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Panoramic Views > North > Al Batroun > The Al Msaylha Citadel

The Al Msaylha Citadel

In the district of Batroun just 5km before the river El Jaouz and 5km north of the town of Batroun itself, there is an enchanting spot to be reached along a narrow route and over a small bridge, passing by gardens of banana and orange trees. Then the visitor is surprised to find himself face-to-face with a citadel on a rocky buttress, a daring fortress, clinging to the summit of a huge crag. The little river El Jaouz flows at his feet. Groups of curious tourists and holiday-makers come to amuse themselves and to follow a narrow ramp right up to the very top of this miniature strong-point, visiting its halls, corridors and terraces and admiring the bold defensive disposition of the loopholes.

This fort was chosen to decorate certain banknotes of ours.

It still stands there proudly, but having lost its earlier environment. Greedy hands have torn away the rocks and the steep slopes of the valley, leaving only a gaping quarry.

The new highway passing through the valley is a bare sixty yards away, depriving this one-time watchdog of the pass of its protecting role. But one is always somewhat taken aback when going back and forth between Beirut and Tripoli to see suddenly soaring before one this heroic relic of troubled times.

Moussaïlaha is fifty kilometers from Beirut and the little fortress was conceived to keep guard over the road between Batroun and Tripoli, after the coastal road following the shore round the famous Prosopon Plateau of Hamet and Deir Nouriyeh two hundred meters high had fallen into the sea during the sixth century after Christ. But the present little fort does not seem to be more than three hundred years old, going back only to the early eighteenth century. The maze of interior corridors multiplying the angles of view and the carefully studied placing of the loopholes for attack or defense were inspired by the medieval constructions of the age of longbows and crossbows with their arrows and bolts. Nothing is recorded of memorable deeds that the fortress might have occasioned to defend the pass or protect against an invader.

For those who are curious or interested in the military art of past times, a visit inside is well worth the while. Travelers of the 17th century such as d’Arvieux in 1660 and de la Rogue in 1690 who passed through this value make not the slightest mention of the fortification, although they most certainly must have seen it had it been there. Those of the 19th century however went into ecstasies about its uniqueness and originality and its intelligent placing.

- Al Msaylha Citadel: >> View Movie << (2007-11-01)



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