • ?????? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??????????? ?? ?????? ??? ? ??? ??, ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???? ???? ???? ?? ???? ????? ??

    • SilentSoul says:

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    ??????? ?? ???? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ???? ?? ??? ????? ???????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ???????????? ?

    • SilentSoul says:

      ??????? ??? ?? ?????…. ??????????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???? ??? ???

      ?? ?????? ???? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ??, ???? ????? ???… ??? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??? ???? ??????..?? ??? ?? ???? 800 ???? ???? ??, ? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ????-????? ?? ?? ????… ??? ??? ????? ????? ?? ?????? ?????? ??

      ???? ??? ????? ?? ??… ?? ??? ??? ???.. 6 ??? ??? ?? ????? ???? ??? ?? ?? ???? ??? ???

  • Kavita Bhalse says:

    ??????? ??? ??,
    ???? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??. ???? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ????? ??????? ?????? ?? ?? ????, ?? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ??????? ?? ???? ??????? ??. ???? ??? ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ?????? ??. ???? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ?? ?? ???? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??………………….??? ??????…………….??????……………???? ????? ??? ????? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?????? ???.

    ???????.

    • SilentSoul says:

      ????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?? ????? ?? … ?? ???? ???? ??? ???…????? ???? ??? ???.. ???? ???? ????? ?? ?????? ??

  • subodh says:

    Sirji Mureed Ho gaya hoon apka … Brilliant write up with great photographs .. looking at the pictures I feel Jeita-Grotto caves is a great visit . I was also in a impression that Middle east is all sand and Sun with high temperatures running through out the year . Now this misconception is clear , thanks to you . You had a great escape, so as to take us through the journeys you have made in your life and we are also getting enriched with your experiences with life.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks subodhji, yes Jeito caves are one of its kind in the whole world.

      Lebanon is a tourist friendly country and tourists are always safe there

  • parveen kumar says:

    sir, bahut hi sundr and emotional story hai.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

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    • ?? ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ?? ????? ??
      ???? ????? ???? ?? ???? ……….?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??

      • Nandan says:

        “??? ???? ??? ? ?? ????..” . ????? ‘????? ?? ?????’ , ????? – ???? ?????? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ‘??????? ???? ???? ‘. ?????? ?? ??????????? ?? ??? ??????, ??? ??????, ?? ???? ??? ???? ???????? ??????? ?? |

      • Mukesh Bhalse says:

        ???,
        ?? ???? ??? ?? ????? ?? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?? ?.

        • SilentSoul says:

          LOL…. yeh bhi khub rahi.. to mukesh ji lage hathon ye bhi bata do Kavita ji ko Pehli kavita kaun si sunayi thi ???

          :) ;)

          • Mukesh Bhalse says:

            ??. …….????? ??? ?? ????? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???? ………????? ??? ???? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??? ???? ???? ???? ??, ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ?? ?? ??? ???? ???………..??????? ?? ???????.
            ???????.

    • Bahut achchhay Mukesh ji, kya baat hai, chhipe rustam ho, kewal abhiyanta/ghumakkar/achchay pati/achchay pita hi nahi, aaj pata laga aap kavi bhi hain.

      • Mukesh Bhalse says:

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        ?? ?? ?? ????? ?? ?? ?????????, ??????? ?? ?? ????? ?? ?? ???? ?????? ????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ??………………????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ????? ????.

  • Dear SSjee ,

    As usual your posts are always mind blowing . Lebanon feels visiting once if peace prevails………………..

