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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > Qorqraiya

Village of Qorqraiya

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 and invasion.

“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 and tools.

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 At Qorqraiya time has stood still; it is a place forgotten, withdrawn from the world, where one spends one’s days away from all worry.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.

Joseph Matar

Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

Village of Qorqraiya: >> View Movie << (2012-03-01)
Village of Qorqraiya: >> View Movie << (2012-03-01)



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