Denniyeh is a “caza” or administrative district comprising over 42 villages and hamlets under 16 municipal councils administering the region. To talk of Dinniyeh is to speak in short of all this region.
Nature here is beautiful and welcoming as it is everywhere else in Lebanon, but what distinguishes Dinniyeh is that its natural beauty is completely unspoilt.
Situated some 100 kilometres from Beirut, it has been protected from the barbarous onrush of urban growth and “civilisation”. However, its inhabitants wish to make it a tourist and summer resort, calling it “the Queen”, as its Arabic name of Din would indicate. Happy are they who know and visit the region.
The scenery surrounding one is lush and enticing. The forests are dense with trees of every variety. Its mountain peaks are those of Kornet el Saouda, the highest in Lebanon, reaching 3088 metres and patterned with eternal snow. Its valleys are deep, its climate bracing and its waters pure, while the game there makes it worthy of the hunting prowess of Diana and Adonis.
Denniyeh lies to the east of Tripoli, extending northwards as far as Akkar, southwards to Besharri and Zghorta, and eastwards to Baalbek and Hermel. With abundant springs gushing on all sides, villages nestling in rich verdure, orchards and groves to be seen everywhere, Denniyeh still has woodlands extending as far as the eye can see despite the seven million trees cut down over many decades by occupants of the country for their projects, in particular the laying down of railways.
At least half of the land is under cultivation, bearing produce of many kinds. On Mount Ijass there is the greatest cedar forest in Lebanon, and there are more cedars at Zawarib and elsewhere.
Its immense water table includes an underground lake that is still unexploited. 216 springs of water have been counted, including those of Sugar, Kassam, Sir and Zihlan., which give rise to tributaries of the River Moussa. Oyoun el-Samak, the Eyes of the Fish, is a lake of magical beauty.
There are innumerable sites of archaeological interest:
The citadel of Alsafira, whose name goes back to the emperor Septimus Severus, recalls the might of the ancient Roman civilisation. Standing on a hilltop 1100 metres above sea-level, it is surrounded by an imposing wall and is formed of a series of hostels. It was a resting-place for the caravans on their way from the coast to the Beqaa and then on to Jerusalem.
The citadel of Bikhoun and the Fakhr el-Dine Tower date from 1618 A.D..
At Sir el-Dinniyeh, capital of the caza situated at an altitude of 950 metres, 115 kilometres from Beirut and 27 from Tripoli, there are antique houses with a mill and the intriguing caves of Zehlan.
On the slopes of Mount Arbahin there is the village of Safrin with its Zein Grotto.
Koutran has the shrine of a certain prophet Yacoub.
Daraya shelters cellars and ancient remains.
Kfarhabou is known for its grottos with carved rocks and its church going back to the Crusaders.
Bishmaha is distinguished by its citadel.
Nemrein is remarkable for its Roman remains, excavations, minarets, golden grottos and reliefs carved on the rocks.
Btormaz, Dabhal and Imar all have their old monasteries, churches, citadels, cellars, wells and other features.
Visitors may admire the Zehlan Cave, long forgotten but now cleaned up and made new.
The dam of Lake Ouyoun el-Samak, 500 metres long and 75 wide, feeds an electric power station and provides water to irrigate an extensive region. Kornet el-Saouda, the highest point in the Middle East with its soaring 3088 metres, gives one a splendid view of the isle of Rouad and the coast. The Citadel Mount overlooking Sugar Spring reaches an altitude of 2400 metres.
Two zones have been classed as nature reserves, one at Mounts Ijass and Arbahin and the other at Jerd Marhin, stretching to Gehenna Gorge. They contain millions of trees of every kind, cedars, oaks, poplars, cypresses, pines, firs, larches and junipers, to mention only some. A highway linking Sir to Hermel will be completed in the year 2006 and will open up regions still virgin and rising up to 2500 metres.
The local people are welcoming and friendly. Christians and Muslims live in harmony side-by-side.