Afqa, the name of a village, of a grotto, of a gushing
spring, and of waterfalls! The spring is one of
the rare sources where the water comes out from
the high flank of a mountain. The water bursts forth
with such force that the droplets are flung many
scores of feet away, an imposing spectacle indeed!
The French author Ernest Renan considered the sacred
source of Adonis to be one of the most beautiful
sites in the world.
The water flows out of an immense cave in the side
of a vertical rock face, some six hundred feet high,
then wends its way among huge boulders before turning
sharply westward to the sea nearly thirty miles
All the ancient legend about Adonis and Venus Astarte
revolves around this magical place. The river is
one of the most tempestuous anywhere. It has never
been tamed and almost every year the stream with
its rapid torrents and falls, its steep descent,
claims its victims. This river, once called the
Adonis, was the source of much mythology. The name
is of Semitic origin, and means forbidden land,
land fortified with surrounding defenses. What characterizes
the river is the number of grottoes from which leap
forth the abundant waters that swell the Adonis
River, now Nahr Ibrahim, the river of Sorrows.
Afqa is fifty miles from Beirut at an altitude of
nearly four thousand feet and is a site once dedicated
to the cults of Adonis and Astarte, also known as
Venus Aphrodite. Tradition places here the myth
of Venus and Adonis and fixes here the place of
the tomb of the young god of extraordinary beauty.
Still very young, he became the lover of Aphrodite.
One day when he was hunting in the forests of Lebanon,
a wild boar sent by the jealous god Ares, Mars,
attacked him and inflicted mortal wounds. From the
blood of the young god red anemones sprang up.
Ancient remains, the foundations of temples connected
with his cult, are still to be seen, the most important
of them being the temple of Adonis and Astarte,
that is to say Venus, as we are told by Lucien of
Samosata who wrote in the second century A.D.: “The
mythic legend supposes that a handsome man Adonis,
both son and lover of his mother, was killed by
a boar... and that his blood spread into the waters
of the river, giving color to this and to the anemones
of the valley, particularly in spring.” The best-known
cavern, which speleologists have been able to penetrate
to a depth of four thousand yards but is open to
curious visitors for only a couple of hundred, is
one of the most beautiful in the world.
Afqa is situated at the highest point of the region
of Byblos (Jbeil) on the western mountain chain
behind which stretches the plain of the Beqaa. On
the other slope, to the south-eat, is the region
There is a route winding along the valley towards
Qartaba and Yammouneh and another running from the
Beqaa through Mejdel el-Mneitree. The people of
Byblos city going up to Afqa made a halt at Mashnaqa,
a relay-post on the way to Qartaba. Here one may
take a look at the remains of the temple of Adonis
and other Roman vestiges. Water, so necessary for
life, has assured an abundance of trees and vegetable
produce on the terraces that are irrigated from
the river. All the land to the south-east belongs
to the Shiites of the village of Lassa.
It is possible to visit the cave and the springs,
all of which take one’s breath away, not to mention
the falls and cascades plunging from other sources
of icy water that gushes from this mountain reservoir.
Ain es-Safa, Ain Wadi es-Seif, the spring Jawz el-Hassan,
Ad-Dourat, this fold of the mountain range holds
The extensive forest of Ghareeb is truly splendid,
a promising tourist site. The local people live
on their agriculture and livestock. A restaurant
has opened, Le Restaurant de la cascade, where one
may savor mezzeh and dishes according to taste.
Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer