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
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.