name Al-Kobayat is of Aramaic origin and may signify
tides, stretches of water, lakes, or even reservoirs,
but in any case the region abounds in water. In
fact, North Lebanon stretches as far as Akkar in
a countryside of uninterrupted beauty, with picturesque
scenery, abundant crops, trees particular to the
region, and favorable climate and atmosphere. The
inhabitants are sociable, emancipated, bold, and
It is hard to find words that describe the region
adequately. The Cedars, the Cornet es-Sawda mountain
peak, the forest of Kammuaa, the waters of Ayoon
es-Samak, the rivers, the mountains, the distant
horizons, the woodlands, and the spectacular views
are all enough to take your breath away.
Kobayat is a large Maronite Christian village of
some seventy kilometers or twenty-odd miles square.
It is composed of three main groups of houses, namely
Kobayãt el-Gharbiyeh (West Side), Martmura,
and al-Kobayat. it is bounded by the former Akkar
to the West, Hermel and the Beqaa to the East, Beit
Jallouk and Shadra to the North, and Sindianat Zeidan,
Ain al-Hajjal and Qatlabeh to the South.
For this, Speaking of the 8th wonder of the Creation
is a truth of Lapalisse, but it is also passed down
that on the first morning of the Creation a corner
was put aside by the Almighty where he could withdraw
to rest, meditate and dream. This divine corner
of the world is to be found in North Lebanon, in
Akkar at Qobayat. One may say that all Creation
is from the hand of the Almighty and is of uniform
beauty and magic throughout; but here this supreme
retreat was hewn for Divinity itself. In this celestial
heritage Kobayat is to be found.
In Lebanon the Christian element is everywhere one
making for love and coexistence between the different
communities. Ever since earliest times this land
at the eastern end of the Mediterranean has been
a refuge welcoming all those persecuted, terrorized
or fearing massacre at the hands of those of obscurantist
belief. Many people thus welcomed have shown little
gratitude. We Lebanese reveal the spirit shown in
the poem of Victor Hugo where it is said after battle,
“Give him drink all the same, exclaims my father.”
Can any act be more Christian and more humane?
Kobayat has seen several conquerors and several
civilizations pass over its head, as its archeological
remains bear witness. Among these we may note those
of the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines,
the Arabs, the Ottomans, the French and the Syrians.
The inhabited areas we speak of extend between roughly
1,700 and 3,000 feet above sea level divided into
several districts or parishes, namely Gharbieh,
Martmura, South Zouk, Saydet, North Zouk and Dahr.
During the summer the people are all to be found
in their home villages, but in winter there remain
very few of them, as snow tends to isolate the region.
Many have emigrated to Brazil and Venezuela.
Kobayaat has a thoroughly modern and effective infrastructure.
Many are drawn to its rich fertile valley with its
abundant crops. In 1912 the Consul of France expressed
himself thus: “We are in valleys of an astounding
fertility.” The local cemeteries date back to the
Iron Age and even to the Bronze Age of more than
five thousand years ago. Kobayat is at the crossroads
between Eastern Asia, Western Asia and the Mediterranean.
Each quarter has its own church and parish, for
example Shablo Church, where there is a Phoenician
altar and where ancient Phoenician, Greek and Roman
coins have been found. All round Ghassalet Church
there are precious Roman tombs and ruins. All the
remains bear witness to the prosperity of the region
during the first Christian centuries. The temple
of the god Ban was transformed into the church Saint
Artimos (Shallita). The ruins of Shwita Castle testify
to the former presence of the Byzantines in the
East. On the hill where now stands the Carmelite
convent of Mar Doumit ancient jars have been discovered.
Formerly mulberry trees prospered for raising silk-worms
but have now been replaced by fruit trees, mainly
apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, olive trees
and grape-vines, together with vegetables and cereals.
There are many woodland trees and the region is
classed among the most wooded in Lebanon despite
the fires and the uncontrolled clandestine cutting
down of trees.
The six districts where there is the most activity
are Gharbieh, Martmura, Zouk, Dahr, Ghowaya and
Kattabeh. There are many churches, some quite small
and simple and others larger and more modern, having
been erected by the Carmelite Fathers and copiously
decorated with paintings and sculptures. It is worth
mentioning the miraculous church of Saydat al-Ghassaleh
and of Saydat al-Habal, Saydata al-Intissar, Mar
Sharbel, Martmura, Saydat al-Intiqal, Mar Gergis,
Mar Doumit, Saydat ash-Shambook, and the Forty Martyrs.
Churches dedicated to Our Lady, the Holy Virgin,
predominate and are to be found everywhere.
The main families in the village are the Hobaish,
the Abdallahs, the Dahers and the Shidiacs. Its
sons have included several members of parliament
and ministers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists,
bankers, university intellectuals and literary figures,
high officials, artisans, and technicians. There
are convents, schools, hospitals and sports clubs.
All these taken together make of Kobayat a vital
regional center which is well worth a visit.
Translated from the French by K.J. Mortimer