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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Cedars of Jaj

The Cedars of Jaj

68 kilometers, just over 40 miles, from Beirut, after passing through Amshit, Abaïdate and Lehfed, you come to the Cedars of Jej. Nestled in the high mountain, the “Jurd”, at an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,800 feet), this cluster of cedars is one of the most ancient natural reserves left of the forest that once covered the whole region and which the kings of Byblos exploited during the 3rd millennium B.C...

There is the well-known episode of the emissary Ouen Amon, sent by the high priest of the Egyptian god Amon. When this envoy had settled the bill, King Zaker Baal (Shecrallah) sent two hundred woodcutters up into the hills to hew down the cedars which Ouen Amon needed for the temple in Egypt. It is also told in the Bible, in I Kings, 5: 32, that Hiram King of Tyre sent the Gibilites (Jbeïlis, people of Byblos) to cut wood for the construction of the temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem in the time of King Solomon, about 930 B.C..

On the heights of Jej there are now only a few fine specimens of cedars, hundreds of years old, rooted among the masses of rock. They are surely well worth the promenade, for their majestic stature, their eternal verdure and, when there is a light breeze, their particular perfume and odors fully recompense the effort of a visit that they truly merit after having held out so long against tragic devastation.

A very old squat chapel with walls of crudely cut stones, with narrow door and windows and decrepit interior, hides in disorder some holy pictures. It stands as a curiosity and as yet another witness to the difficulties of the Christian mountain-dwellers during the long “winter” of the rule of the Ottoman pashas. This was a time when the Christians were “dhimmi”, admittedly “protected” but as an inferior caste in the Ottoman state and obliged to feign destitution in order to be less exploited. But the mighty cedars soaring from among the rocks seem to express what these people could have been if given the opportunity.

A road has recently been pierced, a car-park laid out and a winding pathway cleared up the mountainside to lead one up to the illustrious cedars.

Joseph Matar
Translation from the French : Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Cedars of Jaj: >> View Movie << (2010-05-01)



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