    Many questions this time ……………………

    First of all Statue is very beautiful, but bronze has metallic colour did they paint it ???????
    If tectonic plates had moved that entire patch or stretch of the land below must have moved rather than only the statue , and scientists must have started their great research over there , what do you feel about it ?????
    I didn’t see any pillars in constuction of that big hall on the very beautiful church of Harissa , Can you throw light on the construction technicalities if you know ????????????
    In your Patal Bhuvaneshwar post you had written that those were limestone formations and even here you have written limestone caves along with river flowing, so the nature of both the caves are same , right ????????
    But beautiful caves …………………..Statue outside the cave was wonderful…………….
    And amazing climate difference 13oo m above its snow and nearby below at sea level we can have bath in warm sea , how ???????
    The Arc bridge destroyed was wonderful Sir, I hope they must have rebuild it ????????
    Why didn’t you stop after winning 140 $ ?????????
    That missile incident was really a eventful one. thank goodness you survived.
    ?? ???? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ??? ?? ???? ????
    Final one what Manu Tyagi asked , did you get your savings back ????????

    Your post was full of curiosity this time , and out of curiousity I asked these many questions Sirjee, I know it will be some sort of work for you , but please give me your views ………………

    And also this is the best one in Lebanon series for me. A mixture of everything from spiritulism to scenic beauty , art , nature , sculptures, history, travel, climate , construction and war etc. What was remaining ????
    FOOD …….I will add it …………..

    Reading your posts seems like having the world famous Delhi Chat or having a Mumbai bhel , chatpata mixture of everything……………………………??? ? ??? ………………………

    • SilentSoul says:

      Vishal Bhai,.. your comments prove that you have actually read the post with interest and with deep curiosity… thanks for that ..

      Now answers to your Qs..

      Tectonic plates. – technically you are right. It is possible that whole hill changed direction. Moreover I did not want to indulge into their Christian belief that since Muslims killed them, Mother Marry turned her face… although after her turning face, there were more murders, in muslim area and during Israel war, not even one person died in christian area… but to avoid this religious debate I accepted the tectonic plate thingy..

      church – it has been made in an arch shape, so pillars are not required. This was usual way of construction of big churches in those days.

      Casino – Pls read my reply to Manu…

      ???? ????? ??? ?? ?? ???? ? ???… ????? ???? ???? ?? ????? ??…

      ?? ???? ???

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    S.S. Ji _(“)_
    ?????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ?? ????????? ??????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??????? |
    ???? ??? ??? ???? ??? ????? ?? ???? |
    ???? ?????? ????? ??????? ?? ?????? ?????? ???? ??????? ??? ?????? ?? ??? ??? | ????? ?? ?????? ??? ??????? ??? , ???? ???? ??? ??? ?? ???? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ?? ?????? ????? ?????? ???? ???? ????…..|
    ??? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??????? ???? ????? ??? ??????? ??? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?? ???? ..???? ??? ??? ???? ……???? ???? ???? ???? ??? ?? ?? ???? ????? ??? ??? |
    Alhamdulillah ?? “???? ?????? ?? ??? ???” | ?? ?? ????? ?? ????????? ???? ??? ?? ??????? ?????? ??? ??????? ???? ????? ????? ??? ??? |
    ??????? ?????? ?? ??? ????? ?? ??? ???? ???????…..!
    ?????.??????

    • SilentSoul says:

      ??????? ???????..???? ?? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??? ??? ?? ?????? ?? ??????? ??? ??.. 70 ?? ??? ??? ?????? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ????? ????? ???? ?? ?? ???????? ?? ??? ???? ??.

      ?????? ??????? ?? ????? ?????? (?? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??), ??????? ??.. ?? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?? ??? ?? ?? ???? ??? ??? ????? ??? ????

  • Nandan says:

    So now we know of one more talent of yours, SS. I am surprised that no one has mentioned it so far.

    Good series overall and a great trove of information on Lebanon. It would have been a one of a kind sad experience to leave your house with no or little hope or going back and claiming anything.

    Alhamdulillah |

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks Nandanbhai… LOL …. I think most of our friends did not see the video carefully, otherwise they would have caught the “Talent”

      ?????? ??????? ??? ?? ???? ???????? ???? “talent” ?? ???? ????? ??… ???? ????? ??? ??

