Leaving the eastern end of the village of Aqoura one goes up the valley of Wadi as-Safir along several kilometers of tarred road towards the high plateaus of Dahr al-Qadib 1985m high. This area descends sharply to the East towards a valley running north-south and peters out between overhanging heights, among them Jabal al-Hajar, which blocks the view of the horizon at 1704m and so forms a kind of bottomless bowl.
Countless streams run down from abundant springs on the heights, one of them known as Nabaa al-Arba’een, the Spring of the Forty (!). They then pour into a lake lying at an altitude of 1375m with no other exit than a large sluice at the end of the valley so enclosed, where one sees another small lake with clear limpid waters lying just 3km south of the other and known as Zeineiyyeh. These lakes dry up at the end of every summer, leaving people of the locality to imagine that the waters of Nahr Ibrahim are fed by those of Lake Yammouneh, which in fact do leak into the hollows of the mountain.
A few hundred people live in a village near the lake on the produce of the soil much like that of the other villages of the Bekaa, with market gardening for potatoes, onions, chickpeas and lentils, vineyards and orchards of apple trees, mulberry trees and fig trees.
At the edge of the lake there are the ruins of a Roman temple whose solid enclosing wall extends over a length of 90m and a width of 65m and encloses a raised foundation for the sanctuary. The local inhabitants will also show the visitor the battered remains of ancient statues. According to Phoenician mythology, Astarte (Ishtar, named Venus by the Romans), was fleeing from Typhon, the evil brother of Adonis, god of darkness and sterility, and turned herself into a golden fish in the lake.
This little corner of Lebanon is the haunt of tourists in spring and summer, and some make-do installations under the trees alongside the running water make the site agreeable and welcoming. One may reach it through Aqoura but also over the ridge of the Cedars of Bsharre via Aïnata and Mshaïtiyeh, or from Baalbek through either Shlifa and Dar Wassaa’ going northwest or Deir al-Ahmar, Btedaa’, Mshaïtiyeh. Yammouneh is exactly on a straight line drawn from Aquora to Deir al-Ahmar.
As for the name Yammouneh, it might come from the Semitic word ‘Yam’ (sea in Akkadian) and so mean Little Sea.
- Village and Lake Yammouneh: >> View Movie << (2007-06-01)