مغارة جعيتا‎

Magharat Jaeita - Jeita Grotto - Jeita Caverns - Zaita Caverns


Useful Information

Location: 25km From Beirut, take the Beirut-Jounieh Highway north as far as Nahr al-kalb, then Faraya road for 3km. Turn right at large sign-post for Jeita at Zouk Mickael village. The cave is just beyond the tunnel. (33°56'36.20"N, 35°38'28.89"E)
Open: All year Tue-Sun 9-17.
[2020]
Fee: Adults LBP 18,315, Children (4-15) 10,270, Children (0-3) free.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: A=300m asl, L=9,040m, VR=305m.
Lower Gallery: L=6,910m, T=16°C.
Upper Gallery: L=2,130m, T=22°C.
Guided tours: D=120min., VR=120m, L=1,100m.
Lower Gallery: L=400m, by boat.
Upper Gallery: L=700m.
V=279,000/a [2000]
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Magharet Jeita, Mapas Co., Keserwan, Tel: +961-9-220-840-1/2/3, Fax: +961-9-220-844/5 E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1836 lower level discovered, supposedly by the Reverend William Thomson, an American missionary.
1873 explored by H.G. Huxley and W.J. Maxwell, and Daniel Bliss.
1958 lower level opened to the public. Upper gallery discovered.
JAN-1969 upper gallery opened to the public.
NOV-1969 concert by the German composer Carl-Heinrich Stockhausen.
1978 closed because of the Lebanese Civil War.
1993 restoration by Mapas Co. started.
06-JUL-1995 reopened to the public.

Description

The tour through مغارة جعيتا (Jeita Caves) includes a one hour multimedia presentation, a boat ride through the lower galleries, and the visit to the upper galleries on foot. Also in the ticket included is the cable car, the train, the mini zoo, and the Phoenician garden.

The المغارة السفلى (lower cave) is full of the noise of the subterranean river Nahr el Kalb (Dog River). But the roar of the waterfall at the entrance converts to profound silence, as the visitor glides deeper into the cave during the 400 metre boat ride on a lake formed by the river. In winter the lower level is sometimes closed, when the water level is too high due to rain or snow melt.

The المغارة العليا (upper cave) is famous for its speleothems, lit by an effective lighting system. It is entered through a 117m long concrete tunnel and has three huge chambers. The first is called White Chamber, the second Red Chamber, due to the colour of the formations. The White Chamber is medium sized, but has the most impressive formations of the cave. The tallest stalactite is 8.2m long. The Red Chamber is really huge, it is up to 106m high, and 30 to 50m wide. The third chamber is even bigger and has a height of more than 120m.

White speleothems are pure calcite without impurities, the red colour is given by iron oxide or rust in small amounts. In Lebanon iron oxide has a red colour instead of the brown beige colour which is common for more northern countries. The reason is a different chemical reaction caused by the higher temperature which produces a different kind of iron oxide.

The cave was supposedly discovered by the Reverend William Thomson, an American missionary, in 1836. He entered the cave, totally unprepared, and after 50 meters he realized that this was not a good idea. It seems he did not want to turn around without a last effort, so he fired a shot from his gun, and the resulting echoes convinced him that he had found an enormous cavern. Obviously such a "test" is not very useful, but the weird part is that missionaries were equipped with a gun. Probably its because he was American.

The first exploration of the cave happened around 1873 - almost 40 years later - and was carried out by two engineers at the Beirut Water Company, H.G. Huxleyand W.J. Maxwell, and their friend Daniel Bliss, president of the American University of Beirut. To leave a trace, they wrote their names and the date of their expedition on a piece of paper, sealed it in a bottle, and left it on top of a stalagmite. The idea was obviously to find a place where it could easily be seen. Unfortunately, on stalagmites that grow anything is covered by the calcite precipitating from the dripping water. So the bottle is today, more than 150 years later, covered by a thick layer of calcite permanently fixing it to the stone.

The upper galleries were discovered in 1958, the year when the lower galleries were first opened to the public. It was necessary to build an entrance tunnel. The development of the trails and light inside was carried out by the Lebanese engineer, artist, and sculptor Ghassan Klink. At the inauguration a concert with electronic music by the French composer Francois Bayle took place in the cave. Other cultural events have taken place in this unusual surrounding, including a concert by the German composer Carl-Heinrich Stockhausen in November 1969.

Jeita was a popular and famous attraction with many international guests, until the Lebanese Civil War forced it to close in 1978. The cave was used to store munitions, and the outside buildings for military purposes. At the end of the war most of the buildings were destroyed. The Ministry of Tourism planned the reopening and hired the Mapas Co. for rehabilitating, extending and managing the touristic site. This company is owned by Dr. Nabil Haddad who studied engineering on TU Braunschweig and Uni Hannover, Germany, in the 1970s. The damages were repaired and the complex extended by additional infrastructure in less than two years. It was re-opened to the public in 1995. Until today it is the only cave in Lebanon which is known worldwide and even many locals think its the only one.

Until a few years ago the cave management was very insistent about having the longest stalactite in the world. This stalactite is not mentioned any more, despite its extraordinary length of 8.2m. Actually there are longer stalactites, but nevertheless it is quite a sight.