      Tks for yr comments

      Khuda Khair kare

  • To comment on your post(particularly this one), it requires a mature and lenghty description and the critics should be Prakand Pandit Nandan Jha, Dr./Professor/Wordsmit Mr. Khamesra and Editing Queen Vibha ji. But unfortunately Pandit ji sits with the posture showing his back, whereas Professor sahab hide his face by hat.

    SSji once again a good post, very good description and nice photographs.

    Sir, why have you reduced the height of deodar in the photo? To show the Indian Cedars more taller. LOL…..
    Thanks SS and thanks ghumakkar.com

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks tridev Bhai.. Appreciation does not need a web of words… it needs some words from heart… read Mukesh Bhalse’s comment and you will understand it.

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Well Well Well…Silent Ji…As always your description of the place makes it much more interesting. The pictures are beautiful and the narration is awesome… I am so glad that you made it out safe from Lebanon at the time of Israeli attack…I am also surprised to know that there are casinos and pubs in Lebanon in spite of being an Islamic state ( i guess)… Christians speaking Arabic is also interesting…The dance in video Diwali in Lebanon looks more like Himachali danceLOL. Thank you so much for sharing

    • SilentSoul says:

      Thanks Bhatt ji.. Hearing of war, seeing a war on TV and Film is another thing… watching the war yourself is horrible.

      I remember whole night me and my wife would sit on bed and waited for bombs, which were being dropped aimlessly here and there. We were on top floor and were vulnerable even to a splinter.

      The sound of Phantom jets passing… the whistle of bombs and then a bang which shakes your whole house… is something which can not be described in words

      • SilentSoul says:

        Another thing…. Lebanon is not Islamic state… It is a democratic country with no religious restrictions.

      • Harish Bhatt says:

        Silent Ji…I understand it is impossible for any one to feel exactly how you must have felt; I am sure you must have not been able to thank the almighty enough when all of it was over. I also want to take the opportunity to thank him for your and your familys well being

        Thank you for letting me know that Lebanon is not an Islamic state…I should have goggled before writing that…

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    A great series SS jee.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your evocative description and the vivid images. Your description of your last days in Lebanon brought to mind my experiences during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Al Hamdulillah, all is well that ends well.

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks DL bhai… Yes Kuwait’s invasion was as dangerous, the Indians who lost their things struggled hard for many years to get compensation.

      Such horrible incidents increase our strength and our will power…

  • Stone says:

    Sir, some posts are so beautifully done, they’re perfect mix of information/photographs, they are so complete that it makes really difficult for us to comment.
    And this is one of those posts which left me speechless.

    All I can utter is – Thank you sir!!

    Also, I equally enjoyed the comments and your replies to them, I guess that’s the whole beauty of Ghumakkar.

    Regards!

  • Virag Sharma says:

    Watching Diwali celebration bring smile on face. Nice post – Thanks

  • Roopesh says:

    Wah. Lebanon is so beautiful and nobody talks about it. Never heard any tour operator offering a trip to Leabnon. Alas, there is one in a million chance of me visiting Lebanon. Let me savor it through your posts :) The last part about the war was scary. After Iceland & Lebanon which exotic country are you taking us?

    • SilentSoul says:

      Tks Roopeshji. The whole purpose of my writing about Iceland, Lebanon etc is that not many people know about them in India… hence I should give them an idea of such beautiful places.

      Be ready for Spain…

  • JATINDER SETHI says:

    My experience of Lebanon is restricted to the Food Festival of Lebanon, and some dance troupe.
    at TAJ, Mumbai. Do tell us something about their food.please.

    Greeting to your family/

    • SilentSoul says:

      Sethi sahib Namaskar, I am happy to receive your comments. Lebanese food is great, but my taste is limited to vegetarian food only. In Ashoka hotel Delhi they have a Lebanese restaurant, whose cooks are from Lebanon. If you find time, you can have a taste of their great food

      The best is their sweets, I have seen no parallel to them. Full of nourishment with less of Ghee, Khoya etc

  • Manish Kumar says:

    Nice pics and description with unexpected anticlimax at the end. These caves are really amazing.

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