Shortly after launching the New 7 Wonders campaign, Jeita Grotto attracted huge masses of visitors of whom the Lebanese constituted the largest portion. Apparently, the New 7 Wonders Foundation presided by Mr. Bernard Weber, did not prevent multiple votes through the Internet or by telephone, as long as money was charged for each and every vote.
After supporting the New 7 Wonders Foundation at the beginning of the campaign, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) distanced itself from praising Mr. Weber and reported that “Mr. Weber’s media campaign pales in comparison with the educational and scientific campaigns undertaken by the UNESCO to promote archeological and historic sites.”
Egypt had also refused to align its Pyramids with other sites such as the Statue of Liberty in New York and decided to boycott the campaign.
The exciting part is that some Lebanese did not “explore” Jeita except after the campaigns took over Facebook and Twitter. Most of the youth did not even realize that the grotto dates back to the nineteenth century, long before this recent “Twitter craze” and even before MEPAS company invested it in 1993 when Mr. Nicolas Fattoush was still Minister of Tourism. And speaking of MEPAS, it is noteworthy that this company was awarded prizes for “leadership in sustainable development” from each of Jacques Chirac, the World Bank and the World Tourism Organization (2002), who may collectively now lecture us on transparency!
Furthermore, the Lebanese are utterly heedless of the fact that the name “Jeita” is derived from an Aramaic word, meaning “water roar”. They do not know that the 1836 discovery of the grotto is credited to the Protestant missionary William Thomson whose endeavors to explore the “Holy Land” remain noteworthy, despite the prejudice he holds against us. Numerous were the archeologists who left their marks on this site, including the Catholic missionary Zomoffen and the Jesuit Father Auguste Bergy, of whom the people are totally oblivious. And following the discovery of the grotto, Thomson reported that “a magnesium wire was ignited, and the beauties of this subterranean temple of nature’s workmanship burst upon their view. The floor was a lake of purest water, whose reflection intensified the brightness of a roof and walls glistening and sparkling as with million of gems.”
However, people will certainly remember Mr. Weber, Mr. Fattoush and Twitter.
As for the surroundings of the site, glancing at this old picture is sufficient to explain what happened.
Thank you Twitter for notifying the “unyielding” and “proud” generation that a grotto named Jeita rests in the village of Ballouna. Thank you Weber for assisting us in exploring our natural resources and many thanks Minister Fatoush for serving the Lebanese Maza in Jeita’s restaurant to nurture the proud people of Lebanon.
Jawad N. Adra