We all know what Lebanon looks like from the outside, but what lurks below the surface? With a number of caves waiting to be explored, we get the lowdown from Ghada Salem, former president of the Association Libanaise d’Etudes Spéléologiques (ALES), on which caves to head to this summer.
1. MABAJ: KHRAJ ALMAT – BYBLOS
The Mabaj cave was discovered in the early sixties. Although visitors can only access the first 192 meters of the cave, the cave passages have a variety of forms and textures.
The entrance to this cave is a natural wide opening, offering easy access for visitors to start their adventure.
How to get there: The cave is 19km from Byblos. Head towards Anaya St. Charbel, then continue in the direction of Almat, Tourzaya.
How to arrange a visit: Call 03 056520/70 856974 or visit mabaj.com
2. AIN OUZAIN: SHOUF
Interestingly, the Ain Ouzain cave was discovered in 2003 during the construction of a car park. Cave mapping unearthed a site of around 327 meters, 185 of which are open to tourists. The passages are just two meters wide and the cave’s labyrinth system exposes a chalky marl formation of the upper cretaceous. Artificial lighting guides visitors and extends beyond the accessible section to show the continuation of the cave system.
How to get there: The cave is 54km from Beirut. Take the road to Damour, then head towards Deir el Qamar. Follow the directions to Semqaniye and continue to Ain Ouzain village.
How to arrange a visit: Call 03 619551
3. ZAHLAN: DANNIEH – AKKAR
Set in strata of calcium and dolomites, the Zahlan cave belongs to the late Jurassic period. It is divided into three sections; the current cave, a lower cave and a third cave at the bottom of the valley, where the Zahlan fountain gushes out. Visitors to Zahlan can explore a meandering cave rich in calcite formations stalactites and stalagmites), which cover most of the walls and ceilings.
How to get there: Take the road to Dannieh from Tripoli or Zgharta, all the way to Sir el Dannieh. From Sir El Dannieh, continue to Kattine village.
How to arrange a visit: Call 70 322999
4. ROUIESS: AKOURA – BYBLOS
Discovered by Lebanese speleologists in 1955, the Rouiess cave boasts an underground river and around six kilometers of passages and chambers. The cave consists of three levels, each with its own unique characteristics. It is also home to the largest chamber in Lebanon after Jeita.
The cave has a colony of bats, and with no artificial lighting or passages, visitors must be ready to take on full darkness, guided only by the light of their torches.
How to get there: Head north out of Beirut towards Byblos. Once you have exited the highway, continue inland, following the direction of Laqlouq. From Lalouq you need to pass through Akoura in order to reach Majdel Akoura.
How to arrange a visit: Call 03 128708
ALES is a non-profit organization, whose activities include the exploration and scientific study of natural caves. They further promote Lebanon’s natural heritage through a variety of social activities and research projects.
For more information call 03 849097 or visit alesliban.org