Have you ever had a feeling that you want to escape from the bustle, from people, their gossips and envy? Have you ever dreamt to be alone with your inner self for a moment and listen to your heart instead of mind? Such feelings appear quite often in my life, so I discovered several spots in Lebanon where I could be happy and free, where I can be myself straightening my shoulders and breathing clean mountain air. One of such places is called Harissa.
Harissa is a mountain in the municipality called Jounieh which is 20 km away from Beirut. Harissa is also one of the names of the statue called Our Lady of Lebanon, located on the mountain peak at an altitude of 650 meters. The statue is erected on top of the con-shaped Maronite church and is considered as one of the main shrines of Christian pilgrimage dedicated to Virgin Mary. This bronze statue, painted in white, was made in France and set in Lebanon in 1908. Since then, the true believers from all over the world visit this holy place hoping for health, happiness and peace.
The statue and the church are surrounded by the park with mighty cedars, which fills the air with pleasant woody fragrance. Cozy tiny benches along the park’s perimeter are situated right under tree branches for more privacy and relaxation. It is hard to find proper words to describe the feeling, but there, on the hill top under these powerful cedars everything seems so clear and easy!
The statue of Saint Mary itself looks dazzling and very realistic: snow-white Virgin Mary with wide-open arms, as if embracing all in need and blesses the lands of Lebanon. The illumination at night gives the impression that Saint Mary radiates light hovering over everybody. Stunningly impressive! The special magic happens in May, which is considered to be the month of the Virgin Mary, when the crowds of pilgrims come to honor the memory of the Mother of the Lord. The place becomes so festive and beautifully decorated!
Special attention should be paid to the view from the top of the mountain. It’s so exciting that for the first moments words get lost in the flow of feelings and emotions! Beirut and Jounieh are visible at a glance, together with turquoise endless sea.
There are two ways to reach Our Lady of Lebanon: the mountain’s serpentine by car from Jounieh, or by funicular, which we always prefer to do. A trip on a funicular is not expensive, but it will reward a huge amount of excitement! In some places, the cabins run right next to the people’s apartments that you can see how locals live. I strongly advise to try this way!
Harissa is my favorite spiritual place in Lebanon! Our first romantic date with my man was held here in 2015, and later, he was well aware of my deep love for Harissa. That is why, my dear husband, surrounded by family and a small number of pilgrims, proposed to me right at the top of the statue on February 14, 2016! It was the best I could expect, though to be honest, I didn’t expect it at all! I am very pleased that such an important event happened in Lebanon, a country where we live, especially in such a magical and deeply pure place! After all each time passing by Harissa mountain, we see the blessing statue of Saint Mary, and we know for sure, is a holy place where we found and strengthened our love!