Few caverns in the world approach the astounding wealth or the extent of those of Jeita. In these caves and galleries, known to man since Paleolithic times, the action of water has created cathedral-like vaults beneath the wooded hills of Mount Lebanon.
Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Nar el-Kalb (Dog River). Located some 20 kilometers along the highway North of Beirut, a large sign indicates the right turn from Zouk Mickael village, just beyond the tunnel. The caverns are on two levels. The lower galleries, discovered in 1836 and opened to the public in 1958, are visited by boat.
The upper galleries, opened in January 1969, can be seen on foot. To mark the inauguration of the upper galleries, arranged by the Lebanese artist and sculptor Ghassan Klink, a concert was organized in the cave featuring electronic music by the French composer François Bayle. Other cultural events have taken place in this unusual venue, including a concert by the German composer Carl-Heinrich Stochhausen in November 1969.
Jeita remained a popular attraction until the recent Lebanese conflict forced it to close in the mid 1970’s. Upon the initiative of Minister of Tourism Nicolas Fattouche, the Ministry charged the German company "Mapas" to renovate and re-equip its facilities by the most modern techniques and to operate the complex.
On July 6, 1995, this natural wonder was again open to the public.
The modern discovery of the underground river of Jeita dates to 1836 and is attributed to Reverend William Thomson, an American missionary who ventured some 50 meters 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.
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