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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Jbeil-Byblos > River Nahr Ibrahim

River Nahr Ibrahim - Janneh - Shouwen

Thirty kilometres along the coast north from Beirut, a hollow among the hills shelters gardens through which a river winds down to a pebbly beach hidden by the houses ranged along the one and only street of the village of Okaybe.

This is the modest mouth of a river once renowned, Nahr Ebrahim, a name which is believed to have been changed to Ibrahim after a legendary character and which has Akkadian and Syriac Semitic roots. Ebr meant tomb, from which other meanings were derived, so the name can be understood to have meant the River of Lamentations or the Valley of Weeping or the Weepers. The river is famous for having been at the heart of the ancient kingdom surrounding the city of Byblos ten kilometres further north. What is most impressive is that once one has passed beyond the hills at the mouth, one sees the river surging down from the distant deep and wild ravines that it dug for itself during its tempestuous youth many hundreds of thousands of years ago.

There it is, violent and ungovernable, rushing from its abundant source at Afqa, 1800 metres above sea level, down to the shoreline barely 20 kilometres away. It leaps over the rocks that it has scoured and polished, passing between vertical cliffs soaring hundreds of metres, to which clings a luxurious growth of plane trees, evergreen oaks and other rich greenery. Overhead at Mashnaqa and at Shir El Meidan the impressive remains of a Roman temple and a citadel built on foundations more ancient still dominate the scene, giving a view over the astounding gorge.

The fact is that this river was soon the subject of many legends. Its source at Afqa where it pours forth from a two-hundred-metre high rock was thought to be sacred and was consecrated to the Goddess of Fertility Astarte, or Ishtar or Aphrodite or Venus as she was variously named. The ruins may be seen there of a most ancient temple. Every year the people of Byblos celebrated the death and resurrection of the young god Adonis, whom a savage boar had killed in the forest wilderness and whom his sister or betrothed mourned inconsolably. It was said that each springtime, as the snows melted on high, the reddened waters of the river were the blood of the god while the red anemones represented his return to life.

Today, the challenge of this river has been accepted and it has been brought under control. Electric power stations have captured its surging waters and market gardens bring forth their produce wherever level ground extends along its banks. It has become the joyous servant of the people of the valley, at the same time offering sightseers and lovers of nature shaded retreats through which its tumultuous forces tumble and roar. There is one particularly Arcadian spot, El Janeh or El Firdous (Paradise), where this river gives generously of itself above its pebbles through the reeds and verdant shrubbery.
One may enjoy the shade of the remains of the pillars of the Roman aqueduct that crossed the torrent to convey its waters to the city of Byblos, but one must not forget to go first up and then down the elegant Arab bridge only a short walk from the shore.

- River Nahr Ibrahim - Janneh: >> View Movie << (2003-07-01)
- River Nahr Ibrahim - Shouwen: >> View Movie << (2011-04-15)
- River Nahr Ibrahim - Shouwen 2: >> View Movie << (2015-07-01)


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