• Keywords: Lebanon, Cultural Landscape, Nahr Ibrahim, Abraham or Adonis river, Afqa, temples, Astarté, Mar Giorgis el Azrak Machnaka, Funerary steles, aqueduct, Zouboida, Myths, Afrodita, Adonis.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The Cultural Landscape of Nahr Ibrahim Valley and its archaeological remains was proposed in Tentative List of UNESCO (“Ensemble du site naturel de la Vallée du Nahr Ibrahim avec les monuments et les sites archéologiques qui s’y trouvent”) with date of submission: 01/07/1996, criteria: (iv), category: cultural and ref.: 404. Also, “Ibrahim river” is protected by MOE (Protected Site of biological/ ecological significance) for their biological and/ or ecological significance including valleys, mountain summits, river beds and others.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO
  • Protection Figures

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The Ibrahim, or Abraham River, also known as Adonis River, is a small river in the Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon. It emerges in Afqa cave, and passes through the town of Nahr Ibrahim before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The city takes its name from the river. Mythological significance is related to this valley. Med-O-Med has considered all the valley together with the archaeological vestiges found there as one Cultural Landscape (associative and relict landscape), taking into account its natural and cultural heritage (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008): -Its Environmental Heritage Components: The environment is well preserved throughout the valley, which is protected by MOE (Protected Site of biological/ ecological significance) for their biological and/ or ecological significance including valleys, mountain summits, river beds and others. The flora includes a wide variety of local species. Natural Sites: the great cavern of Afqa (classified by decree n° 15 617 of 14/07/49). Afqa, or Afka is a village and municipality located in the Jbeil District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate. It is the site of one of the finest waterfalls in the mountains of the Middle East, which feeds into the Ibrahim River and forms Lake Yammoune, with which it is also associated by legend. The river emerges from a large limestone cave in the cliff wall which stores and channels water from the melted snow of the mountains before releasing it into springs and streams below. At Afqa, several watery threads flow from the cave to form numerous cataracts, a scene of great beauty. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: The valley is scattered with ancient remains of historical and cultural interest, as temples: there is one dedicated to Astarté, in Afqa, where ritual prostitution was practicised until the time of Constantine, also the Temple of Mar Giorgis el Azrak (decrée n°8801 of 2918174), or the Temple of Machnaka. Funerary steles have been found sculpted in the rocks. There are also prehistoric vestiges (decree n° 506 of 5 Mars 1937), and the aqueduc of Zouboida, remain of the Emir Bechir Chehab governorate (Lebanese Official List of Historical Monuments and Sites). The site is specially important for this inventory because of the mythological meaning associated to the river. In classical Greek mythology, Afqa is associated with the cult of Aphrodite and Adonis. According to the myth, Cinyras, the King of Cyprus seduced his daughter Myrrha who was transformed into a tree that bears her name. After several months, the tree split open and the child Adonis emerged. He was reared by Aphrodite, who became enamored of him, causing her lover Ares to grow jealous. Ares sent a vicious boar to kill Adonis. At the pool at the foot of the falls of Afqa, Adonis bled to death from a deep wound in the groin. Aphrodite despaired at his death and out of pity for her the gods allowed Adonis to ascend from Hades for a short period each year. Each spring at Afqa, the melting snows flood the river, bringing a reddish mud into the stream from the steep mountain slopes.The red stain can be seen feeding into the river and far out to the Mediterranean Sea. Legend held this to be the blood of Adonis, renewed each year, at the time of his death.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination The Ibrahim, Nahr Ibrahim, Abraham River, Adonis River, Afqa.
  • Current denomination The Ibrahim, Nahr Ibrahim, Abraham River, Adonis River, Afqa.
  • Original denomination The Ibrahim, Abraham or Adonis River (Arabic: نهر ابراهيم‎, Nahr Ibrahim), Afqa, or Afka.
  • Popular denomination The Ibrahim, or Abraham River (Arabic: نهر ابراهيم‎, Nahr Ibrahim) also known as Adonis River, Afqa.
  • Address: Nahr Ibrahim is a small river in the Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon. It passes through the town of Nahr Ibrahim before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. Afqa, or Afka is a village and municipality located in the Jbeil District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate, 71 kilometres (44 mi) northeast of Beirut in Lebanon.
  • Geographical coordinates: Latitude: 34.090145N Longitude: 35.769880E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: The Abraham River also known as Adonis River, is a small river in the Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon. It passes through the town of Nahr Ibrahim before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The city takes its name from the river (nahr means river in Arabic). Afqa, or Afka is a village and municipality located in the Jbeil District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate, 71 kilometres (44 mi) northeast of Beirut in Lebanon.
  • Visits / Schedules / Entrance fees / Groups / guided tours: Open.
Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen mode
THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF NAHR IBRAHIM VALLEY: THE ADONIS’ MYTH, AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS (LEBANON)

