The Forgotten Cave of St. George: Jounieh’s Hidden Gem

It is said that the Bay of Saint George in Beirut is so named for playing host to the legendary battle of Saint George and the dragon. But not too far from this site stands a cave in the Bay of Jounieh that tells a similar story.

Lebanon Traveler
Courtesy of Peter Ghanime

This story actually begins thousands of years ago on the banks of the Ibrahim River, dividing the kazas of Byblos and Kesserwan. Much like the meanders of the Ibrahim, Kesserwan’s associations with Phoenician Mythology permeate the surrounding landscape; one name emerging eponymous with the region – Adonis.

This story actually begins thousands of years ago on the banks of the Ibrahim River, dividing the kazas of Byblos and Kesserwan. Much like the meanders of the Ibrahim, Kesserwan’s associations with Phoenician Mythology permeate the surrounding landscape; one name emerging eponymous with the region – Adonis.

According to legend, the Canaanite god of vegetation, beauty and desire is said to have been killed on the riverbank by a boar sent by Ares (in some versions, Ares himself is the boar in disguise). Adonis’s blood streamed into the river, staining it a violent shade of crimson: the color of which the river has turned every spring since.

So great was the spiritual significance of the Ibrahim River that the entire region of Keserwan was ordained with a sacred significance, giving rise to the erection of shrines and temples in Adonis’s honor. And to this day, locals go to the ruined temple at the river’s source and hang the clothes of the sick in the hope of yielding cures.

But while the story of the Ibrahim River has not faded from the country’s collective memory, there is another site divined from the same wellsprings of mythological significance, a site that is now largely forgotten. Sequestered in the Bay of Jounieh and eclipsed by the surrounding military beach lies the cave of Saint George, also known as Mar Geryes Al Bati in Arabic.

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