In Lebanon one finds in the names of the towns and
villages certain endings, prefixes and syllables
of different origins, Aramaic, Syriac, Phoenician,
Canaanite, Arab, Latin, Ottoman, and so on. This
only goes to show the adaptability and the integration
of this nation into the play of migration, change
“Aya”, found in the names Faraya, Araya, Daraya
and Qorqraiya for example, is Syriac. The same is
true of the sound “oon” ending the names Majdelyoun,
Saydoun, Batroun and Rayfoun and likewise the prefix
“Mey” in Meyfouq, Meyrouba and Mayfadoun.
The lists of names are long but I am going to deal
here with Qorqraiya. This name can be understood
in different ways. It can mean feeling the cold,
or earth, or even a fagot of wood. It can also mean
“quirqara”, the trunk of an olive tree now hollow
and empty inside, perhaps over a hundred years old.
Qorqraiya is one of those rare corners of Lebanon
that still can be reached only on foot or on the
back of a donkey or mule. I learnt recently on my
visit that a very simple track had been opened,
a path that one could follow only by walking.
In point of fact Qorqraiya is not a real village;
rather is it a hamlet composed of a few houses scattered
and hiding amidst a scene of natural beauty alongside
the sacred river Adonis. Higher up is the small
town of Kartaba, while lower down is a fairyland
Eden called Janneh, meaning Paradise. Through the
valley flows the stream famous in myth and legend
whose waters cascade down from Afca. Qorqraiya is
between 1,900 and 2,500 feet above sea level. To
reach it, one follows the road of Nahr Ibrahim (the
river Adonis) and Kartaba and then takes the turning
to Koue el Mashnaqa, which is a little under forty
five miles from the capital Beirut.
The Master of Ceremonies here is four-footed and
has hooves, the donkey to whom all honor. No burden
or place is a stranger to him, for he carries water,
implements, sacks of grain, stones for building,
sand from the bottom of the valley, and crops, and
can even plow. For the erection of the few homes
blending so well with their surroundings, it is
the donkey which carries the necessary cement, iron
At Qorqraiya there is none of the infrastructure
of a village, no medical centre, no telephones or
roads, and no doctors. At Qorqraiya time has stood
still; it is a place forgotten, withdrawn from the
world, where one spends one’s days away from all
worry. Simply there are beaten paths, stairways
hewn out of the rock like precious stones, mulberry
trees clinging to the houses, and flowers everywhere.
Near each house there is a little bakery in the
form of a kind of oven called tannour or a “saj”,
a metal dome over embers, for the baking of tasty
bread, The are pitchers full of water to quench
the thirst of good angels, the passers-by and visitors.
Attached to each family home there are animals,
cows, goats, poultry, cats and dogs, but the chief
of all these is the donkey or ass.
Qorqraiya is a small Shiite hamlet in the Byblos
region facing another yet smaller hamlet, the mainly
Christian Shouan in Kesrouan district, with only
the river and its narrow gorge between them. Here
there is no place for loose morals, for the people
are true, pure, and simple.
Electricity is on a modest scale, evident only from
some light bulbs, often hung on the branches of
trees. I was told that there were some local ruins
from ancient times; I did not see them myself, but
there most probably are some since from Byblos all
the way up to Afca there is a steady succession
of temples, monuments and other archeological remains
to be seen.
Such charming corners in Lebanon have practically
ceased to exist. They are to be found in the legends,
the dreams of summer evenings, and in the stories
of the Arabian Nights. Here one gets away from earthly
cares and discovers another world. Qorqraiya is
truly a village that is worth a visit.
Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer
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