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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Maten > Himlaya


Himlaya is a village of North Metn, standing at an altitude of 2,500 or more feet, twenty miles from the Lebanese capital Beirut and only three from the town of Bikfaya. It is a quiet and picturesque village overlooking a valley full of forests and verdure.

Some think that Himlaya was a Phoenician village, while others think that its name can best be explained by a word meaning a granary, a loft for the storing of grain. Yet another explanation is that it is a composite name once given by a princess who lived in the Shouf further south and who during the fifteenth century was forced to flee and seek refuge in North Metn. The princess was named Lëa and her refuge Hima, the two names together making Himlaya.

Nowadays the place is easy to reach; one takes the North Metn high road, leaving Beirut and passing through Bikfaya. It has become completely modernized, with centers, buildings, churches and clubs to be found everywhere, and new roads, water supply, electric power, and telephone network, all of which together make it attractive for visitors and especially those with religious interests. Himlaya is a mainly Maronite village that has given mankind a great saint, Saint Rafca (1832-1914). The name of the village has been practically merged with hers, which now stands for the whole town.

Saint Rafca is present everywhere. There are statues of her alongside the parish church and in the main town square. Rocks together with alleyways have been arranged to form a sanctuary for prayer where one sees several representations of the saint telling her whole life story. Her house stands as a place of prayer with its little grotto and her place of birth. There is a statue of Jesus Christ close by an olive tree resplendent with the beauty of its more than a thousand years. Rafca died however at Jrebta in the region of Batroun.

Himlaya has another distinction, that of being the birthplace of our present Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Beshara Cardinal Butros ar-Raï. The Maronites love the Holy Father the Pope, but their patriarchs are also loved and revered, and are considered by the Maronites as their temporal and spiritual leaders. So now Himlaya has become not only a summer resort but also a center of pilgrimage. Visitors come from the four corners of the world to pray here and to beg favors of Saint Rafca.

Joseph Matar
William Matar

Kenneth Mortimer

- Himlaya Saint Rafca 1: >> View Movie << (2014-09-15)
- Himlaya Saint Rafca 2: >> View Movie << (2014-09-15)



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