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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Aley > Sawfar

Sawfar or Ain Sawfar, the Spring of the Whistling of the Wind

The name Sawfar can be understood in several ways. It can mean the whistling, in particular the whistling of birds, which would give the meaning finally of the Spring of Birds. Sawfar might indicate the color yellow, the yellow light as the sun’s first morning rays light up the town. But it would most likely mean the whistling or moaning of the winds that prevail due to the town’s position on a mountain-top surrounded by deep valleys. However all that may be, the mountain scenery around is of great beauty, which makes the town seem to have floated down from heaven.

Just fourteen miles from Beirut, Sawfar lies at between 3,500 and 4,000 feet above sea level in the caza of Aley. It is not far from the high pass of Mdayrej and Dahr el-Baydar, once a great ski resort. In view of its wonderful fresh, healthy climate, Sawfar was the favorite summer resort of the the cream of Lebanese society. To reach it one must take the Beirut-Damascus high road or one of the regional roads of Metn to the north or of Aley and the Shouf to the south. Sawfar has a reputation for its sumptuous residences, villas, palaces and centers. The Château Bernina Hotel was occupied by the bloodthirsty Ottoman governor Jamal Paha during the First World War. President Eddeh built his summer residence here and the illustrious Sursock family had a domain. In summer one could formerly find all the titled and distinguished families of Beirut in Sawfar although in winter because of the snow and freezing temperatures the town was deserted, plunged in fog and mists. In fact the visitors were far more numerous than the local people.

Every time I passed through the place with its alleys and perspectives of fine trees, its wide roads, its greenery, cleanliness, and fresh air, I felt transported into some corner of Europe. I would see, overlooking the valley of Lamartine, Jamana and Falugha in South Metn, the great summer attraction, the historic casino and hotel, founded in 1995 and the first of its kind in all the Middle East.

The number of people in Sawfar passes from some five thousand in winter to some fifteen thousand in summer. What marks the population is its “multi-confessionalism”, with every religious community represented. There are three churches, Maronite, Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox and even Jews have property, while there are the remains of one of their places of worship. The local people are for the most part engaged in trade and in agriculture.

The main high road between Beirut and Damascus goes through the heart of Sawfar, while the railways passes alongside, hugging the slope of the mountain. If we turn to the right, we go through Ain Dara and one may finally reach South Lebanon through Jezzeen. By turning left one goes through Hamana and Falugha into the South Metn district.

Sawfar lacks nothing in the way of modern infrastructure but it suffered much from the fighting at the end of the last century as it stood on the front line occupied by the Syrians. The village was in part reduced to rubble and the fine houses and palaces burnt, looted and sometimes destroyed. But since then Sawfar has pulled itself together and set about its reconstruction.

Joseph MATAR - Translation from the French : William MATAR

- Sawfar: >> View Movie << (2015-10-01)
- Sawfar 2: >> View Movie << (2015-10-01)
 

 


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