Dany Chamoun Square
The visit should begin from Dany
Chamoun Square. This Square with its central fountain was formerly known as Midane
or jousting field where in the 16th century jousts and equestrian competitions
To the north of the Square are
the Kaïsariyyeh, the Kharj and the palace of the Emir
Fakhreddine II. Here the ground level is made up of a series of attractive
arches that used to house the stables. In the center of the Square is a 19th
century fountain, supplied with water from the
source where the
tired traveler can stop to quench his thirst.
The 19th Century Fountain.
On the western side of the
Square stands a Mosque, which was the first to be built in Mount Lebanon.
The Emir Fakhreddine Ist Maan constructed it in 1493 for his Sokman mercenaries.
Inscriptions on the west facing facing façade bear the name of the Emir, the
construction date as well as three verses from the Coran. The prayer hall of
this vast square shaped edifice, has a high vaulted stone ceiling where the
central arch rests on a massive pillar. The beautiful octagonal minaret is
slightly inclined following a violent earthquake in 1630.
Directly behind the Mosque and
Midane is the old Cobbler's Souk. This used to be the busiest part of
town with 38 different stores and workshops. Today, restored but greatly
reduced, it still houses a few small shops.
A little higher up, on the road
leading to the Kaïsariyye, is the palace of the Emir Younes Maan. He was
the commander in chief of the army during the self-imposed exile of his brother
Fakhreddine II in Italy in 1613. This structure was originally three floors
high, but the Emir Youssef Chehab demolished the third floor and used the stones
to build his own Seraglio, which today houses the Municipality. The most
remarkable aspect of this palace is the richness of the main portico decorated
with pink stone carved in ripples, which contrasts sharply with the rather
austere façade of the structure.
A little further along is the
Kaïsariyyeh built in 1595 under Fakhreddine II. The silk merchants originally
used this public market place to sell their silk, which was a flourishing trade
at the time. With its open courtyard, its central fountain and shaded areas
beneath the surrounding arches, the building is in the classic "Khan"
or caravansary style of the Mamelouk and Ottoman eras. Nowadays, the town's Initiate
Committee organizes cultural events within its walls.
At the far end of the courtyard
is the Kharj, destined originally as a barracks to house the mercenaries
of Fakhreddine II, as well as an ammunition depot. Under the Emir Bechir III
(1840 - 1842), it became a food storehouse mainly for the soldiers. In 1992, the
Town Council benevolently placed this palace at the disposal of the French
Cultural Mission and today it houses the French Cultural and Linguistic Center
of the region.
Overlooking the courtyard of the
Kaïsariyyeh, is an attractive building, which was once the home of an
influential Jew who was a member of Fakhreddine II's immediate entourage. The
ground floor used to house a small 17th century Synagogue. Unfortunately the
façade of this construction has been slightly disfigured by some unorthodox
Access to the palace of the
Emir Fakhreddine II is via a staircase on the eastern side of the Square.
The Khan-style construction is built around a tiled courtyard embellished with
an octagonal fountain. This courtyard opens onto rooms, apartments and kitchens.
Today the palace houses the Marie Baz Wax Museum, where statues of those
who contributed to Lebanon's history are displayed.
Located directly behind is the
residence of Nicolas El Turk, who was the renowned poet to the court of Emir
Bechir II. Built in 1805, it now belongs to the Boustany family. Constructed on
a slope, this Khan-type edifice comprises a courtyard onto which two attractive
"Liwans" open linked by a triple arched gallery. In the entrance of
one of the rooms you will see a "Mezuzah" confirming that the first
owner was indeed a Jew.
A little further along you come
to the Kobbeh Mausoleum. This small square-shaped construction is the
resting-place of the Emirs Ahmed Maan (1662 - 1697) and Haidar Chehab (1706 -
1763) together with his son Mansour (1770).
DeirElQamar General View.
Dany Chamoun Square and its Surroundings.
Retracing one's step, on the
left overlooking the Midane is the palace of the Emir Ahmed Chehab (1754 -
1763), better known as the palace of Gergis Baz. It was built by the Emir
Ahmed for his wife who later sold it to Gergis Baz a minister under the Emir
Bechir Chehab. This Two-storey structure is built along the lines of the
traditional oriental houses with an open-air central courtyard and an octagonal
fountain in the middle. The rooms, apartments and kitchens open onto this
courtyard. Its impressive portal is made of alternating stones of different
Crossing the Midane and the main
road you reach the Seraglio
or Palace of the Emir Youssef Chehab,
which today houses the Municipality. This enormous structure constructed
around a very large rectangular courtyard was built over the palace of the first
Maan prince, Fakhreddine Ist at the beginning of the 15th century.
The Emir Melhem Chehab (1729 -
1754) brought the construction up to the level of the main Square by adding a
second storey. This palace successively became the residence of the Emir Youssef
Chehab and his nephew Bechir (1789 - 1840). Access is Through a magnificent
doorway decorated with two carved Lions, symbols of the Chehab dynasty. The most
remarkable aspects of this palace is the main domed room and the recently
restored polychrome wood paneled kiosk where the Emir conducted daily business
and received dignitaries.
On leaving the Seraglio, to the
right is a small shaded terrace leading to the hall of the column. This
hall with its imposing arches resting on rectangular pillars has a unique column
in its center - hence the name. Many openings and windows lighten the appearance
of this massive construction.
Next, just beyond the Maronite
monk's monastery, a stairway on the right-hand side of the road leads down to
the courtyard of the Church of Saïdet El Talle or Our Lady of the Hill.
Built in 451 AD on the side of a Phoenician temple dedicated to the Goddess
Astrate, this church enclosed within the walls of the monastery, and destroyed
by the earthquake of 859, was rebuilt in the 16th century. Since then it has
been enlarged and restored several times. Dedicated to the miraculous Virgin,
this is one of the most popular pilgrimage destination in Lebanon and her feast
day is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month of August.
Above the original crude doorway
on the southern façade of the Church, you will see a carved stone beam showing
a cross over an inverted crescent enveloping a rosette. This symbol is often
found in excavations, and is proof that a temple dedicated to the goddess
Astrate actually existed. This is where the town got its name, DeirElQamar means
Convent of the Moon.
A Narrow road leads down to what
is commonly referred to as the "Church quarter". Beyond the Church of Our
Lady of the Rosary built in the 17th century and since restored, a vaulted
passage leads to the Church of Saint Elie built in 1741. To enter this
small Greek-Catholic Church, you pass beneath a portal in the simple basilical
style. The iconostasis as well as the frontal façade and main entrance are all
in beautiful pink and white "bouzenar" stone. Against the inside wall
of the courtyard you will find the tomb of Nicolas El Turk Emir Bechir's
To complete this tour, you may
enjoy taking a walk through the old picturesque quarters and admiring the walled
gardens where delicately scented jasmine, hydrangea and fuchsia grow. You may
also rest in the shade of the vines and admire the mandalouns with their
planters overflowing with geraniums.
In good weather, it is pleasant
to walk to the top of the surrounding hills and look down onto the town.
DeirElQamar General View. West Side.