Located in the North of Lebanon, the village of Hadath el Jebbeh stands at 1,500m altitude in an area of outstanding natural beauty, overlooking the dramatic Qadisha Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From mountains and valleys to cultural and religious discoveries, Hadath el Jebbeh has it all. Martine Btaich, a professional in community and sustainable development, and vice president of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association, explores this historic town
1. Explore its Heights
New trails have been created around Hadath el Jebbeh, offering an exceptional experience hiking or snowshoeing through the Cedar Forest. For high mountain enthusiasts, the trail towards Mar Semaan is a must. From the Makmel mountain and at the peak of Mar Semaan, you can visit the shrine of Mar Semaan and enjoy the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. If the weather is clear, you can see as far as Tripoli and the Palm Islands. And if you still want a further thrill, the trail continues to the Church of God, (Kanisset el Rabb), locally said to be “the highest church in the Near East,” which stands at 2,350m altitude.
2. Enjoy the Traditional Architecture
The beautiful St. Daniel church, dating back to the 12th Century AD, stands at the center of Hadath el Jebbeh. The church was built on the ruins of an old monastery dedicated to the Prophet Elijah, which, according to popular tradition, was built on the ruins of a pagan temple. Afterwards, stroll around the old souk and admire traditional 18th Century stone houses. Don’t miss the ancient sarcophagus, said to belong to Queen Diya, the daughter of Naboukadnasar, King of Persia.
3. Visit Monastic Caves
The Qannoubine Valley is the most dramatic valley in Lebanon and is, according to UNESCO, “one of the most important early Christian monastic settlements in the world.” Here caves and shelters were turned into churches and monasteries for monks and hermits. A few of the monasteries are accessible by car, but the best way to discover them remains on foot. You can see the Assi el Hadath Grotto from afar; it was a refuge for local inhabitants during the Mamluk’s siege in 1283. The discoveries made in the grotto represent a major stepping-stone for medieval archaeology and Maronite history in Lebanon and helped enlist the valley on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
4. Try Your Hand at Mushroom Harvesting
The cedar forest is home to more than 40 species of wild mushrooms, which range in color from white, black and grey to yellow and blue. The locals eat mushrooms locally named “boulbes” and the “aafess;” both are edible. In the fall season, especially in November, you can experience wild mushroom picking and later learn to cook and taste them at Auberge Hadath el Jebbeh (71 680222, hadatheljebbeh.com).
5. See the Lebanese Cedars
Above the village is one of the most important high-density cedar forests in Lebanon; it includes around 300,000 Cedrus Libani trees, some of them over a thousand years old. The forest sheltered Prince Bachir II during the Ottoman persecution; now hikers can walk along the trails between the tall trees and learn about the rich fauna and flora of the area. Go with a local guide (71 680222) to explore the forest, and organize your cultural and adventure tours including mountain biking, climbing and snowshoeing.
Where to eat
Auberge Hadath el Jebbeh can prepare fresh homemade meals, by local cooks, upon request. Richta (soup with lentils and small pieces of dough and onions), maacaron bi toum (dough cooked with garlic), and seasonal dishes with mushrooms are some of the highlights. It’s also a great base and center for exploring the area, with numerous activities on offer. Also make sure to eat at one of the small places around the town such as the family-run restaurant, Al Hawra (03 802091), which offers Lebanese mezze. For a fresh manouche, stop at Saj Lalo (03 398568) or Claude’s (03 435085). Homemade sandwiches and yummy falafel are offered at Falafel and More (70 969916) and Chez Coco (03 147086).
Where to sleep
Auberge Hadath el Jebbeh is an old house dating back to 1928, recently renovated to host guests visiting the area. They can arrange numerous activities and tours in the area.