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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Afqa Spring

Afqa Spring

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 away.

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 of Kesserewan.

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 water unlimited.

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.

Joseph MATAR
Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Afqa Spring: >> View Movie << (2011-04-15)



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