Undiscovered Jezzine You will discover a palace, the unfinished dream of a Jezzinite
Jane Gleason, chief of par ty of the Lebanon Industr y Value Chain Development Project (LIVCD), explores Jezzine’s lesser-known faces from its tranquil villages to a local eccentric’s palace
Jezzine’s treasures are many; from the dramatic water fall that drops from a great height, guarding the entrance to the town, to its majestic pine forest that forms a green blanket from the top of a welldefined r idge to the Wadi Jezzine below. And, hidden beyond the main tour istic sites of the town of Jezzine and its surrounding region that visitors are most likely to seek, are treasures that require a bit more ef for t to find. The Jezzine region has many small villages tucked into valleys and mountainsides, all picturesque with a slow pace of life. One such village, Qaytouli, is located a few kilometers of f the main Saida-jezzine road. Like most small villages, it is a bubble of tranquil countr y living. Narrow streets wind through the large stone buildings and the tall steeples of two old churches r ise high above the olive trees, competing with the pines. Residents languidly sip cof fee and smoke shisha on the quiet street corners. I first visited Qaytouli during my first months in this country with a colleague and was introduced to a side of Lebanon that is so different to the typical touristic destinations of Beirut, Byblos and Baalbek. The downtown area of the town of Jezzine contains a number of souvenir shops, many of which sell the famous Jezzine firebird cutler y. Instead of visiting the retailers, I recommend visiting the workshops to see cutler y manufactur ing first-hand. Boulos Bou Rached has been making Jezzine cutler y for decades. He has a small workshop on the ground floor of his home, where he welcomes visitors to watch the production. It is surprisingly simple. He requires ver y few tools – a rasp, electr ic dr ill, vise, and polishing machine – to form the distinctive handle for the cutler y. Af ter watching the manufacturing process, visitors are invited to have a cof fee or tea.
The Dr. Far id Sarhel Palace is another intr iguing destination of f the beaten track. To get there, take the Far id Sarhel Road nor th east out of the town of Jezzine. Behind an area of thick vegetation, you will discover a palace, the unfinished dream of a Jezzinite who wished to build a special place in his hometown. The palace entrance is Ottoman style, with a pointed arch and multi-colored stonework. Upon enter ing, the extent of Dr. Sarhel’s ambition is obvious, yet the rubble and dir t-covered floors show a dream not completely realized. The main rooms contain an eclectic mix of cultural images reminiscent of landmarks in Iran, Egypt, Iraq, ancient Greece and, of course, Lebanon. There is a Turkish bath and in another room an image similar to the Tree of Life, embedded with a star. In several locations there are car vings illustrating the production of arak, and the inevitable consequences of dr inking too much. One can only wonder, with this mishmash of images, what message Sarhel hoped to convey. The work on the palace carr ied on for three decades, until his death. On the ground floor terrace, there is an old battered American car and all the equipment used for the construction of the building. It appears that the moment he passed away, the workers abandoned their jobs, leaving behind an incomplete masterpiece. But with that half realized dream, there remains an intr iguing monument to one man’s ambition that is forever stuck in the final moments of its construction.
The Dr. Farhid Sarhel Palace (top lef t) and interior (bottom right). Photos: Jane Gleason