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Panoramic Views > North > Al Batroun > Tunnel Chekka

Tunnel of Chekka (Shekka)

Ever since the earliest times people have been on the look-out for short cuts, ways of avoiding long journeys round. One has only to think of the cutting of the Suez Canal or of the Panama Canal to find examples, but of course there are many others. Later, on the mainland galleries and tunnels were dug out like those of moles to avoid circuitous or difficult routes. Catacombs have long existed under such cities as Rome and Paris. Quarries and mines were excavated to bring out coal and minerals and to provide shelters and cellars in whose cool depths food could be stored.

In the days of old, the armies of Greece and Rome had to go long ways round in order to avoid roads blocked by cliffs jutting out into the sea, whereas in more modern times new technology has allowed passages to be cut deep underground and even under the bed of the sea.

Forty miles from the Lebanese capital Beirut under the village of Hamat, just before Shekka, there is a cliff soaring over the sea nearly three hundred feet high and backed by a plateau. This bars the way to anybody not wanting to turn far inland. Perched above is the convent called Deir Nouriyyeh, which with other nearby sites forms a retreat where the visitor finds an atmosphere of tranquility conducive to prayer.

To overcome this obstacle, in 1919 just after the First World War, the Allies, more particularly the French as friends of Lebanon, decided to pierce a tunnel through the rock near the seashore in order to make access and communication northwards much easier. With the construction of the highway, access by road was moved upwards and two one-way tunnels hewn out side by side. The former tunnel has been restored several times and there is a mushroom-shaped rock near the entrance on which curious sightseer carve out their names. From the point of view of communications, this particular passageway is no longer of any great importance.

There is another tunnel, one which was dug out at the time of the Mutassarefs, the Administrators, who ran the country during the latter part of the last century of Ottoman Turkish occupation. It is well worth a visit. It used to be used by carts and beasts of burden and by anyone traveling north. It is interesting and has a picturesque charm of its own. When anybody says Shekka, it is of the tunnel that one first thinks, but nowadays it would be more correct to think of three tunnels.

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Tunnel Chekka: >> View Movie << (2014-05-01)



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