Jeita Grotto

The Jeita Grotto (Arabic: مغارة جعيتا) is a system of two separate, but interconnected, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 kilometres (5.6 mi). The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley within the locality of Jeita, 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Though inhabited in prehistoric times, the lower cave was not rediscovered until 1836 by Reverend William Thomson; it can only be visited by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than a million Lebanese.

In 1958, Lebanese speleologists discovered the upper galleries 60 metres (200 ft) above the lower cave which have been accommodated with an access tunnel and a series of walkways to enable tourists safe access without disturbing the natural landscape. The upper galleries house the world's largest known stalactite. The galleries are composed of a series of chambers the largest of wh...Read more

The Jeita Grotto (Arabic: مغارة جعيتا) is a system of two separate, but interconnected, karstic limestone caves spanning an overall length of nearly 9 kilometres (5.6 mi). The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley within the locality of Jeita, 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of the Lebanese capital Beirut. Though inhabited in prehistoric times, the lower cave was not rediscovered until 1836 by Reverend William Thomson; it can only be visited by boat since it channels an underground river that provides fresh drinking water to more than a million Lebanese.

In 1958, Lebanese speleologists discovered the upper galleries 60 metres (200 ft) above the lower cave which have been accommodated with an access tunnel and a series of walkways to enable tourists safe access without disturbing the natural landscape. The upper galleries house the world's largest known stalactite. The galleries are composed of a series of chambers the largest of which peaks at a height of 12 metres (39 ft).

Aside from being a Lebanese national symbol and a top tourist destination, the Jeita grotto plays an important social, economic and cultural role in the country.

monochrome photograph of an elderly man wearing austere clerical clothing Reverend Daniel L. Bliss, one of the first modern explorers of Jeita Grotto

Ancient vestiges of a foundry were found in a smaller cave near the Nahr al-Kalb river, suggesting that the cave was used in antiquity to produce swords.[1]

The modern discovery of the underground river of Jeita in 1836 is credited to Reverend William Thomson (an American missionary) who ventured some 50 metres (160 ft) into the cave. Reaching the underground river, he fired a shot from his gun and the resulting echoes convinced him that he had found a cavern of major importance.[2]

In 1873 W.J. Maxwell and H.G. Huxley, engineers with the Beirut Water Company, and their friend Reverend Daniel Bliss, president of the Syrian Protestant College (later the American University of Beirut) explored these caverns. In two expeditions carried out in 1873 and 1874, they penetrated 1,060 metres (3,480 ft) into the grotto before finding their progress blocked by an underground waterfall.[2] The waterfall became known as "Hell's Rapids", as the torrents break onto razor sharp rocks.[2] Dr. Bliss, Mr. Maxwell, and the other engineers recorded their names and the year on "Maxwell's Column", a great limestone pillar some 625 metres (2,051 ft) from the entrance. About 200 metres (660 ft) further on, in the so-called "Pantheon", they wrote their names and details of the expedition on paper, sealed it in a bottle and placed it on top of a stalagmite. The lime-impregnated water has since covered the bottle with a thin white film, permanently fixing it to the stone.

Between 1892 and 1940 further expeditions were carried out by English, American, and French explorers. Their expeditions brought them to a depth of 1,750 metres (5,740 ft).

Since the 1940s, Lebanese explorers have pushed even deeper into the Jeita grotto. Many of these spelunkers are members of the Speleo Club du Liban (Lebanese Caving Club) founded in 1951 by the first Lebanese speleologist Lionel Ghorra.[3] Their expeditions revealed a great underground system which is now explored to an overall length of nearly 9 kilometres (5.6 mi).[4][5][6]

In 1958 the lower caverns were opened to the public, meanwhile exploration was still underway mainly by the Lebanese Caving Club. This exploration led to the discovery of the elevated dry branch of the grotto later referred to as the upper galleries.[4]

In 1962, the Spéléo Club contributed to a study of the upper galleries aiming to provide an access tunnel which was to be dug for touristic development purposes. Work on the access tunnel was begun in 1968.[3] Its opening was followed by the installation of a series of walkways which permitted tourists safe access to the upper galleries without disturbing the natural landscape.[7]

In 1969, a concert with electronic music by the French composer Francois Bayle was held in the cave to celebrate the inauguration of the upper galleries.[4][8] This event was organized by the Lebanese artist and sculptor Ghassan Klink.[4] Other cultural events have taken place in this unusual surrounding, including a concert by the world acknowledged German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in November 1969,[8][9] and more recently, in 2008 a classical music concert by Lebanese-Armenian composer and pianist Guy Manoukian.[8][10]

The caverns closed to the public due to the Lebanese civil war in 1978;[4] both tunnels leading to the lower and upper galleries were used to store munitions, and the outside buildings for military purposes.[11] The caves reopened in 1995[12] and remain one of the country's key natural attractions.[13][14]

^ Cite error: The named reference destination was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b c Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association, Inc. p. 192. ISBN 0-89577-087-3. ^ a b "Spéléo Club du Liban - History". Spéléo Club du Liban. Archived from the original on October 21, 2004. Retrieved 2008-06-11. ^ a b c d e Duckeck, Jochen (6 January 2008). "Magharet Jeita". Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-11. ^ Short, Ramsay (2003-05-24). "Jeita Grotto awes even the most skeptical of visitors". Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-10. ^ Larwood, Elaine; Hassan Salamé - Sarkis. "Jeita rediscovered". Lebanese Ministry of Tourism. Retrieved 2008-06-15. ^ ARCHNET; Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). "Jeita Grotto". ARCHNET digital library. Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2009-09-15. ^ a b c Blesser, Barry; Linda-Ruth Salter (2007). Spaces speak, are you listening?: experiencing aural architecture (illustrated ed.). MIT Press. p. 437. ^ Anne-Marie Deshayes (1969). Stockhausen in den Höhlen von Jeita (Stockhausen in the caves of Jeita) (DVD). Jeita, Lebanon: MIDEM. ^ Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (Director) (2008). Manoukian’s Concert inside Jeita Grotto (in Arabic). Jeita Grotto: LBC PAC. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2009-09-15. ^ Fadi H., Nader (2004). "The Jeita cave resource development – Lebanon: impacts and assessment" (pdf). Trans-KARST 2004. Retrieved 2009-03-12. ^ Cite error: The named reference SL was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Jeita Grotto". Lebanon Tourism. Archived from the original on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2009-03-12. ^ Oxford Business Group (2008). The Market: Real Estate 2008. Oxford Business Group. ISBN 9781902339061.
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