Sacred Mount Hermon and its associated cultural monuments
The Mount Hermon is located in the south of Beqaa on the border between Syria and Lebanon, reachable from Rachaya, considered one of the most picturesque Lebanon’s town, where the citadel of independence and old souks date back to the 17th century.
The name Hermon is derived from the root ḥrm “sacred”, called also Jabal al-shaykh “mountain of the chief” (in Arabic), rises to 9,232 feet (2,814 metres) and is the highest point on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This strategic mountain that has been a sacred landmark since the Bronze Age and was mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The first settlements date from 200 BC. It represents the northwestern limit of Israelite conquest under Moses and Joshua. It is also meant to be the place chosen by Jesus Christ for His Transfiguration.
Mount Hermon is mentioned (15 times) in the Bible as Hermon (by the Canaanites worshipers of Baal, in the Books of Kings), Sirion (by the Sidonians-Phoeniciens) or Senir (by the Amorites). The Seleucids occupied the area after 200 B.C. Shortly after which the Ituraeans developed a principality in the area until the fall of Chalcis, when the territory passed to the Herodian kings Agrippa I and Agrippa II. After the end of the first century A.C. the territory became jointly controlled by the cities of Damascus, Sidon and Paneas. It is thought that the area was inhabited continuously until the third century A.C. The Mount Hermon was also revered by the Romans. The highest temple of the ancient world sits on the summit of the mount and is known today as Qasr Antar. On its slopes are temples with Greek inscriptions dating from about 200 A.C. More than 30 shrines and temples have been found in this geographical area giving it its historical relevance. Beside the Christian and Islamic communities, it is also considered a sacred place for the Druze that occupies the most villages that surrounds the mountain.
At its foot rise the two major sources of the Jordan River. This sacred place with its natural and archaeological features must become an international pilgrimage destination.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The Mount Hermon host an outstanding complex of well-preserved archaeological sites and cultural landscape. Although this archaeological sites and temples may have been built on previous layers of architecture, the current temples are predominantly considered to be of Roman construction and were largely abandoned after the fourth century A.C. during the Byzantine era. The ongoing studies have highlighted differences in construction style of the Hermonian temples from Hellenistic architecture and other sites in the all region (in particularly Hauran and Jawlan). Henry Seyrig, when reviewing Krencker and Zscheitzmann’s “Romische Tempel in Syrien” highlighted that “the clue to an important social and economic change that would deserve to be one day the focus of a study”. There is still a deplorable lack of a comprehensive study into the history, archaeology, architecture of these buildings and ancient sites, or the religious life of the people who used them.
Sacred Hermon Mountain and its associated cultural monuments and sites are an outstanding example of evolving sacred cultural landscape. Through sustainable land-use practices of ancient civilizations that created there proper worship places in harmony with the natural landscape, today many local religious communities (Christian, Muslim and Druze) who are living in the area still experiencing the connection between the worship and the nature by organizing processions toward the summit of the mountain…
Criteria (ii): The proposed sacred landscape illustrates a unique fusion between many religious communities. Through unique architectural reflection of different worship places and inscriptions in different languages, it demonstrates the important interchanges and development of some world spiritual and religious cultures in remote part of Near East world.
Criteria (iii): Proposed property is exceptional testimony to unique cultural tradition and practices of the worshipping and offering for sacred mountain by many civilizations from antiquities until today.
Criterion (vi): Proposed Mount Hermon with its sacred landscape and large number of historical and archaeological villages and sites is an outstanding example of traditional land-use and specific culture of pilgrimage and resulted in developing unique social and cultural environments. The religious construction represents also a proper style with many architectural elements related to the local worship and traditions, in particularly to the importance of the liturgical processions practiced by the communities that occupies the region from the antiquities till today.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
In spite of the wars and the occupation of the region by foreign armies, the sacred Mount Hermon and its associated cultural heritage sites suffered little human adverse impact over the years until now. The landscape as the worship places and temples are in a good state of preservation relative to all other major sacred sites in Lebanon.
The nominated property includes within its boundary all the elements necessary to express its outstanding universal value. Its completeness is represented by the fact that the main worshipping places of sacred Hermon Mountain exists today in an original with very little transformations and also other monuments and sites are located at initial sites in good state of conservation and preservation within the nominated area.
Comparison with other similar properties
On global level, the nominated properties can be firstly compared with sacred mountains that were already inscribed in the World Heritage List, which are considered and known as most sacred.
A number of sacred mountains of the world have been inscribed on the WHL under natural or cultural criteria, and sometimes as mixed property examples of which are: Mount Athos of Greece (i)(ii)(iv)(vi)(vii), Tongariro of New Zealand (i)(vi)(vii)(viii), Machu Picchu of Peru (i)(iii)(vii)(ix), Mount Taishan (i)(vi)(ix), Mount Emei (iv)(vi)(vii), Mount Huang Shan (ii)(ix)(x), Mount Wuyi (iii)(vi)(ix)(x) of China, Sacred Kii Mountain Range of Japan (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi), Sacred Mountain of Kyrgyzstan (iii)(vi) and some others.
In addition to these sacred mountains, there are some very famous and well known in the world sacred mountains as mount Khailas (Tibet), Fuji (Japan), Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) (Nepal), Otgon Tenger (Mongolia) and others. Many of these mountains clearly embrace certain characteristics of the sacredness.
Comparing sacred Hermon Mountain and associated sacred landscape with above mentioned other sacred or worshipped mountains; there are several similar characteristics and cases. For example Mount Tai Shan is a symbol of Chinese nation and ancient civilization and spiritual homeland of China. Mount Athos is a self-governing monastic Republic within Greece. It is a symbol and spiritual homeland of Orthodox Christianity and its civilization. Mount Fuji is most symbolic mountain for Japanese nation and culture and spiritual homeland of Japan.
All of them like the sacred Hermon Mountain have of exceptional religious cultural significance in connection with a worship practices and ritual ceremonies.
A big thank to all the attendees who submitted this dream project at the Unesco offices-Beirut on May 25, 2018, specially: Dr. Antoine Khoury Harb, Dr Rashid Chamoun, Ms. Juliana Najem , the LAU Architecture students of Urban planning, Mrs Liliane Maalouli and Mr. Walid Maalouli . Last but not least our gratitude to UNESCO Regional Bureau for Sciences in the Arab States, Cairo – Egypt UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education, Beirut- Lebanon, Dr. Elsa Sattout who believed in our dream, Rashaya Municipality and the Union of Municipalities of Jabal El Cheikh represented by Cheikh Saleh Bou Mansour .