Niha is a town in the Chouf area which belongs to Mount Lebanon. The word neeha in Syriac means calm and peaceful. As most names carry a poetic feel to their place, Niha is truly a serene place. Among its olive groves and its grapes, apples, plums and almonds trees, Niha, like most corners in Lebanon, owns a cultural and historical richness that dwells in the heritage of this country.
What I find mesmerizing about this place is its geographical location. It embraces the South, Mount Lebanon, and The Bekaa governate, effortlessly as if it’s been a gatekeeper or a cross road for those regions since eternity. From the North it is surrounded by Jba’a, from the south Jezzine, from the West Bater, and from the East the Barouk Mountains overlooking the Bekaa Valley.
It’s most famous for the church of Saint Joseph, El Qa’ah Spring, and according to a Druze legend there is a relatively modern shrine located in a hill overlooking Niha town in the Chouf that enshrines the burial site of the prophet Job. Among the many caves in this area, both natural and man-made, is the Shakif Tiron, known as Niha’s rock-cut castle. This is a cave fortress of interlocking chambers cut into the top of a cliff. According to the popular tale, prince Fakhreddine El Ma’ani II, hid there when fleeing the Ottomans in 1635. However, the accurate historic version links these events to the prince’s father, Korkomaz, during 1584.
Standing on the hill after what feels like a pilgrimage walk to its castle, facing this landscape, you are humbled by this vast surrounding that feels infinite. Sometimes just before the sun kisses the earth good night, the clouds settle just under your feet bowing to this little village with all its history.
Among its stories and its beautiful landscape Niha stands there silently knowing, like her prophet sleeping among her rocks, that living with tribulations and trials requires patience. The life of this world is a test and in order to pass, and be rewarded with Paradise, whatever it may be, we need to acquire the patience of Job (Sabber Ayoub).
In the morning light, The Bekaa Valley offers her a beautiful sight of sun-rays falling down on her patchwork land immersing it with light, and the Barouk Mountains in winter offer her an unparalleled sight of pure white snow and timeless cedars. If you happen to go there, stand on its hill facing the castle and listen to the wind as it grazes the land.