Today I will be taking you to another era of different space and time. A one of a kind discovery, a natural museum surrounded with mountains and greenery. A place where the Mujahideen (freedom fighters) lived and fought against the occupying enemy. Today I will be taking you to Mleeta. Mleeta offers a unique experience to tourists in immersing them into their lifestyle during the occupation of Beirut in 1982 and truth be told I felt a fighter myself.
First, a bit of history.
The south has always been a controversial area which witnessed a lot of turmoil between the 1980s and 2000. The name of this landmark originates from the mountain where freedom fighters garrisoned during the war against the Israeli occupiers from 1982 until 2000, the year of the liberation. The landmark has been preserved to give tourists a glimpse of the mujahideen’s life during the occupation.
And now my take on the road trip.
We arrived at Mleeta around noon. The entrance is imposing and it was unusually quiet. The guide that welcomed us at the entrance gave us each a pamphlet (one in arabic and one in english) and directed us to the Hall to a watch a 15min documentary introducing us to Mleeta and the origins of the Israeli-Lebanese war of he 80s. During the whole seance I was dumbfounded. I remembered the 2006 war in which me and my siblings lived through by ourselves in our home in Beirut. I teared up a few many times and came out of the room silent. The guide waiting for us instantly knew that I had witnessed the 2006 ordeal.
We started our walk by the ‘Abyss’, a circular shaped pathway where military equipment stranded by the enemy were left as they are. At the center of the abyss is the famous Merkava Tank 4, the pride of the Israeli military sank in dirt.
Further more we started walking downwards along a bushy pathway. A trail that is filled with human sized mujahideen look a like reliving the combat scenes of the war.
That is where I noticed we were being followed. Anyone who knows me, knows how paranoid I am (maybe it is due to the many conspiracy theory and murder investigative documentaries I watch on ID) and after turning one two many times, the person who turned out to be one of the guides securing the perimeter explained to us that he isn’t following us (yeah I was that obvious) but just wanting to unlock the door taking us into the bunker.
The bunker, now that is a treat of another kind. We entered the bunker (I, forgetting totally that am entering the mountain). The path was semi-lit and we followed its trail. I was shocked. So this was one of the famous undercover places the freedom fighters used to move around shy from enemy’s scrutiny. The cave was dug by more than 1000 fighters over the span of three years. Being 200 meters deep it has garrisoned more than 7000 fighters. There are several rooms linked with to a water supply and equipped with electricity, ventilation and supplies.
The tunnel led to an opening space named ‘The lookout’ that overlooks the villages of Iqlim el Touffah region, Zahrani, Nabatiyeh and Saida. The view is mesmerizing. I was completely in awe at the view before my eyes. We could see small villages spread here and there made of cute little houses. This is the area that was liberated by the freedom fighters in 1985 from Israeli occupation. Of course we could not stop snapping pictures and trying a selfie (a fail) before resuming our walk back the hill.
It was at that moment that reality hit me; I walked the path of the many freedom fighters who gave their lives to free their land from the oppressor. I witnessed the hardship these fighters went through armed most importantly of their faith and belief that one day Lebanon in its whole will be back in the hands of the Lebanese.
When the south was liberated in the year 2000, I was far from interested in what was happening in the Middle East, although majoring in political science at that time. My trip to Mleeta re-opened in me the wounds of the 2006 war, a sort of patriotism arose as well.
I was happy to have overcome my fear of heights and reached Mleeta.
For anyone who has not yet visited this landmark, please do.
Trust me, it is a one of a kind experience.
You can visit their website by clicking the link below;