Mysterious Caves of Wadi El-Habis
Furzol, not far from Chtaura in the Beqaa, is a very ancient
town. We know that in the 5th century it was the seat of
Christian bishopric, but the town is certainly older than
that; it goes back at least 2,000 years to Roman times.
Before venturing to the caves just outside
the town, look for the remains of a Roman temple near the
central roundabout; here are the temple's foundation walls and
some large stone blocks with carvings and inscriptions.
To reach the caves of Wadi el-Habis (Valey
of the Hermit) head through the town for about 11/2
km, keeping an eye out for the openings carved into the
limestone cliff ahead.
The caves 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,
Look for a niche with a carved cone-like shape inside it. This
probably represents a god sculpted in an archaic way according
to local semitic tradition.
On the right bank of the stream that runs
through the site is a large square courtyard that has been cut
into the rock. From here four steps used to lead to a room,
also cut from the rock, Some say that this might have been a
temple dedicated to the god baal.
While exploring the caves, try to imagine
what these chambers were used for thousands of years ago. We
know that some were burial sites. Others might have been used
for religious ceremonies or as residential quarters.
If you have time, a 20-minute walk will
bring you to an interesting rock carving. Start out about 100
meters before the caves, and turn left at the roadway. Using a
large-faced rock as a landmark, head up towards the carving,
which is of a horseman and a second figure. Although we don't
know what they represent or how old they are, it is clear the
carvings are quite old.
From this spot you also get a good view of
an ancient quarry on the next hill, where careful stone
cutting has left behind what looks like an imaginary city
built into the rock.