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)