The drive up from the cost to the captivating weaving lush green mountains leads to the heart of Deir El Qamar. Deir El Qamar’s, translates to Monastery of the Moon, not only preserves its grand feudal architecture, but its old stepped streets, walled gardens and picturesque corners as well.
Deir al-Qamar is known as the Capital of Emirs. From its palaces, Mount Lebanon was governed from the 16th century until the 18th century. People from all religious backgrounds lived there and the town had a mosque, a synagogue and Christian churches.
Shortly after Emir Fakhreddine II came to power in 1590, a chronic water shortage in Baaqline forced him to move his capital to Deir El Qamar. There he ruled until his death in 1635.
The town remained the residence of the governors of Lebanon until the 18th century, when Emir Bechir II Chehab moved the capital to Beiteddine. Historic buildings surround the huge public square or midane, which was originally used for jousts and other equestrian contests. The large water fountain was added in the 19th century. In the square itself is Fakhreddine Ist Mosque, constructed in 1493. Behind the mosque is a 19th century Leather-workers’ Souk or market, which today houses modern shops. Beyond the souk is the Palace of Emir Younes Maan, the brother of Emir Fakhreddine II. The 17th century Deir el Qamar Synagogue is also in the village, although closed to the public. During its peak, the city was the center of Lebanese literary tradition
In the year 1860, Deir al-Qamar was destroyed during the civil war between Druze and Christians during which the town was set ablaze. Napoleon III sent a French contingent to rebuild it, recalling France ancient role as protector of the Christians in the Ottoman Empire as established by a treaty in 1523.
Although the main attraction for most people is the square and the cafés around it, I find Deir el Qamar at its finest in between its old traditional houses and cobble stone streets. As you go through its narrow alleys, the silence, the open space, the small houses that are perched here and there with small windows overlooking the constricted alleys, play a whisper to the wind that murmurs peacefully amongst its walls from centuries past. There is something quiet enchanting finding yourself lost in small streets with small steps taking you up and down, leading you from one Bougainville, to an orchard, to an abandoned stone house, and another one just next to it with little flower pots lying dormant on its windows. Deir el Qamar sings its own tune. It is proud to be here, proud of its heritage, proud of its beauty, taken care of by its own guardians only to be handed to the next generation. This village oozes understated cultural proudness. Perched up high, at night when the sky’s vastness rests above it, it seems closest to the stars and the moon rather the earth beneath it, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why it’s called the monastery of the moon.