Imagine being at an altitude of over 5.000 feet over sea level, and from the same vantage point you could see up to 10.000 feet where the mountain top peaks. Also, in the view you could see the valley below, which is 3.000 feet above the sea level. This particular spot exists in a small town in the country of Lebanon.
Bekaakafra is a village in the north side of Lebanon. A town that attracts visitors from all over the world because of three attractions which are
- The highest inhabited village in the Middle East , 5.250 feet
- The birth place of the famous Saint, Saint Charbel ( His miracles reached beyond the boarders of Lebanon).
- The third continuously inhabited old village in the world.
Bekaa-kafra is a Syrian word that means –“the fertile land”.- She has fertile soil and is rich in water sources. People in this village live from what they grow. Such as apple trees, pears, plumbs, peaches, walnuts, hazelnuts… and in- season vegetables such as parsley, mint, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, radishes, corn, potatoes …..all these assortments are available in village’s stores.
Bekaa-kafra, has a wonderfully peaceful setting. You can see the highest peak in Lebanon. Qrnet Al-Sawda . 3083meters approximately 10.000 feet . Just below and at 6.000 feet, you can see the cedar forest, that was important to various ancient civilizations. Cedars trees were used by the Phoenicians for building commercial and military ships, as well as houses, palaces, and temples. And Egyptian Pharaohs built their ships from the Lebanese cedar wood. Nowadays, the cedar trees are the emblem of Lebanon and adorn the Lebanese flag. And is the best place for skiing in the Middle East.
From this wonderful sitting, from Bekaa-kafra, on the left side, you can see Becharre the city and the birth place of the Lebanese – American Philosopher- writer-artist, Jubran Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931).
From the same place, you can see the deepest and most beautiful valley in Lebanon Wadi Qadisha , the Holly Valley, where were scattered monasteries, churches, hermitages, and caves . And where the wild flowers and trees grow in abundance.
Bekaakafra is the highest inhabited town in Lebanon and the Middle East. People live year around even with the harsh winter conditions. Things have changed today, unlike the past when roads would be closed from the storms and snow. Nowadays, with the city clearing the streets of snow, visitors can visit the town even in winter time.
In 1828, Saint charbel (Yousef Makhlouf), was born. After he discovered his life’s vocation to be a priest; he left his hometown and never came back. After his canonization, visitors started to pour in to see the place where he was born and spent his childhood and young adult life. Faithfull visitors, come to Bekaa-kafra to pray. Every day this village receives thousands of visitors . According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Moustakbal in 2006,1 million visitors came to Bekaa-kafra.
The Lebanese historian Fouad Efram El-Boustany brings back Bekaa-kafra to the 10th century according to the study of the “Memory of European Housing institute”, Bekaa-kafra history goes back to 2.000 thousand years.
In1990, the European Institute “Houses Memory” adopted Bekaa-kafra as an exemplary town and the third oldest village in the world. The objective is to make this town an international museum. And with the collaboration of the Lebanese Directorate of Antiquities; “Houses Memory” commissioned the studies that showed up the ancient character of its houses, streets, and entrances. Bekaa-kafra municipality achieved most of the project. Today if you visit this town you recognize that you are in front of an environmental and religious tourism setting. The streets were paved after water lines and sewer lines were installed. Traffic has been redirected and restricted to certain areas, living the narrow streets for pedestrian to walk and view the old architecture.
After these three qualifications, visiting Bekaa-kafra will be an interesting trip. If you decided to spend a day in this small town, First of all ,you have to be there in the early morning to attend the mass at 7 a.m. After the mass there, will be time for breakfast. Homemade breakfast. Which includes Mankouchi( Dow with zaatar) , Cheese yougort, cheese, olive and vegetables. With a smile, people receive you. “Ahala wsahala” means welcome.
Your visit includes the place of Saint birth. The place where he used to pray. Saint Hawchab monastery, the school of Saint Charbel. This monastery’s records indicate that it was renovated in the year 600. Brother Georges, from this town lives in this monastery, and followed Saint Charbel’s path.
Saint Saba’s Church is a small and historic church located in the middle of the town where visitors can easily park. This church was built with the support of Saint Charbel’s brother, John Makhlouf, who was at that time a member of the parish council. Our Lady of assumption is the biggest church in the town. People in this town put their effort to build it with no need of labor. This church was built on top of the old Church where Saint Charbel received his baptism. The baptism tub is still there and people can baptize their children with the Priest’s permission. This church was the original church of this town. People built tunnels underground from their houses to the church to attend the mass on a regular basis. They used these tunnels a long time ago in order to stay out of sight of the Turks. The Houses of Memories Institute discovered these tunnels, half destroyed and unsafe.
Visitors spend most of their days visiting the Holy places as well as historical sites and enjoying the weather.
The Lebanese ministry of tourism includes Bekaakafra as a tourist site.
Bekaakafra is my hometown. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover