Harissa and Its Lady


During my first visit to Lebanon in 2012, I stayed in Beirut.


This time, I stayed in Harissa, another town about 30 minutes north.


You simply follow the highway along the coast and turn east in Jounieh to wind up the mountain.


The city is important to the region’s historic Christian population and hosts a shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon.


My hotel was right next to the lady, and I couldn’t help but think of this lady from my childhood:

Virgen de Quito Panecillo 03.jpg
Virgen de Quito Panecillo 03” by CayambeOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It was pretty crazy how much traffic there was up to the shrine, especially on the weekend. Cars literally wound around the mountain at a full stop as people filed in to the shrine area.


Curiously, the shrine was connected to a gondola area and children’s play park. The gondola takes tourists down to another recreation area in Jounieh.


On a free afternoon, I wandered down to check out the gondola. I tried to hop on, but lacked a ticket and could never find where to buy one. I found myself crammed in a lift with about 15 Arabic-speaking teenage boys. (Awkward!)

The lift operator spent his free moments in between gondola arrivals praying through his prayer beads.

On the way out, I made my way through the crowd and headed to the shrine’s entrance/exit. I heard someone calling out behind me, but as it was in Arabic, I ignored it, and continued on my way. I was suddenly yanked to a stop by a Lebanese solider, who wanted to search my backpack. Apparently, I looked like a potential terrorist. Backpack reviewed, I was free to take in the views from the top.



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