Now, if ever you’re in Lebanon, whatever you do don’t miss out Jeita Grotto, which is just 15 minutes outside Beirut in a car. It’s title is in the singular, but the grotto actually refers to a ‘system’ of two separate (though interconnected) karstic limestone caves. The upper one is mostly dry and gigantic; the lower one features a river, is generally smaller in size, but it’s length is a full seven kilometers (!), which is five kilometers longer than the upper cave.
Here’s the upper cave:
The lower cave:
Since the caves were found only relatively recently (lower – ~200 years ago; upper – 60 years ago), they’re in pretty good shape. What I mean is – Homo sapiens hasn’t had time to damage or destroy them, graffiti them, and in other ways make a mess of them. Another reason could be that they were accessible only by boat on the river that runs through the lower cave. Later, they dug a tunnel that connects the lower with the upper:
In we go… Oh my gigantic! I wasn’t expecting them to be this massive. Ginormous caves (the height of the biggest – 120m!); stalactites and stalagmites; and nicely illuminated with multicolored lighting. All they need is the addition of piped background music (and then Wi-Fi!) and they’ll be up there with the other most-tourist-friendly caves (like the Jenolan Caves in Australia, which I visited in 2010 – before this blog got off the ground, so no pics).
Stalactites hang down; stalagmites – push up. You know how to remember which is which? Stalactites have to hold tight tite!
Woah – the world’s biggest stalactite resides here: 8+ meters! ->
That there huge rock split off from the roof of the cave many eons ago:
For tourists’ convenience – nice concrete path. Reminds me of Chinese national parks…
And where needed – they dug tunnels:
Into a different ‘hall’ – redder colors; huge jellyfish and toadstools hang down!
The concrete path was just great – especially when it hangs over a deep drop:
The length of the upper cave is 2+km, but tourists are only allowed into the first 700m. But that’s plenty ).
Up we go…
This is the furthest you can go:
So we about-turn and head back…
The director of the grotto is Dr. Nabil Haddad, and it’s thanks to him and his team that this place is so marvelous and visitor-friendly. A big separate thank-you to him for the exclusive excursion!
Curious fact: during the civil war (1975-1990) there were zero tourists visiting. Instead it was used as an arms depot, and generally became rather run-down. Only in 1993 did Dr. Haddad’s company Mapas take it under its wing and start restoring it – installing the paths, lighting, cable-car and other infrastructure, and researching the grotto.
As far as I understood, Dr. Huddad is the only investor in the grotto and puts his own money into it. I don’t know how much he earns from the tourists, but it can’t be much – there aren’t all that many of them, and the ticket prices are very democratic. Btw: he told me how he installed public conveniences at Baalbek – again with his own money. Before that, tourists… well, yes… right among the ruins!
Meanwhile we continue our excursion:
Here’s a cross-section of a stalactite. So how long does it take for them to grow? Actually – very slowly – a few millimeters a year. It depends on how much sediment comes down from above, and here there’s not much of that. Accordingly these stalactites are thousands of years old.
Meanwhile, we head outside – on our way to the lower cave.
Here there’s a different story, different colors – plus this river, made up of the purist of water, used as drinking water in Beirut; accordingly – no tourists can go near the water.
Camel? This is starting to get delirious!…
Leaning tower of Pizza?
Woah – they have added music. Respect!
‘The end’ again. Time to head back…
In all – a gorgeously grandiose and gigantic grotto. Must-see! Best in the morning – before most of the tourists turn up…
One downside: no photography allowed. Strictly enforced too.
It’s a mystery why no pics allowed. They don’t monetize photography by taking their own pics and selling you them, or fining naughty photographers. So why, then?!
But – like, how did I take my pics and vids then? Actually, we got permission – from the Ministry of Tourism! Quite how my K-folks managed that, I do not know. But thank-you guys!
And that, folks, is it from the grotto – and from Lebanon. Time to catch a plane and head east…
All the pics from Lebanon are here.
And here’s the official site of the grotto.