One of the historic heights of Lebanon, extending
south-east from Sannine to a point ten kilometers
north of Zahleh, is Niha, El Hosn Niha, and on its
slopes there is the village perched at 1,344 meters
above sea level, looking over the wide plain of the
Niha, a word of Syriac origin, means the dreamer,
the nonchalant, the relaxed, and the village so-named
is like a watch-tower receiving the first rays of
the rising sun. Niha is practically at the mid-point
along the plain, sixty-one kilometers from Beirut
and standing above the Shtaura-Zahleh-Ablah artery
where one turns toward the main road that goes on
to the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, to give Baalbek
its classical name.
The Ain al-Akoubeh spring waters the village of Niha
through a stream that runs down from the mountain
to irrigate the farm land. The remains are visible
of two Roman temples, one of which has been restored.
This faces to the north and it can be reached by going
up three successive levels dominated by four columns
with Corinthian capitals. One can see sculptures and
bas-reliefs representing a high priest in drapery
with three icons; on his head there is a “lebbadeh”
surmounted by a crescent and in his hand a vase for
pouring out holy water. The main entrance is grandiose,
superb, with one enormous monolithic stone on which
is carved an eagle opening its wings, like the one
ornamenting the temple of Bacchus at Baalbek.
Here the prayers were said and religious rites celebrated.
The second temple, a smaller one, on the left of the
stream, goes back to Phoenician times and was dedicated
to Hadaranes, god of the oranges, and to the goddess-mother
Atargatis, goddess of the waters and of springs. Here
the element of water used to be venerated and blessed.
There are inscriptions still visible, one of which
refers to “The Virgin Prophetess”, Sophia, Wisdom,
who was the priestess of the god Hadaranes. Also at
Niha one may still see a monument to the prophet Naji
Najm, a citadel and more temples. There is an old
church dedicated to Saint Anthony and a more recent
one of the same name. There is a church named after
Saint Elijah “the Living”, who was borne to heaven
alive on a chariot of fire.
On the top of Mount Niha (el Hosn) one discovers a
third Roman temple, like the others in the style of
those at Baalbek. A little further on are quarries
for stone going back to Roman times.
In the middle of the village one can visit some caves,
a school, the town hall, the churches and various
modern buildings. Between 20th July and 20th August
each year there are festivals drawing tourists and
large crowds from the region around, with plays, choral
singing, music, dances, bazaars and different activities.
Joseph Matar, Translated from the French:
- The Village of Niha: >> View
Movie << (2008-01-01)