Sheikh Abdullah Hill Quarry
- S of Town Centre
Lonely Planet review for Sheikh Abdullah Hill Quarry
Stopping off to see the world's largest cut stone at the quarry on Sheikh Abdullah Hill, you'll undoubtedly hear the tale of Baalbek native Abdul Nabi Al-Afi, who saved it from life at the bottom of a rubbish dump. Measuring 21.5m by 4m by 4.5m, lying on its side, locals call this stone Hajar al-Hubla (Stone of the Pregnant Woman), and local folklore has it that women can touch the stone to increase their fertility.
Al-Afi, a retired army sergeant, single-handedly saved the site from obscurity, and his friendly young son, who runs the tiny gift shop at its edge, will be happy to provide information on his father's remarkable one-man litter-picking story.In case you're on the lookout for a Hezbollah souvenir, the shop itself is definitely also worth a browse. Located about 1km south of the centre of Baalbek.Much is made of Hezbollah, or the 'Party of God,' in the Western media, as onlookers attempt to ascertain the threat posed to Middle Eastern security by this offshoot of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, From its humble beginnings as one of the many militia operating during Lebanon's civil war, following a Shiite doctrine developed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, it has blossomed into what many consider a legitimate resistance party, with 14 seats in the Lebanese parliament, a television and radio station and an extensive network of countrywide social services.
The party's initial aims, on foundation, were to bring to justice those accused of war crimes during the civil war (particularly the Phalangist Christians), to eradicate the influence of 'Western colonialism' in Lebanon, and to create an Islamic government. Since its instigation, the third aim has been abandoned, replaced by a desire to destroy the 'unlawful entity' of Israel. Regular attacks on the north of Israel attest to its ongoing desire to see this carried out.
Whilst Hezbollah has an undeniably bloody background, with direct and brutal links to kidnappings, murders and bombings, and though its armed capacity is often touted as a deadly threat against both Israel and its Lebanese opposition, the organisation has another side which few outside get to glimpse. In areas of Lebanon where social services are few and far between, the organisation runs hospitals and schools, with outreach facilities far beyond the capacity of those provided by the national government. Its branches are responsible for activities as diverse as restoring infrastructure, aiding economic recovery, training and equipping farmers, collecting rubbish, dispensing drinking water and providing childcare for infants, as well as a 'Martyrs Institute,' which provides for the families of 'martyrs' killed in 'battle.' All this, says Hezbollah, is financed through 'donations by Muslims;' others argue that the money comes direct from high-level Iranian pockets.
Either way, for many impoverished people in the Bekaa Valley, southern Lebanon and south of Beirut, Hezbollah has proved a vital lifeline, offering health, security and education where there is none on offer through other channels.