Not exactly “urbex”- but definately exploring the urban- this visit to the North Lebanese city of Tripoli and surrounds in late 2005, had more scares and thrills than your usual explore. Shot mostly from the ancient Crusader citadel of Qala’at Sanjil (Raymond de Saint-Gilles), it was evident that pigeon training/racing is a popular pastime in Tripoli.
Lebanon’s second city is now a no-go zone, with fighting between Sunni Muslims and Alawites killing 27 people in the last two weeks alone. The long-running rivalry between Tripoli’s Sunni Muslims and members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, has been worsened by Syria’s three-year-conflict. The civil war has become increasingly sectarian as mostly Sunni rebels – who represent the majority in Syria – battle President Bashar al-Assad’s predominantly Alawite government and Syrian Armed Forces.
The Crusader fortress of Beaufort Castle- constructed in the 12th century- has been the focus for countless battles and the home of many occupiers over the centuries.
Beaufort (French for “beautiful fortress”) sits atop a 300 meter cliff which declines steeply to the Litani River. Its commanding location, with views over of much of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, is still of strategic value today.
In fact, Beaufort is one of the few cases where a medieval fortress has also proven to be of strategic military value, in the age of modern warfare.
In late 2005 the place was in ruins- but there was no mistake who held the high ground here.
Hezbollah’s AK47 emblazoned flag fluttered in the breeze- along with their allies and former rivals, AMAL.
Seven months later, the IDF once again invaded Lebanon- blitzing their way up to Beirut- laying South Lebanon to waste and cluster bombs in the July War
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) held the castle from the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in the mid 1970′s, until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) finally evicted the PLO and occupied and fortified Beaufort, controlling south Lebanon for the next two decades.
Upon their withdrawl in 2000, the IDF set explosives and destroyed most of the structure. In 2007 an Israeli film- Beaufort– was released about an IDF unit stationed at the fortress.