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Citadel of Sidon Today
Citadel of Sidon - As It Appeared on Year 1810. It was built by the Crusadors in the early 13th century.  
Painting Of The Citadel of Sidon  

                   Lebanese Famous Cities

Hasbaya Profile

Altitude: 750m
Distance from Beirut: 114km

Getting There

From Beirut, take Khalde Highway South passing through Khalde, Damour, Naame, Saadiat, along the beautiful coast of the Mediterranean sea, Saidon, Ghazieh, Sarafand, Adloun, Tyre, Qana, Marjeyoun, than across the Hasbani river go toward Hasbaya.

Hasbaya Citadel

General Information

The Wadi El Taym is a long fertile valley running parallel to the western foot of Mount Hermon. Watered by the Hasbani river, the low hills of Wadi El Taym are covered with rows of silver-green olive trees, its most important source of income. Villagers also produce honey, grapes, figs, prickly pears, pine nuts and other fruit.

Mount Hermon, 2745 meters high, is a unifying presence throughout the Wadi El Taym. This imposing mountain held great religious significance for the Canaanites and Phoenicians, who called it the seat of the All High. The Romans, recognizing it as a holy site, built many temples on its slopes. The Old Testament refers to it as “Baal – Hermon,” while in the New Testament the mountain is the site of the transfiguration of Jesus.

A Historical Site

Hasbaya, the capital of the Wadi El Taym, is an attractive town full of history. A good deal of this history transpired at the huge citadel that is today Hasbaya’s chief claim to fame. Owned by the Chehab emirs, the citadel forms the major part of a Chehabi compound – a group of buildings surrounding an unpaved central square 150 meters long and 100 meters wide. Several medieval houses and a mosque make up the rest of the compound, which covers a total of 20,000 square meter. The citadel is situated on a hill overlooking a river which encircles it from the north. A site steeped in mystery, the citadel is so old its origins are uncertain and so big that even today no one is sure how many rooms it contains. The known history of the structure begins with the Crusaders, but it may go back even earlier to an Arab fortification or a Roman building. Won by the Chehabs from the Crusaders in 1170, the fortress was rebuild by its new owners.

Since then it has been burned many times in battle and was often the scene of bloody conflict. Most recently, it was struck by rockets during the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. Amazingly, for almost all of the eight centuries since it fell to the Chehabs, the citadel has been occupied by members of the same family. Today actual ownership is shared by some fifty branches of the family, some of whom live there permanently.

Visiting the Citadel

The building consists of three floors above ground and three subterranean floors. Constructed in stages, often damaged and rebuilt, today the sprawling structure incorporate a mix of styles, building techniques and states of repair. The tower in the southwest corner and the eastern wall-both visible from the third floor – are easily identifiable as Crusader. Other medieval elements are arrow slit windows and machicolations-small openings through which hot oil or missiles were dropped on the enemy. Despite its primary function as a fortress, the castle also possesses many graceful architectural features such as slender columns and arched windows Entrance and First Courtyard.

Wide steps lead to the main entrance, where the original Crusader door still swings smoothly on 800 year old hinges. Four meters wide and three meters high, the passage allowed horsemen to enter the castle without dismounting.

Stone lions, a heraldic emblem of the Chehab family, decorate the wall on either side of the arched portal. Two large lions are depicted in chains, each beside a weak, unchained rabbit. A set of smaller lions appears within the arch above the doorway and just below that is a plaque in Arabic commemorating an addition to the castle made in the year 1009 Hejira by Emir Ali Chehab some 400 years ago. Once through the portal, you enter a huge stone paved courtyard surrounded by castle walls 1.5 meters thick. In addition to the attractive windows, old balconies and staircases, the courtyard has four main points of interest: a limited view of the dungeons, two important arched entrenches and a wing once occupied by the Pasha of Egypt In a corner to the right the main entry gate is the only glimpse the modern visitor will get of the dungeons. Through a break in the wall one can look down on the room where the ruler of the citadel once sheltered. If necessary, he could escape from here through special tunnels: one leading to the Abu Djaj river north of the castle, and the other to the mosque. Now closed off by the Lebanese Directorate General of Anitiquites, the three subterranean floors posses their work own dark history. Crusaders buried their dead here and prisoners were kept in its dungeons.

During the citadel’s heyday the lower floors were also used to store water and other suppliers, as well as to house animals. At the far end of the courtyard is a wine arched opening set in a wall of alternating black and white stone. This was the entrance of the “diwan” or salon of Sitt Chams, wife of Bechir Chehab II, governor of Mount Lebanon between 1788 and 1840. To the left of the diwan is the wing occupied by ibrahim Pasha of Egypt during his campaign against the Ottomans in 1838. Another, higher entrance, in a wall of yellow and white stone, once gave onto a Crusader church, which was long ago destroyed. The rooms surrounding the lower courtyard, including what was once the stables, are now used for storage.

Hasbaya Citadel  

Overlooking the modern village of Hasbaya in south Lebanon, the Chehabi Citadel occupied a strategic location for the armies of the First Crusade, who are believed to have built the original fortifications in the eleventh century. The strategically sited outpost was also used by the Chehabi emirs, who ousted the Crusaders from the area in the 1170s and rebuilt much of the citadel complex for military and residential use. Chehabi descendants have continually occupied the site up until this day.

The 20,000-square-meter complex is centered around a large unpaved courtyard and contains residential buildings and a mosque. Its main portal features a carved image of a lion, the emblem of the Chehabi family. Expanded and renovated over the course of some eight and a half centuries, the building retains elements of Mamluk and Ottoman architecture and interior decoration.

Almost a millennium of occupation and war, combined with a lack of maintenance and drainage problems have left the citadel battered, with portions of it in danger of structural failure. A recent preliminary study of the conditions of the complex revealed that load-bearing walls of the buildings and fortifications are under stress and cracking. Some of the interior vaults and ceilings have collapsed or are nearing collapse, and architectural and interior decoration require additional assessment and repairs.

The Lebanese Foundation for the Preservation of the Emirs Chehabi Citadel–Hasbaya, led by a member of the Chehabi family, has been established for the purpose of conserving the complex. The foundation has raised some funds for the study of its condition, but additional resources are required to address the urgent stabilization of failing structures as a first phase of a long-term plan for the conservation of this historically significant site. This includes its eventual rehabilitation as a tourist attraction and cultural center that would generate revenue sufficient to maintain it.

Information From the Ministry of Tourism

Lebanese Ministry of Tourism

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