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Explore / Hasbaya

It is the capital of Wadi el Taym, which is a vast fertile valley that extends on the western slope of Mount Hermon. A Great part of Lebanon's history took place in its castle.

 

The road from Rashaya to Bekaa takes you to Hasbaya or you take the road from Marjeyoun. The Castle belonged to the Chehab Princes. It comprises a group of structures that surround a main unpaved square 150 meters long and 100 m wide. There are other structures that date back to the Middle Ages, and there is also a mosque to perfect the complex.

 

The area of this castle is 20,000m. And it is enveloped by mystery. Historians don't identify its history, for it dates back to the Crusade period or even before. It reveals the Roman architecture, and its fort reflects the Arab style.

 

The Chehabs took it from the Crusaders in 1170 A.D. and rebuilt it. It was burnt several times when wars took place, and it witnessed bloody actions. The Israeli artillery bombarded it when Israel occupied South Lebanon (1978 – 2000). The Chehabs lived in it for eight centuries. Today, fifty members of the Chehab family own this castle.

There were many attempts to renovate the old castle. Today, a national campaign is doing repair works. The general Directorate of Antiquities classified it as a historic site. It is made of six floors, three of which are underground and its construction follows a combination of different architectural styles.

 

The tower that lays on the southwestern corner and the wall on the eastern side date back to the Crusade period and can be seen from the third floor. There are components that date to the middle Ages: firing vaults, towers for shooting cannonballs and incendiary substances, and fortifications. The castle also contains architectural structures such as the arches and tall columns. A wide stairway leads to the main entrance where the door dates to the Crusade period. It turns around upon old hinges that date back to 800 years ago. The passageway that leads to the interior part of the castle is four meters wide and three meters high. The roof is arched, which allowed the knight to enter while riding his horse. There are lions, the motto of the Chehabs. On the front part of the door, there are two chained lions attacking a small free rabbit. Smaller lions appear on the vault of the door above writings in Arabic that dates the addition of one wing to the castle during the reign of Emir Ali Chehab in 1600 A.D. After the entrance there is a paved spacious hall surrounded by a thick wall of 150 cm. In addition to the elegant windows, terraces and stairs, the castle is noted for its vaulted towers and a wing where the Egyptian Pasha lived.

 

The only place from which the tower is clearly seen is on the right side of the main entrance. The room in which the master of the Castle lived can be seen through an opening in the wall,. In times of danger, the master used to escape through two passageways. The first is towards Nahr Abu Dgag to the north of the castle, the second leads to the mosque.

 

The three underground floors are still closed and their secrets are left in the dark. The Crusaders used to bury their dead there and the prisoners spent their days inside their cells. The ground floors were used to store water and food for their livestock. At the further end of the hall, there is a vaulted opening in the white - black wall. It is the entrance to Diwan Sit Shams, wife of Emir Bechir Chehab II, who ruled Lebanon from 1788 to 1840.

 

On the left side of the Diwan, there is a section in which the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha lived when he attacked the Ottomans in 1838.

 

In a wall made of yellow and white stones, there is another entrance that used to lead to a Crusader church which was pulled down long ago. The other rooms and stables surround the ground hall. Today, they are used as warehouses.

 

There are stairs that lead to the second floor where there is a hall in the middle and a small room for bathing. There is also another room with walls decorated with colors and sculptures. Despite being worn out, the tulip flowers and the star of the Bourbons, rulers of France during the Crusade period, are still in good shape. The second and third floors are still used by the Chehab family as residential areas.

 

The third floor was added in the 19th century. It contains a hall, a fountain and sculptures that look like a bee hive following the Mamluk and Ottoman styles. These adorn the entrance door above the lintel, where writings in Arabic date the architectural work done by Emir Mohammed. One of the walls is adorned with carved stones, some of which were taken from the underground floors. There are also two Italian marble columns to discover the strength of the enemy horsemen.

 

The outer stairs lead to the Crusader tower. It has an exceptional location overlooking the town that surrounds the castle. There are structures that date back to the Middle Ages including a mosque that dates to the 12th century; the minaret is hexagonal inlaid with colored stones. Near the mosque, a new building was added.

The Chehab Emirs/Princes

Their ancestry goes back to Quraish, the tribe of Mohammed the Prophet. The successors of Caliph Abu Bakr es-Siddiq bestowed on them the title of Emir in 636, and since then their children and grandchildren have inherited the title and the land.

Their grandfather, Malek el Makhzoun, took part in the battle of Yarmouk when the Arabs conquered Syria. The Chehab Emirs fought in all battles in order to occupy Syria, and they defeated the Byzantine Empire in 633 A.D. They lived in Houran District in Syria for around 600 years. In 1170 they moved to Wadi al-Taym to fight the Crusaders in Rashaya under the leadership of Emir Munkiz Chehab. The Crusaders retreated to Qalaat Hasbaya, where they were besieged and attacked. Within ten days, the Chehab Emirs were able to capture the castle after a famous battle that dated the coming of the Chehab Emirs to Lebanon and Wadi al-Taym.

 

The Chehab Emirs restored the castle and rebuilt it according to their needs. For 700 years, it was the headquarters of their rule. They built political and military relationships with the Druze Maani Emirs, the governors of Mount Lebanon. This relationship was the cornerstone for the arousal of the united, independent Lebanon.

The Chehab Emirs fought with the Druze Maani, Fakhr al-Dine, in 1623 in Aanjar against the Ottoman troops and their allies, the Yemenites. Ten years later, the Ottomans drove the Chehab Emirs to Aleppo where they stayed six years. In 1697 the Chehab Emirs became governors of Wadi al-Taym and Mount Lebanon, succeeding Emir Ahmed, the last Maani Emir. They ruled Lebanon for 150 years until 1841 when the emirate came to an end. Emir Bechir Chehab II came into power in 1788 and was considered the greatest ruler in the family. He is the one who built the Castle of Beiteddine.

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