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Panoramic Views > Bekaa > Zahle > Niha

The Niha Village:

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 Beqaa Valley.

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: K.J. Mortimer

- The Village of Niha: >> View Movie << (2008-01-01)



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