The Fort of the highway


We’ve seen it over and over, when heading north from Beirut, on the right side of the highway and yet had never taken a moment before to visit this incongruous guest from history, clashing with the surrounding modernity, the Mussaylha Fort.   

We took a turn off the highway, and arrived on the green path leading to the Fort. Curious, we climbed the stairway shaped in the stone, to reach the Fort standing on top of an imposing bedrock. Inside, we discovered a dizzying labyrinth of rooms, and enthusiastically browsed from the courtyard to the archery room and its narrow arrow slits, from which we peaked into the surrounding greenery, without being seen, and onto the west tower, before heading to the upper floors overlooking the valley of Nahr el Joz. On top of the edifice, we took a selfie with the Lebanese flag proud of our history that refuses to be erased and humbled in realizing that we were actually the visitors here, of a memory that will transcend us and the generations after us.

Historians have been intrigued and have sought to date the architecture of the resilient Fort. The structure is said to have been built in two separate phases. Some believe that the rock on which the Fort is built was already used in ancient times as a military position. As for the Fort, the construction techniques used, the size of the stones that make up the structure as well as the cutting methods, and the low arched doors and windows, a feature that appeared during the ottoman era, seem to indicate that it was erected during the seventeenth century. The construction of the Fort is associated to Emir Fakhr el Din II. Built along the road linking the northern cities of Batroun, El Heri and Tripoli, Mussaylha Fort served as a strategic and military stronghold to ensure security, oversee traffic and spot ambushes along the route. As for us, from that strategic spot we witnessed the concrete frenzy that has taken over but also got a glimpse of the lasting greenery it now looks over.