loading map - please wait...

THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF NAHR IBRAHIM VALLEY: THE ADONIS’ MYTH, AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS (LEBANON) 34.090145, 35.769880 THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF NAHR IBRAHIM VALLEY: THE ADONIS’ MYTH, AND THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS (LEBANON) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Lebanon's Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Lebanon's Government.
  • Legal protection: Ibrahim river is protected by MOE (Protected Site of biological/ ecological significance) for their biological and/ or ecological significance including valleys, mountain summits, river beds and others. Some of the cultural sites are protected by decree.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: There is not a management plan in existence for the heritage. Other than a few, infrequent cleaning campaigns, no management plan has been developed.

4. HISTORY

Astarté (Afqa) temple: A great and ancient temple is located in Afqa, where ritual prostitution was practicised until the time of Constantine. Its construction is attributed to the legendary forebear of King Cinyras, who was said to have founded a sanctuary for Aphrodite (i.e. Astarte). Reconstructed on grander scale in Hellenistic times, then destroyed by the Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century, it was partially rebuilt by the later fourth-century emperor, Julian the Apostate. The site was finally abandoned during the reign of Theodosius I. Massive hewn blocks and a fine column of Syenite granite still mark the site, on a terrace facing the source of the river.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Archaeological
  • Geography: Valley
  • Site topography: Natural
Water resources:
  • Public
The waterfall at Afqa is the source for the River Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim) and is located on a 600-foot (180 m) bluff that forms an immense natural amphitheatre.The river emerges from a large limestone cave in the cliff wall which stores and channels water from the melted snow of the mountains before releasing it into springs and streams below. At Afqa, several watery threads flow from the cave to form numerous cataracts, a scene of great beauty.
Vegetation:

The flora includes a wide variety of local species.

Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The Ibrahim or Abraham River is a small river in the Mount Lebanon Governorate in Lebanon. It passes through the town of Nahr Ibrahim before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The city takes its name from the river. Today, it is one of the tourist attractions in Lebanon. The environment is well preserved throughout the valley. It is interesting the great cavern of Afqa (classified by decree n° 15 617 of 14/07/49), its waterfalls and lakes. There are temples (Astarté, Mar Giorgis el Azrak, Machnaka) and funeraries steles sculpted in the rocks, also prehistoric vestiges (decree n° 506 of 5 Mars 1937), and the aqueduct of Zouboida.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

The valley is scattered with old momunents of historical and cultural interest. Some of them are in ruins (see point 5.2.8 Archaeological components). Architectonically interesting is the aqueduc of Zouboida, remain of the Emir Bechir Chehab governorate (Lebanese Official List of Historical Monuments and Sites).

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    -Temples: The temple of Astarté, in Afqa: a great and ancient temple is located here, where ritual prostitution was practicised until the time of Constantine. Its construction is attributed to the legendary forebear of King Cinyras, who was said to have founded a sanctuary for Aphrodite (i.e. Astarte). The temple of Mar Giorgis el Azrak (decrée n°8801 of 2918174). The temple of Machnaka. -There are funerary steles sculpted in the rocks. -There are also prehistoric vestiges (decree n° 506 of 5 Mars 1937).

