Making it all the way to Bcharre’ is an adventure in itself.
The sun was already setting as we went to search for a bus that would take us all the way from Beirut to the holy valley of Qadisha.
After a good two hours and a few detours to different stops in Beirut we finally found a bus driver willing to take us to our destination. Before that happened, we figured our journey was doomed to end before it even began.
As the city lights faded, the calm and fresh air gave us a glimpse of the serenity that was to come.
The faint lights emitted by the van sometimes gave us a glimpse of a church or a poorly lit village but after an hour and a half of driving into nothingness, we were still alone in the dark with no sounds to disturb our small group of night travelers.
Rocked by the slow purring of the van’s engine, my eyes slowly closed and I could not open them again until half an hour later. When I woke up, our partners had already disappeared and the soldier only remained. The soldier all the while, seemed taken aback to see us all asleep while the driver was signaling to us that we had arrived.
It was now time for us to gather our things and get doing, despite being alone in the middle of the deserted alleys of Bcharré.
A glance at our GPS informed us that we were more than an hour’s walk from the hotel in which we had planned to spend the night. The cold was piercing; this night definitely wasn’t going to be easy!
At the moment miraculously, a man stopped in a car and agreed to take us.
On the way, we learned that he was born in Bcharre. He never left his region and considers it to be the most beautiful in Lebanon. We decided to leave our judgment until the first rays of the sun appeared.
After thanking our savior dozens of times, we continued on foot and not too long afterwards we arrived on a mountainside. That particular moment was magical; not a single car in sight, no light to shine the way except for the small lamp we found in a pocket and the neon-shaped cross that overlooks the hill.
After half an hour of walking under the spectacular sky, we finally reached the White Cedars Hotel and we were greeted by the warming smile of the manager who welcomed us despite the late hour of our arrival.
We took some time to indulge in a delicious meal and then headed to our rooms, exhausted from this journey.
We woke up filled with joy and excitement: we were finally going to discover the valley that we heard so much about since our arrival in Lebanon!
Walid, a driver from Bcharré who knows almost all the inhabitants of the village, directed us towards the cedar forest of God in the late morning.
When we arrived in front of the cedar forest, we understood where its name came from.
A strong emotion invaded us. We began to imagine what these trees have seen through the centuries. For my part, I imagined Khalil Gibran and Lamartine meditating in this forest and drawing inspiration from the wisdom of these trees.
It is precisely to discover the works of Khalil Gibran that we leave this magnificent forest. A few kilometers away lay the museum of the author of the “Prophet”, the famous Gibran Museum. The location of the museum offers an impressive view of the village and invites us to discover the pictorial works of Gibran, which little know about.
Gibran’s work bears a resemblance to the Romantic poet William Blake. Both of these poets incorporated illustration to their poetry and both of their works expressed certain transcendence. Although Gibran came nearly 100 years after Blake, Gibran’s work is highly influenced by the Romantic Movement in poetry; even the idea of a poet being a prophet is a concept that was influenced by Blake.
The visit ended; we ventured into the basement where the tomb of the poet is located.
An epitaph, the author's ultimate poem, is wisely placed on a stone not far from the coffin:
"I'm alive like you
I am now standing next to you, close your eyes
You will see me in front of you »
We close our eyes. Too bad, Gibran must be well hidden.
Our last stop was the Qozhaya Monastery. We arrived again at night, and were amazed by the beauty of the place. Although we couldn’t see the valley hidden by the darkness, we understood all the compliments that had been formulated on the region.
Going through the monastery to find the entrance to the rooms, I came across a monk who was about to go to bed. I hand signaled to him; he finally understood my awkward gestures and lead us to the rooms.
We fell asleep without too much trouble, as the day was rich in adventures.
We woke up the next morning at 7 am in order to catch the morning mass.
I counted 8 monks at the beginning of the sermon then one arrived a few minutes later. To my surprise it was the same monk that showed us to our rooms the night before.
Most of these monks were very old and bore long beards. I even saw a monk in the third row with his back curved and holding the prayer book so close to his eyes so he could read his prayers.
The mass ended after an hour and we returned to the large terrace of the monastery.
We spent a few minutes meditating in front of the spectacular sight that was offered to us, and we thanked god for the gift of nature.
As soon as the clock stroked noon, I joined Father Charbel who agreed to meet in order to answer some questions about his life as a monk and the discussion lasted much longer than I had initially expected.
I forgot about the time and by the time I had finished the interview with Father Charbel I had to run and tell my friend that it was time for us to head back to Beirut.
The idea of staying at the monastery for one more day crossed my mind several times, but alas! I finally resolved it and decided to ride with my friends and go back to the hustle and bustle of the city.
On the way back, we shared the impressions this magical place had left on us. From now on, we too will be able to be a part of those who are raving about the holy Qadisha Valley.
We are both happy and frustrated because we realized that it takes more than two days to discover the entire valley.
As soon as we arrived to Beirut the promise had already been set: we will come back as soon as we have the opportunity to do so.