Speleologists first detected a new cave at Jeita Grotto in 2004. A popular tourist destination and Lebanon’s national symbol, the existing 9km long network of karstic limestone caves smack dab in the middle of Lebanon are among three Middle Eastern destinations campaigning to become one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Others include Bu Tinah Island in the United Arab Emirates and the Dead Sea, which is dead in more ways than one, and there are a total of 28 finalists worldwide.
Lebanese Caving Club
The first of two Jeita grottoes was opened to the public in 1958; since then, Lebanese Caving Club volunteers have worked hard to create an infrastructure that can accommodate tourists without contaminating a site that provides fresh drinking water to one million Lebanese citizens. After a long closure during the Civil War, Jeita Grotto re-opened in 1995 and draws scores of visitors each year.
Managers at the site are hopeful that this latest speleological breakthrough will improve Lebanon’s Natural Wonders campaign.
Since the new cave was first discovered, Joe Khoury, Joseph Shabine, and Habib Haddad have been exploring its formations and waterways and have used the most cutting-edge technology to create a 3D map of their findings. They have also cleared the room that was previously inaccessible.
According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, Jeita’s General Manager Dr. Nabil Haddad believes that:
… in the future there will be even more discoveries, and hopes that the research team will attempt to find out more about the underground network beneath the Nahr al-Kalb Valley.
A Natural Wonder?
Jeita Grotto is an important source of water for the Nahr al-Kalb River that stands to benefit enormously if chosen as one of the world’s most important natural places. The Seven Natural Wonders of the World campaign is a non-profit grassroots initiative that encourages Lebanese (as well as other members of the global community) to take a more active role in the preservation of their own natural resources. It is also expected to attract additional tourist flow.
As one of the present 7 Natural Wonders, the Grand Canyon in the United States receives 5 million visitors each year while the Great Barrier Reef in Australia receives 1.6 million. Suffice to say, Lebanon could enjoy a much-needed fiscal boost if its residents pull together and vote for Jeita Grotto, though competition is stiff.
If you haven’t already cast your votes for the top seven natural wonders, you still have two months before the 11/11/11 cut off date!
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