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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > El Shoof > Mukhtara

Mukhtara, the Elect and the valley

The Elect, the Chosen One! The place was called Mukhtara because Sheikh Abirabah Junblatt, the grandfather of the seventeenth-century Sheikh Bashir Junblatt, in 1663 had chosen the site for the construction of his palace on top of the ruins of a Roman citadel. The Shehabs were emirs, princes, while the Junblatts were sheikhs or chieftans. As well as “chosen”, Mukhtar means also a mayor and mukhtara is the feminine form of the word.

Mukhtara is in the Shouf region of Lebanon in the heart of the mountains some thirty miles (56 km.) from the capital Beirut at an altitude of rather over 2,500 feet (825 meters) and is a village with some very interesting remains. In it are to be found a number of typical houses of traditional style and many noble residences. The most representative is that of the Junblatts, a building whose present fabric goes back to the year 1663 and which shows both oriental and Italian influence.

This palace was built on top of very ancient remains and was restored in 1842 after the conflicts that opposed the Junblattis to Emir Bashir the Great. In 1788 the young Sheikh Bashir Junblatt had become the richest feudatory lord in the mountains around.

Today this palace stands out by reason of its fine façades and openings, its stained glass and its windows with arcades of marble. In 1810 this same young Junblatt rivaled Emir Bashir Shehab II in both riches and power, arousing the jealousy of the latter, for the Emir did not possess great wealth. The fortune of the Junblatti family was derived from silkworms and from the control the young Sheikh Bashir exercised on the revenues in the mountain region, with which he made good the deficit incurred by the Emir.

In both 1800 and 1820 there was close collaboration between the two men, with Sheikh Bashir providing Prince Bashir with the money needed to satisfy the greed of the Turkish pashas. The Mukhtara palace became the venue for solemn celebrations and hospitality without precedent and its beauty surpassed that of Beiteddine, residence of the Emir.

But in 1825 Prince Shehab launched an attack on Mukhtara and destroyed much of the palace. It was only after the end of the reign of the Prince that the palace was rebuilt, in such a way that the Italian and the oriental influences were joined in harmonious union.

In Mukhtara there is real social harmony, for Maronites, Greek Catholics and Druze all get on very well together and work for the common good. There are two churches dedicated to Our Lady, one belonging to the Maronites and the other to the Greek Catholics. There are many caves, ancient bridges, old mills, and olive-oil presses. Among the old winding alleys and the old street of shops in Mukhtara there is also a Makam, or Druze house of prayer.

As for the surroundings of Mukhtara, nothing could be more scenic, with the river, the gully, and the hills. Restaurants, cafés, a club, a special restaurant at the river source, all these are to be found. In fact Mukhtara is a spot for sightseeing that all must visit.

Joseph Matar

The Valley of Mukhtara and the Valley of Barouk

To speak of Mount Lebanon is to speak of the region embracing the mountain slopes from Kesrouan to the Shouf. Kesrouan of the Heroes alone once covered nearly half this area but two thirds of what are now Jbeil and half of North Metn were transferred. The Shouf also represents some half of the remainder, namely South Metn, Aley and the Shouf properly so-called.

In this Shouf there used to be found all the administrative centers of the emirs and governors, who controlled a territory stretching from Jazzeen in the south to cover Mount Lebanon with its superbly beautiful mountain of Sanneen, rising up like the front of the Parthenon of Athens.

The region has abundant water, with springs, rivers, water falls, valleys, bridges, water mills, and tracks. The Barouk spring is a powerful source giving water to towns, villages and hamlets and irrigating great areas of cultivated land. Along the Barouk valley one finds bridges and water mills which, though several hundred years old and long totally abandoned, are still standing solid and firm. They are a witness to the skill of our ancestors, for to build a bridge supposes a wide range of abilities, good technique and an eye for the lay of the land.

An excursion along the Barouk valley is a journey through Paradise. The beauty of the scene on every side is beyond description, the work in harmony of Nature and of Man, master creator and magician. There are centuries-old trees and a rare freshness in the air, for pollution has not yet reached the summits. In the pure atmosphere one seems to be in a land of magic.

One bridge deserves particular mention, constructed with arches and joining the two sides of the valley. The central span is the key support of the whole architectural system. The bridge allows the movement of people on foot and of flocks as well as of troops of donkeys and mules. Further, it has a canal for water used for irrigation and so was a vital element joining the village on the two banks of Barouk river.
One of the other bridges is known as the Bridge of the Bride, built in the time of the Mameluke rule in the year 913 of the Hegira, 1507 of the Gregorian calendar. It bears an inscription clearly engraved that gives the date of its construction. It is considered as having been of capital importance for communication between the North and the South in Lebanon. The road it bears joins up several villages and also connects the valley of the Barouk with that of the Awali river on the eastern and western sides. According to the old custom, every new bride was bathed in the basin of water by the bridge, so giving the bridge its name.

One can feel oneself to be in a dream world as one wanders about this valley, discovering its sublime beauties and breathing its air.

Joseph Matar - William Matar

Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Mukhtara: >> View Movie << (2012-05-15)
- Mukhtara 2: >> View Movie << (2012-05-15)
- The Valley of Mukhtara: >> View Movie << (2014-04-15)

 

 


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