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Panoramic Views > Bekaa > El Hermel > Pyramid of Hermel

The Needle of Hermel - Pyramid of Hermel (The Qamouh)

The large Shiite town of Hermel stands in the north-east Beqaa Valley. It may be reached by following the route Faraya – Ouyoun-es-Simaan – Baalbek – Ras Baalbek or the one that runs Beirut – Shtoura – Zahleh – Baalbek – Ras Baalbek or yet again the one that starts on the coast road from Beirut to Tripoli and then runs The Cedars – Ainata – Hermel. Hermel is 143 kilometers from Beirut and stands at an altitude of 750 meters.

On a hill-top surrounded by desert some six kilometers from Hermel, not far from the source of the Orontes (al-Assi), stands a stone tower capped by a pyramid, known in Aramaic as Haram II, The Pyramid of God or House of El. This historic monument dates back to the second century before Christ and is now known as the Qamouat of Hermel. It points upward like a finger and stands like some lighthouse.

Nobody has yet been able to explain its exact significance. It has been supposed that it was raised to the memory of a Syrian prince who had a passion for hunting in Lebanon; also that it was erected to mark the limits of the principality of Emessa (Homs) or to act as a pointer indicating the routes followed by the Canaanites.

From the hilltop one has a splendid view – Hermel with its hills and gardens, the lake of Homs losing itself in the horizon, the Orontes river of al-Assi the Rebel flowing northward across the region, and the caves of the “Raheb”, the Monk, known also as Mar Maroun. The Needle has taken on a brown sheen and it has needed some restoration work after the damage suffered over the last 2,300 years from earthquakes, erosion and vandalism.

Standing on a square pedestal of basalt surrounded by three steps, the Needle is composed of two enormous cubes of stone supporting the pyramidal summit. The total height is 27 meters while the square base has eight-meter sides. On the eastern face, the best conserved, one sees traces of where a bronze plaque was once placed and there is a relief showing a boar attacked by two dogs. On the northern face one sees a deer on the ground, while another stands grazing. On the southern side a gazelle is pursued by a dog surrounded by hunting material. The western face shows a scene full of action, perhaps a bull being attacked by wolves or some bear cubs, it is hard to see precisely what.

According to a description by a traveler of the seventeenth century, there was another such monument near Homs. A similar one has been found also in Tunisia bearing the name Al-Hermeul. Among the remains to be found around Hermel one may see the canalizations of Zenobia, queen of Palmyra. Two of them hewn in the rock supplied the city of Palmyra in the desert with water from the Orontes. They were dug at a depth of twenty meters and were connected with wells dug at every hundred meters, channeling the water off to Palmyra, the short-lived capital of Queen Zenobia.

One may also visit the ruins of a Byzantine church, the fortress of Moalaqa, a monument said to date from the time of Nebuchodnossar, the spring and pool from where rises the Assi-Orontes, a delightful bridge across the river (the only one that flows from Lebanon to the outside), waterfalls, and alongside its course dozens of hotels, cafés and restaurants.

Further away from Hermel, in the rich plain of the Beqaa there are dozens of Roman temples, at Anjar, Firzel and Niha, not to mention the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, all well worth visiting.

- The Pyramid of Hermel: >> View Movie << (2008-09-01)



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