The Valley of the Hermit

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The cave opens its great crumbling maw. Streaks of light fall on the sparse green blades, which dot the floor. The rocks push forth from the ground, like fingers reaching to air. These enclosed little caves of past human life lay empty, desolate, only the wind traverses them with ease. They rest soundless in the glen lit by diffused and dappled sun.

Tucked away in a little village called Furzol, a small town known primarily for its ancient Roman artifacts, located past Zahle and its water streams, on the way to Baalbek, stands a small valley of no major importance yet in its grounds, civilization has carved its way, marking it forever more.

One of the oldest villages in Bekaa, Furzol captivates with its caves that open up to wide open, as far as the eye can see, views of the valley, where silence reigns and the breeze is pure. Walking amongst its nature-made alleys of small hills and diminutive peaks, one is lost in time. Remains of a now-destroyed Roman temple dedicated to Apollo lie at the center of town.

The caves, partially natural and partially man-made, are located just outside the town in the Wadi el-Habis or Valley of the Hermit as the villagers call it. Numerous rock-cut sanctuaries from the Canaanite, Roman and Byzantine times of tombs and stone temples abound with history and resist the calling of time, ready to be explored. Beneath these rock formations is a network of chambers and caves, with narrow passages connecting the floors with minuscule tunnels big enough for one to crawl in. Some are easily accessible with an easy walk up, while others can only be reached via ladders and steep climbs. Their foundation walls are big stone blocks engraved with carvings and inscriptions and are remains of a Roman temple.

The caves of Wadi el-Habis occur at regular intervals and are partly natural, partly man-made. All are cut in the shape of a dome and most of them have a reservoir dug in the center. There is a niche with a carved cone-like shape inside it, probably representing a god sculpted in an archaic way according to local Semitic tradition.

Empty cave, where nobody dwells within. When someone does stay, they leave just as quickly its dark and depressing walls. Lonely and hidden, sunlight and happiness are forbidden in those dotted cells, where echoes get lost with the fading of time and the immense open space that form part of its mystic allure.

To my Lebanon and all its mysteries

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