• Casa: Jbail
  • Distance from Beirut: 54- 70 km
  • Altitude: 670-900 m
  • Access: Jbail- Amchit- Hbalin- Abaydat- Haqel
General and historical information

The reputation of this place comes especially from the fish fossils.

The village of Haqel, located in the heights northeast of Jbail (Byblos), was part of the seabed between 60 – 100 million years ago. Today 650 meters above sea level, the area is known for its limestone formations containing fossilized fish, crustaceans, and flora and fauna specimens. The village is a major research center for experts in the field of marine fossils, and its fossils have been studied by scientific organizations around the world. The origin of the town name, Haqel, is Aramaic, meaning “field”. The Haqel area, which incorporates the village of Karkafeh, is famous for its wide variety of fish fossils that are many millions of years old. One of the earliest vestiges of human presence in Haqel is Chmeiss Al Kalaa where the remains of an old fortress are found. Other interesting sites are a sarcophagus near the church of Mar Saba and the ancient church of the Virgin Mary with crusader inscriptions, in addition to an ancient olive press and the hydraulic mill standing near the river.

Monuments and sites to visit
  • Mar Sassine Church (St Sisinius):

This Church is an old grayish-yellow stone church with a black iron door and carvings in the stone above the door. In the curch square, you can admire an old oak tree in front of the church which is one of the biggest and oldest trees in the area. Inside the church the main icon represents of course Mar Sassine, but next to that is another beautiful icon representing Mar Challita. Ancients recalled that people come to St. Sassine asking to heal them from boils and skin problems. For the key contact Mrs.  Linda Nohra (03/604 969)

 

  • Saydet Al Lawzeh Church (Our Lady of the Almond Church):

In the upper part of the village stand this small old stone church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is thus named for an almond tree on the south side of the church. This tree was recently uprooted because it threatened the edifice. In the Bible, the almond tree refers to the Virgin Mary, since it is the first tree that blooms, announcing the beginning of spring. According to the inhabitants, the church was built during the second half of the first Christian millennium. Youssef Tarabay assured that “the way the walls and vaults are built dates to that time. By that date it could be considered the largest church dedicated to Our Lady from that period, and maybe the oldest”.

For the key contact Mrs.  Linda Nohra: (03/604 969).

 

  • Mar Saba Church and Monastery (St. Sabbas):

Located on one of Haqel’s hills overlooking the neighboring towns, this church is partially ruined and under reconstruction. It was allegedly a cellar without tiles, and it is convenient for priests’ spiritual activities because of its close location from the village. The construction period is not confirmed but the nearby oak tree confirms the antiquity of this church.

 

  • Haqel Official School: In the way down to Mar Sassine Church. Currently abandoned.

 

  • Mar Geryes Church (St. Georges): This church is located in Al Kherbe.

For the key, contact Mrs. Jeanette Habib (09/ 770 008

 

  • Mar Youhanna Church (St. John):

This small church is located in El Kherbe. Close to the stone stairs leading to the church’s road, there is an old metal bar used as a church bell.

 

  • Haqel was once known for a lot of old mills but today all of them are abandoned and most of them are destroyed.

 

  • Fish Fossils Museum and Shops:

The collection includes over 300 species and 600 pieces, some dating back over 80 million years. The museum displays explain the process of fossilization.

In Haqel two main shops and museums welcome the visitors:

 

The collection and carries of Rizkallah Nohra: Hakel Museum

Established in 1991, the Haqel Museum is the first natural history museum dedicated to marine fossils in Lebanon. The museum is located in a Traditional Lebanese village house, restored by Mr. Nohra. You can walk toward the museum, participate in extracting fossils, and then have lunch in the museum open air restaurant and purchase fossils at the museum. Mrs. Bernadette Nohra: (79/154 725);

Mr. Roy Nohra: (03/708 287) expohakel@hotmail.com; www.expohakel.com

 

The collection of Charbel and Linda Nohra: Haklany Fish fossils

Visitors can buy fish fossils and admire the collections in the shop. Visits to the quarry can be organized as well, year-round, except in bad weather.  A 15-minute walk is necessary to reach the site of the quarry.

Mrs. Linda Nohra (03/604 969 – 09/ 770 428)

Local products and agriculture

Local agriculture: olives, almonds, tobacco, apples, onions.

Local products: traditional Lebanese alcoholic drink arak, wine, homemade jam, rose and other flower water production.

Rural activities and services

Visit to the natural site and fossils extract in the quarry, tools for rent:

Mrs. Bernadette Nohra (79/154 725)

Mrs. Linda Nohra Haklani (03/604 969)

Mar Sassine feast: September 14, traditional dinner in the church square.

Contact Mayor Raymond Habib (70/594 500)

Food and beverages

Rouhana snack (Saj- Manakish) : 09/ 770 559

Nohra Restaurant: (Open air restaurant by the fish fossils quarry, Lebanese menu, barbecue) Mr. Rizkallah Nohra (03/ 708 287)

Paul Tarabay restaurant: 03/413 327

Local guides

Mrs. Linda Nohra:  (03/ 604 969) Information center, local books on fossils, visits to natural sites and fossil extraction, tools for rent.

Mrs. Bernadette Nohra: (79/ 154 725) Visits to natural sites and fossil extraction, tools for rent.