Wadi Qadisha, Holy Valley


Erosion has dug deep sea-oriented notches on Mount Lebanon’s western side. The landscape’s rhythmic relief accentuates from South to North, until the spectacular variations in level of Wadi Qadisha, the holy valley.

Here, at the edge of a cliff, the sheared leads our look hundreds of meters away, toward a torrent’s shadowy light. Drawn upstream rather than downstream, it reveals the plateau of the Cedars of God, which, at 2,000 meters of attitude, stretches as an immense loggia towards the west, with a plunging view on the Mediterranean. To the East, the plateau is surrounded by a circus of mountains, the highest in the Near-East. Valley and plateau from the world heritage site of Wadi Qadisha or Holy Valley, and the forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el Rab).

In this valley, hamlets and villages clinging on the steep rock faces live in autarky. There terraces favorable to agriculture in this hostile environment are scattered, disappearing when the slope becomes almost vertical. As if tamed by man, the modeled and softened landscape offers a horizontal rhythm answering the verticality of the faces.

Vestiges of monastic and eremitical installations dating back to the Middle-Ages subsist in the Valley. Rock shelters are converted into hermitages and small convents, and monasteries stretch its sunny sides and inaccessible ravines.

The entirely justified inscription of Wadi Qadisha in the world heritage list in 1998 has permitted the conservation of this unique environment as well as a new awakening as to its value. Residents will benefit from the environment’s rebirth, frozen into disuse for more than two centuries. As a certain mode of life conditions disappeared, this refuge-valley was forsaken and its history itself considered a legend.

Let us go onto one of the numerous paths slopes down to the villages surrounding the cliff. It runs alongside smooth rock faces, interrupted by vegetation, and our look sinks deeper and deeper into space and time.

It is thus that a visit of this valley stimulates the imagination. It also rouses our amazement at the efforts Man is capable of making to insure his survival, or, as in this case, his sanctification….


                                                              Extract from Alexis Moukarzel’s text

                                                                                UNESCO Review “World Heritage N#20”