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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Maten > Bikfaya

Bikfaya, Tradition and Modernity

This large township stands at nearly three thousand feet in North Metn about sixteen miles from Beirut, between the valleys of Nahr el-Kalb and Nahr Antelias, stretched between villages to the west and the sea lower down. It extends along the flank of Dhour esh-Shweir, a mountainous area of the western chain of Lebanon, nearly four thousand feet high, and is a summer resort with several springs of mineral and thermal water, much sought-after. The Fouar district has the springs of Na’as, Ain er-Rihani, Ain el-Alleyka, and Ain el-Kash, whose waters are reputed for thetreatment of disorders of the liver and the kidneys.

Bikfaya also has beautiful woodlands of Mediterranean pines. The town is crossed by a central highway around which cluster handsome houses with red-tiled roofs. It is known as a beautiful resort having an agreeable climate and enlivened by its flower festivals, its flower beds, and its agricultural fair.

The name is of Syriac origin, indicating a house on rocks, a stone quarry, or even (more doubtfully) a monument. Taken in another way, the name might mean a house under shadows, for Bikfaya is regularly plunged in mist.

There are several ways of getting to the town: from Beirut through Antelias, from Kesrouan through Kleiat, from Baabdaat or Fellugha, and from the Damascus artery.

For a long time Bikfaya was a Druze fiefdom of the Abillama family, which favored an influx of Christians and allowed the installation of the Jesuit Fathers in 1833, as well as the erection of the church Saidet en-Najat, Our Lady of Deliverance, whose statue imported from Rome dates from the seventeenth century. The oldest church in Bikfaya, Mar Abda, distinguished by several murals, dates from 1587. There are several other churches, religious houses and noviciates, dedicated to Saint Michael, Saint George and Saint Elias the Prophet. It was here that the flourishing congregation of of the Sisters of the Holy Hearts was founded in 1853.

One may admire the official palace of the Abillama emirs built in the early nineteenth century, now a well-known summer resort center. Then one may also find many hotels, restaurants and clubs, various institutions, and halls for exhibitions. There is a public library, an equestrian club, and a presidential residence exhibiting a Roman sarcophagus decorated with garlands and two portraits and a Greek inscription in a cartouche. There are various remains going back to the time of the Shehab and Abillama princes.

The infrastructure of Bikfaya is that of any major town, with high road, town hall, schools, hospitals, consulting rooms, police station, and telephone services.

Formerly Bikfaya was a part of the Kateh of Kesrouan, but now it is the main center of North Metn and also the fief of the Gemayel family, who formed and still runs a political party with its militia. But there are other notable families, and several literary figures and artists who animate cultural activities including exhibitions and conferences. Needless to say, sports clubs and competitions are by no means neglected.

William MATAR

- Bikfaya
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