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
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