Baskinta is a small
town about forty-four miles from Beirut (70km),
situated in the Upper Metn on the lower slopes of
Sannine at an altitude of about 4,500 feet (1,350
meters). In Syriac its name means residence, location,
or habitable place; in Aramaic it would mean apartment
or house, for this village holds the visitor captive,
being of a unique beauty and so crowning proud Sannine
Mountain which on this side reaches a height of
over eight thousand feet (2,600m).
Baskinta has been inhabited since ancient times,
by Phoenicians, Romans and Greeks, all of whom have
left their remains. By digging one can find early
coins of bronze, gold and silver. Jewels have been
found that were worn by Queen Helen, the mother
of Constantine. One may still see the ruins of great
monuments, great stones, and a little higher at
five thousand feet the powerful spring Kanat Bakeesh,
named after the temple of Bacchus, god of vitality
and the vine. On all sides, the high valley of Baskinta
appears as an immense hollow crossed by a torrent,
the Wadi Shellet el-Shakhroub, an affluent of Nahr
al-Kalb, the Dog River.
At Baskinta the Lebanese heritage has been preserved
above all in the style of construction, the morals,
the customs, the usages and the traditions. From
the heights one has views of unique charm. Baskinta
is a summer resort of major importance, with people
coming from all sides, particularly those who love
calm and Nature. In winter there is even more animation
than in summer, for on the slopes of Kanat Bakeesh
there is an excellent skiing station.
There is a fully adequate infrastructure, with telephone
services, electricity, roads, schools, medical centers,
hotels, and restaurants. There is intellectual activity
thanks to the presence of an elite of thinkers,
philosophers, poets and authors. As for the “Hermit
of Shakhroub”, Michael Neaïmy wrote most of
his works in a hut that he set up among the rocks.
There are several ways to reach Baskinta; one may
go by way of Kesrouan through Kefarzebien or by
way of North Metn via Btighrine. Baskinta has been
compared to a pearl shining in the depth of the
sea. One finds in the town several religious houses
and churches, among them the convents of Saint Michael
and of Saint Sassine, the latter belonging to the
nuns attached to the Lebanese Maronite Monks. The
date of its construction goes back to the year 1729.
Here the sisters are cloistered and spend their
time in prayer, needlework and manual occupations
such as farming. One of the personalities who lived
at Mar Sassine was the holy Father Moubarak Holeihel
el-Hage. There are also ancient cellars, the palace
of the Abillama emirs, a silk factory, wine presses,
and several monuments.
A small forest of cedars lends a touch of charm
to the deepest valley in Lebanon, called the Valley
of Skulls, and there are caves, a rushing stream,
clumps of pines, orchards and gardens, all adding
to the beauty of Mount Sassine.
The Lebanese Maronite poet from Lehfed, Ibn Qilaï
(15th century), composed an epic poem celebrating
the heroic and even brutal actions of the emirs
of this retreat, who rushed down on Qab Elias in
the Beqaa to obtain provisions of food and who met
there a terrible death inflicted in reprisal.
There are inns and hotels now at Baskinta that draw
to them many tourists and there are winter stations
on with slopes ideal for skiers.
Joseph Matar - Translation from the French:
- Baskinta Village - Mar Sassine: >>
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