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Panoramic Views > North > Zgharta > Ayto - Convent Saint Simon Stylites

Ayto, a Leap towards Paradise

One is tempted to say that Ayto is something out of this world, a mountain floating in the air, a celestial monument come from the heavens, a Paradise come down on the earth. Like an eagle in the sky, its very shape is a challenge, and its proud presence in North Lebanon is a cause for fascination. It takes our breath away, as an Eighth Wonder of the World gladdening our eyes with its simplicity and its reach.

There are many explications for its name, which is of Syriac origin; it might have meant summer and warmth or have been derived from a word meaning a wild boar or perhaps anger. The summit of the dominating mountain resembles a horn, so the site is called the Horn of Ayto. It is a rocky region, seventy miles from the Lebanese capital Beirut and rising to some five thousand feet.

The village itself is at 3,500 feet above sea level, spread out along a shelf that dominates the valley of Kadisha, the coastal plain, Koura and the sea, all embraced in a wide horizon. If one wants to enjoy a panorama like Paradise itself, one has only to go to Ayto and to open one’s soul to its contemplation.. One is overcome by the sensation that ensues. No words can describe the scene, which has to be seen to be believed.

To reach Ayto one can take the road from Tripoli and Zghorta or the one going through Ehden and Sebhel.

There are interesting historical remains at Ayto. There is a burial site of great importance where there is well-known cave and there are also the remains of an ancient tower. A local story says that one cellar goes back to Canaan, son of Houn, son of Noah. A pagan temple served as the foundation for the monastery of Saint Simon Stylites, for even in the time of the Phoenicians the region was a place of prayer. One proof of past importance that cannot be set aside is an inscription marking the dispatch by the Pharaoh of Egypt of an emissary to one of the kings of Byblos, to ask him for wood from the forest of Ayto. At present this document is to be found in the National Museum of Beirut. It also contains a demand for resin to be collected from the trees as this was used by the Egyptians in the process of mummification.

There are many monasteries and churches to be found, some well preserved and others in a state of ruin, for example St. Joseph’s monastery and the convent of Saint Simon from where nuns spread, love, charity and good works in the village. There is the church of Saint (Mar) Doumit, the church of Notre Dame, the church of Saint Rafca, and the monastery of Mar Chalita, with others too many to mention. One can find oil-presses, for there are great stretches of olive groves. Water gushes up from the springs of Ayto and Doumit and many others.

Trees of the forest abound as do vines. The village is well organized with a a small school, a bakery, water network, sports- and social-club and some restaurants, notably Le Relais, La Ruche d’Or, and Restaurant du Chêne. There are workshops for forged iron and various handcraft skills. At the top of the Horn the authorities have installed relays for radio, television and internet.

In a quiet way, Ayto is a summer resort and many local people maintain a house in the village for the summer while spending the winter at work in coastal towns, mainly Tripoli, Batroun or Byblos. In summer, there is the feast of Notre Dame, Our Lady.

Read as well Ayto - Convent Saint Simeon Stylites in Arabic

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Ayto village - Mount Ayto: >> View Movie << (2013-06-15)
- Convent of Saint Simeon: >> View Movie << (2003-03-01)
- Convent of Saint Simeon: >> View Movie << (2016-02-15)



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