From the Christian Cliffs to the Valley of Hezbollah

Maronite Christians came to Mt. Lebanon in the 5th Century

but when the Arabs invaded the Christians fled to the steep and remote gorges of central Lebanon.

in caves and alcoves they carved some of the world's first monasteries

we set out to hike the Ouadi Qadisha, the Holy Valley, bastion of Maronite Christians

Clinging to a cliff, we come across Our Lady of Hawqa Monastery, home to a Colombian-born hermit

it's a secret pilgrimage site for those who dare

down into the gorge we continue

until we reach a mountain cafe where the Christians are spontaneosly dancing Dabke

Happy Feet

then up the cliffs to the mile-high village of Bsharri

birthplace of a famous poet whose book was on every dorm shelf when i was in college.

in book sales, he become the third most popular poet of all time

Khalil Gibran asked that these words appear next to his grave

we take the night in Ehden, a garden city famous for its forbidden fruits

we visit St George church in Ehden some believe the slayed dragon was a huge croc washed ashore from the Nile

here lies Youssef Bek Karam (1823 - 89), a Maronite who fought the Ottomans for an independent Lebanon

with the morning we continue up the slopes of Mt Lebanon

stopping briefly at a grove where a local artist has carved christ figures in dead cedars

to the summit crest overlooking the Bekaa Valley & the Anti-Lebanon range, border with Syria

the Bekaa Valley is a rich breadbasket, but residents are mostly poor. Here Hezbollah has taken root

some christians here are worried.

Baalbek walks the tightrope of tolerance

at the entrance to the Roman ruins Hezhollah is selling t-shirts and flags

but the religion of selfies prevails

the magnificence of Baalbek inspires all faiths

later we visit the Hezbollah museum

all children deserve peace

at our hotel in Zahlé, we happen upon a Shia wedding. no alcohol...

but like weddings around the world, it is a time celebrate

Lebanon: Land of Hope

Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. - Khalil Gibran --------------- www.mtsobek.com #MTSobek #stellerstories