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Niha (Bekaa)

About eight kilometers north of Zahle, you’ll come across the small village Niha (not to be confused with the village of Niha in the Chouf). Like many villages in the Bekaa, it has an abundance of grape vineyards, cherry, almond  and apple orchards on its terraced hills.

 

In the village center you can visit the town hall and churches. Between 20 July and 20 August festivals draw large crowds from the region around with plays, choral singing, live music, dances, bazaars and various other activities.

 

Niha has also preserved four Roman temples constructed between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. The Lower two temples are located on the edge of the village, and the upper two temples are about 2 km above the village in what is known as "Hosn" Niha.

 

Both the Lower Small Temple and Lower Great Temple are named after the god of thunder, Hadaranes, and the goddess of fertility, Atargatis. The beautifully restored Lower Great Temple, set against am intriguing backdrop of wilderness and approached by a monumental staircase, is an imposing and majestic structure equally worth visiting in the winter months when a blanket of snow lends the site a haunting, melodramatic flavor. To the left of the staircase, a carved relief depicts a priest holding a water sprinkler in his left hand and a cup in his right hand, pouring water onto a small altar. To the right of a small creek lies the Lower Small Temple, probably built in 1st century AD and used for the public cult of water purification as evident by the small water channel running through its podium. 

 

Two other Roman temples lie in ruins about two kilometers (1.2 miles) outside the village on elevated inclines that are fairly inaccessible. Together, they form what is known as Hosn Niha at a height of 1,344 meters. In the reasonably well-preserved Upper Great Temple, architectural evidence suggests that the site was transformed into a small fort during the medieval period, hence the term “hosn.” Only the foundations of the walls and the main gate of the temple can still be clearly seen, but the altar was destroyed by a Byzantine basilica that was built over it. The lower portions of the basilica walls remain visible today. The Upper Small Temple is almost completely destroyed. The Hosn Niha site also encompasses a Roman stone quarry. 

 

Nearby attractions:

Furzol, five kilometers from Zahle, features wondrous ancient caves, tombs, and sanctuaries from the Canaanite, Roman, and Byzantine eras.

 

 

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