My first visit to Kaftoun!

Speeding along the coastal highway in my cousin's Volvo with all of the windows wide open, I was immediately enthralled with North Lebanon. We had left behind the Beirut traffic and the worst of the heat. Commanding views of the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea filled my senses. Between the sea view and the steep mountains climbing to the interior of Lebanon, my head was spinning with the commanding natural beauty of this small country. When we finally turned off to head up the steep, winding road toward the village I was ready for a slower ride. We climbed toward what I have since learned is the mountain pass known as "The Doors of the Wind". No matter how many times I pass through this spot, with a spectacular view of the Med heading toward Tripoli and of the highway we had just turned off of, I still cannot quite figure out the geography.

The mountain road snaked its way through several villages before we reached Kaftoun, which was clearly, even at first sight, one of the most lovely I had seen. Kaftoun is not chaotic like some of the villages we drove through to reach it. With only one small shop, it is a restful place where people live side by side in harmony. Traditional architecture blends in with some of the newer homes in the village. Grapes are a theme running throughout the village, with every home boasting its vines, usually atop the roof, providing shade from the intense sun as well as delectable fruit.

What is more important than how Kaftoun looks to a first-time visitor, is how it feels. That, in a word, is welcoming. The words Ahlan Wa Sahalan, "you are welcome" are what you hear everywhere you walk. In the year 1992, when I first visited Kaftoun, telephones were not yet in service after the war. You visited in the village simply by walking over to a neighbor's house or to your relative. Being welcome was never in question. To this day, one visits in the same way, without prearrangement.

Kaftoun is lush with trees and plants, alive with insects, under a beautiful blue sky. The starry sky at night is something to behold, especially when the electricity is off! Nestled in the mountains of North Lebanon, Kaftoun is a beautiful village. The views of distant mountains are incredible, especially in winter when they are snow-covered. A great form of exercise is the hike down to the Walnut River, where a beautiful church and monastery are built right into the limestone cliff. The hike back up is really good exercise!

I heard a lot of things about taking care not to drink the local water before my first trip to Kaftoun. While I can assure you it is perfectly drinkable water, the Al-Maza beer I drank until I was certain of that, was also very drinkable. Al-Maza is brewed in Lebanon, and is a wonderful light beer great for replenishing your fluids on a hot summer day, of which you will enjoy many in Kaftoun.

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The view in the picture below is of the Mediterranean Sea, as seen from Deir el Nourieh (Lady of Light Monastery), near the village of Hamat, on the road to Kaftoun. The location known as Ras ach-Cha'a, "Theouprosopan" in classical times. Click here for a panoramic view of the location.


Credits: The small picture of the jagged shore of the Mediterranean Sea above, is curtsy of Al-Mashriq - Ludvigsen 1995. Panoramic view of Deir el Nourieh curtsy of Fadi Saikali, a talented Lebanese digital artist [Cre8mania]


 

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