Distance from Beirut: 91km
Beirut, take the highway toward the north of Lebanon, Nahr El Kalb tunnel,
Jounieh, Jbeil, head east towards Chekka, Batroun, Zgharta.
Zgharta is 150 meters above sea level and lies between the rivers of Jouit and
Rashein. It is 23 kilometres from Ehden, 7 kilometres from the coastal city of
Tripoli, 91 kilometres from the capital of Lebanon, Beirut and 82 kilometres
from the nearest Syrian city, Tartous. Its history and people are closely
associated with the village of Ehden.
Various explanations have been given as to the meaning of Zgharta. The
majority are of the opinion that it relates to meanings relating to
fortresses, citadels, barricades and the like. One writer has suggested that
it derived from the Aramaic word “zaghar” meaning the fortress or
alternatively from the Syriac word “zeghartay” meaning the barricades.
The Creation of Zgharta
There is some evidence that the area of Zgharta was inhabited in 200 BC and
that in the 2nd and 3 rd centuries there were fortifications. Its present day
existence and its close association with the village of Ehden begin in the16th
The story of that beginning is recorded in a manuscript in the
Syriac language, which belonged to Romanos Afandi Yammine son of Father George
Yammine and is now held by his grandson Youssef Boutros Romanos Yammine. It
describes how people of Ehden had acquired “the farmland of Zgharta”
On the eve of the 24th of January 1515, Al-Ghazali, Governor of Damascus along
with Sannan Pasha, Minister of Sultan Salim, had reached Ehden traveling along
the route of Damascus-Beqaa Valley-Dahr al-Kadib-the cedars. They were
transporting funds to Sultan Salim who was in Egypt. They were welcomed as
guests by Sheik Iskandar son of Ehden’s leader, whilst other members of their
traveling entourage were guests of the people of Ehden. Heavy snow falls and
extremely freezing conditions lasted two full days prompting them to stay five
days in Ehden where Sheikh Iskandar and Bishop of Ehden Kiriakos Douiehi
provided for their guests great hospitality, generosity and kindness.
Responding to a request by their guests, the people of Ehden endeavored to
clear the heavy snow off the road as far as Hayrouna valley overlooking the
coast, accompanying their guests to safety where they made their farewells to
them with fitting accolades”.
In April 1516, Bishop Doueihi and Sheik Iskandar received a letter from
Al-Ghazali, saying on being told by his minister, Sannan Pasha of their and
peoples hospitality and assistance, Sultan Salim asked that he rewarded them
which he promised the Sultan
he would. On his return to Damascus Al- Ghazali invited the people of Edhen to
meet him in Tripoli.
At the request of Sheikh Iskander he agreed to provide the
people with a place to live away from the harsh winter conditions, which they
faced in Ehden. Al-Ghazali readily agreed to this request. Accompanied by his
officials Sheikh Iskandar and Bishop Douiehi went to choose a suitable place
in the Al-Zawiyi region. They chose a derelict farm, which contained a few
demolished houses and a tower in the middle, situated between the rivers
Joueit and Rashein.
Al-Ghazali, on the return of his officials with the measurements of the site,
promised to obtain a “Shahani firman” (decree) from Sultan Salim whereby
ownership of the land would pass to the people of Ehden.
Some eight months later, 1517, the “Shahani firman” was granted
but it was addressed to Sheikh Iskandar. Having collected the firman in
Damascus and returning to Ehden the people there were aggrieved that the
firman was addresses solely to Sheikh Iskandar, fearing that he and his
relations could claim sole ownership. Bishop Doueihi representing the people
put this to Sheikh Iskandar and as a result he swore at the Mar Mama church
that the given land known as “ Zgharta would be distributed equally between
the people of Ehden”
Zgharta is strictly a Maronite town. It represents a horrific nightmare for
its enemy. Its youth is dressed in traditional clothing; white shirts
decorated with yellow stitched embroidery, strongly tied “sherwal” pants along
with long boots and topped by headband reflecting enormous heroism. Zgharta is
a small village surrounded by an enclosure, and has a fortress beside the
church of Virgin Mary. Zgharta used to be a drawn line between danger and
worship, situated between
Tripoli and the mountain. It would receive initial attacking strikes, then
reply by returning those strikes back hitting the hearts of their enemy, and
therefore, its people have been renowned and recognized as excellent fighters”
1602 Father Ghodar, Jesuit Priest.
Another later visitor in 1831 records that “From Tripoli I left
for Zgharta, which is two hours away. Its land ids full of olive, mulberry,
vines, apricot and lemon trees.
In 1885 Zgharta incorporated the village of Ardate. The town of Zgharta was
divided into five sectors in 1932: Saydeh Sharki (the area to the east side of
Notre-Dame of Zgharta church), Saydeh Gherbi (west of the Church), Slayeb
Shemali (northern side of the crossroads), Slayeb Janoubi (southern side of
crossroads) and Maaser . To be a citizen of Zgharta, you have to be registered
in one of these five sectors.
Information From the Ministry of