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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Fghal


Village of Fghal

During the nineteen-fifties it was a great pleasure of mine to take a public bus going in the direction of Batroun. But just before reaching there my curiosity was aroused by a village to my right crowning a hill with its belfry and its houses nestling among the flowers and verdure of spring, in particular the almond trees spreading over the terraces whose blossom early in the year had the effect of fallen snow covering the entire hillside. I was reminded of my classes of Arabic literature where I learnt about a favorite wife of the Caliph, the Muslim ruler of Andalusia, who expressed a desire to see the country under the snow.

To satisfy her whim, the Caliph ordered the surroundings to be planted with almond trees. Then in the spring the couple sat on the terrace at Alhambra in Grenada and contemplated this “snow” made of the flower of the almond trees.

This little village I noticed from the bus was Feghal, and every time that I passed by I was filled with admiration; in due course I had the satisfaction of wandering around the entire place, where I made many friends and acquaintances. How full it was of picturesque retreats, trees each full of character, and compositions of fairylike beauty!

Feghal is about seven miles from Byblos (Jbeil) to the south and five from Batroun to the north. There is just one road leading to it from the coastal highway and it enjoys a certain independence and self-sufficiency.

The whole village forms one big family, united for better or for worse. This is a family where all help one another, a community that has organized itself and cares for all that is of common interest in the village: there is an olive and carob press which serves everybody and an artesian well which supplies the whole village with water. Walls, roads and water channels are all kept under constant repair and running thanks to the common effort. There is no lack of telephone service or of electric power.

The church is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel and dominates the valley and the village with its tall pointed steeple. Many a “tannour” oven has been abandoned for few are they who bother to bake their bread at home, now that it can be easily brought from the supermarket. Feghal has a town council with a well-deserved reputation, for several of the sons of the village are well placed in present Lebanese society.

I recently returned to Feghal and found myself completely lost. I was in another country, on another planet, surrounded by thousands of dried-up trees, broken, moldering, blackened, in a word a place completely foreign. “Yes,” I was told, “when a workman demands twenty-five or thirty-five dollars a day there is no more profit.”

So the village lies abandoned, dead, mournful, with scrub and weeds pushing up on all sides. It is a sad spectacle now that there is no more labor available even to pick the olives, which are left black and withered on the branches and on the ground underneath. Around the houses the flowers and the greenery are still cared for; but as regards the village as a whole with its terraces and hills, one can only hope for a miracle. To plow, plant, hoe, restore life, all this is another problem, a tragedy of which the locals are fully aware.

Poor Feghal, the heart of Andalusia hewn out of this wonderful hill!

At present, in fact, a group of “Greens” is planning to do something about the environment. A track has been laid out at the bottom of the valley to allow weekend hikes and to connect certain views, religious houses and sites facing Feghal and so to bring some life to the area. This village is really worth a visit for every bend in the way has its surprises and remains of the past awaken nostalgia for days gone by.

As for the village steeple, it is said that when the parish priest of the village was traveling abroad in France, he got to Lille where he saw a bell tower in the form of a spire pointing up to heaven. The priest wanted to copy this and so the church tower of Feghal came to be.

Feghal is the last village of the Byblos administrative district before its northern boundary, where the river, or rather torrent, at the bottom of its valley separates Byblos from Batroun. This river is called the Madfoun. The name Feghal is of Syriac origin and means the face of the waves or perhaps facing the waves, the waves riding the blue sea in front. Sweet water gushes from several springs scattered here and there.

The patron saint of the village is the Archangel Michael, but there are also other churches and ancient sanctuaries such as those of Mar Sarkis (Saint Sergius), Our Lady, and Saint Sassine, and notably the venerable Church of Saint Anthony the Great down in the valley.

Joseph Matar

Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer


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Village of Fghal: >> View Movie << (2013-01-15)
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Village of Fghal - Almond Trees: >> View Movie << (2002-04-15)

 

 


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