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Archaeological remains, inscriptions, etc.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: Roman, Ancient Greece and Phoenicia cultures have lived in the site along the history.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: The site is also important because of the mythological meaning associated to the river. According to Greek mythology, Adonis the god of love and beauty, was killed near the river by a boar sent by Ares, the god of war (or by Ares himself disguised as a boar, depending on the version). According to the myth, Adonis's blood flowed in the river, making the water reddish for centuries.

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
The valley and the cultural sites are relatively well preserved.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Nahr Ibrahim Valley, the great cavern of Afqa. -The prehistoric vestiges and the funeraries steles found along thre river. -The temples and aqueducts mentioned in this file.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Architectonical
  • Ecological
The main tangible values of "The Cultural Landscape of Nahr Ibrahim Valley" are: -Aesthetic: The environment is well preserved throughout the valley. Afqa Cave is a great place to visit, and one of the main touristical points of Lebanon. -Architectonical/archaeological: The valley is scattered with ancient remains of historical and cultural interest, as temples: there is one dedicated to Astarté. Also the Temple of Mar Giorgis el Azrak, the Temple of Machnaka and the funerary steles sculpted in the rocks. There are also prehistoric vestiges, and the aqueduc of Zouboida, remain of the Emir Bechir Chehab governorate. -Ecological/Botanical: "Ibrahim river" is protected by MOE (Protected Site of biological/ ecological significance) for their biological and/ or ecological significance including valleys, mountain summits, river beds and others. The flora includes a wide variety of local species.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Mythical
  • Religious
The main intangible values of "The Cultural Landscape of Nahr Ibrahim Valley" are: -Mythical: The site is also important because of the mythological meaning associated to the river. According to Greek mythology, Adonis the god of love and beauty, was killed near the river by a boar sent by Ares, the god of war (or by Ares himself disguised as a boar, depending on the version). According to the myth, Adonis's blood flowed in the river, making the water reddish for centuries. -Religious: The temples found in the valley are a tangible sample of the religious value of the site. -Social significance/Cultural/Historical: Roman, Ancient Greece, Phoenicia cultures have been in this territory, leaving behind their ancient traces.
Authenticity:
The temples, aqueducts and funerary steles have retained their authenticity.
Universality:
***The site have been proposed to the Tentative List of UNESCO with the criterion (iv). Med-O-Med has considered appropiate to include the criteria (vi, vii, ix): iv) The monuments (temples, aqueduct) and the ancient vestiges (funerary steles and other) found in the valley are a good example of a type of building and other human traces which are completely integrated in the nature, illustrating significant stages in human history (from prehistory until recent times). vi) The territory (Afqa Cave and the Narh Ibrahim Valley) is strongly associated with beliefs. The legend says: "...Adonis the god of love and beauty, was killed near the river by a boar sent by Ares..." vii) Nahr Ibrahim Valley contains areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance, for example the Afqa Cave, its waterfall and lakes. ix) Nahr Ibrahim Valley is protected by MOE (Protected Site of biological/ ecological significance) for their biological and/ or ecological significance including valleys, mountain summits, river beds and others. The flora includes a wide variety of local species.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
Some of the ancient remains found in the valley speak about the islamic culture and religion.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

*** “The Cultural Landscape of Nahr Ibrahim Valley: The Adonis’ myth, and the archaeological remains” is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Lebanon which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/404/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.parks.it/world/LB/Eindex.html http://www.localiban.org/spip.php?article4374 -George, J. (1922). Adonis in Syria. The Golden Bough. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-03. -Kercker, D. et al. (1938). The localized particularity of mountain sanctuaries in northern Lebanon. Arch. institut des deutschen Reiches, Berlin/Leipzig. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.