En route to Byblos, we made a stop at Jeita Grotto, one of the longest cave systems in the Middle East, spanning almost 9km in length. It was one of the finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. There are two separate but interconnected limestone caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites of all shapes and sizes. These stalagmites and stalactites are formed when rainwater falls over a limestone cave and the water trickles through the rocks picking up carbon dioxide and minerals. When these droplets of water come in contact with the air inside the cave, calcite starts to form and as water continues to drip, the calcite grows and eventually a stalactite forms on the ceiling. Stalactites from the ceilings usually grow between a quarter of an inch to an inch every century. The water dripping from the end of a stalactite then falls to the floor and deposits calcite into a mound, and over time, a stalagmite will form in the shape of a cone. Jeita Grotto is normally closed on Mondays except during the summer months. We were extremely lucky that we visited on the first Monday they are open this summer and many people did not know about it yet. We basically had the caves all to ourselves and were able to leisurely stroll and admire the beautiful formations. The upper cave can be reached by cable car and they make you leave your cameras in lockers outside the caves as photography is strictly forbidden. There are many “guards” watching inside the caves for people attempting to sneak in a photo or two or try to touch the stalagmites and stalactites.
Once inside the upper cave, we strolled along a concrete walkway about 750 meters long with stalagmites and stalactites on both sides. I have visited other caves but have never looked at these crystalline formations in such close proximity. Many reminded me of jellyfish or mushrooms and I especially liked the ones that looked like pieces of draperies and curtains. Too bad I couldn’t take any photographs for my blog. Here you can also find the world’s longest stalactite at 8.2 meters long.
After visiting the upper cave, we walked downhill for about 5 minutes to reach the flooded lower cave where you board an electric boat for a quick tour around the subterranean lake. Again you have to leave your cameras in the lockers at the entrance. The lighting system here is beautiful and not tacky at all. Since we were the only ones there and sitting at the very front of the boat, I sneaked some photos with my phone. This lower cave is fed by an underground river that also supplies fresh drinking water to over a million Lebanese people.
Next post will be on Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Stayed tuned!
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