Tabarja is a coastal town in Lebanon, situated in Kesrouan, 56 kilometers north of Beirut.
Tabarja's name is possibly a corruption of the Greek, ΠΕΡΙΦΕΡΕΙΑ (PERIF-ER-YA), which means "district headquarters" and was once home to an ancient castle and port which have since been lost to modern development (though artifacts, such as Phoenician burial pots, were recovered by private collectors in the early 20th century during said modern construction). However, the name of the settlement may also be related to the Persian word "Tub" or "طب", meaning medicine, due to a local cave reputed to be sacred. Currently, Tabarja is a village that's faltering economy is mostly based in the hospitality industry, standing host to a variety of resorts, restaurants and seaside attractions as well as unique architecture dating back centuries
The main attraction of the town is its picturesque fishing port where Saint Paul is said to have set sail on one of his missionary trips to Europe. One of the modern beach resorts built near the port is named in honor of Saint Paul and currently towers over the bay. The other resorts in the town are named after another local figure, King Bargis, whose castle they are built atop of, alongside the local church. The Triple church of St. George is a popular historic Maronite site in the town and features an ossuary with the town's individual family crypts as well as elaborate statuary and engravings. The religious structure is over 500 years old and was built on a pagan site, Phoenician and Roman, referenced as a possible altar to Adonis or another local deity.
Large Roman stones are still visible today in the walls of the church, as well as undated stones featuring crusader era reliefs from what may have been a Crusader fort. A sea level cave not too far from the church is also named in honor of Saint George, but has been severely damaged over the years due to modernization and land disputes. This rock formation among the unique limestone rock formations on the coast had been considered sacred for centuries, and sick infants were brought by their mothers for immersion in the salt water of the cave in order to receive a supernatural cure through Saint George.
Tabarja is also home to a variety of hidden Greco-Roman vaults, and the Tabarja Bay is also home to numerous underwater caves and a freshwater current from an unknown source. The town also features a unique limestone and mortar sewer system built by the French and expanded by the local municipality at the turn of the century. It is also one of the few towns in the world to still feature a fully functioning and integrated aqueduct system that services the older limestone homes and the extensive farmlands to the Southwest. The town once also featured a railway that passed through the main street, which was operational until the early 1990s but has since been damaged by rampant modernization and a lack of firm regulations after the war. The town also houses various examples of 19th century and earlier Lebanese homes, the Second Azzi Home of the 19th century is of architectural relevance and is built on a cliffside using mortar and limestone stilts which once bordered with the local bay. Local oral tradition states that said house was built over a chest of gold coins, and that a long dead ghoul of the Azzi family appears at the equinox to point in the direction of the buried gold of the once powerful family.
The town at one point also featured old salt evaporation ponds on its South-West coastline, but they have since been destroyed and replaced with modern construction or simply paved over. The town also features a very small undated mortar lighthouse, which is no longer in operation and has been welded shut. The lighthouse is thought to date back to at least the time in which ship-bound trading was common in the area, which ended around the early 20th century, and once operated via a kerosene torch. The lighthouse is built atop the relatively vast and unique rock formations that border most of the town's coastline and is in desperate need of restoration.
Tabarja today, as mentioned above, is a popular summer resort town among Lebanese families and foreigners alike, Tabarja Beach in particular features a dramatic deep-water cove dominated by a 14th-century watch tower, though this is located on the outskirts of the town and not the bay itself. Whereas near the Tabarja Bay or Saint Paul's Bay, King Bargis I, King Bargis II, Saint Paul's Resort, Casa Del Mar, El Mina Restaurant and other long-existing establishment compliment the local flavour. El Mina restaurant in particular is noted for its high quality food and astounding beach-side location. Though various other establishments, long since closed, also line the coastline alongside other historic beachfront properties, giving Tabarja a notoriously sea-worn appearance that many find appealing. The bay itself is still, as it has been for millenia, used as a mooring area for both modern boats and traditional Lebanese wooden "Haskeh" boats, and rentals are available upon request from any of the local establishments.
Tabarja is also unique in that it features the second eldest resort hotel (Superseded by St. Georges Resort of Beirut) from the Lebanese economic boom of the 20th century. The resort is known as King Bargis I, named in honour of King Bargis of local fame, and was built by a local historic figure, Nabih Azzi, who is responsible for connecting the town to the electric grid and investing generously into the town's infrastructure and standards of living. The namesake of the hotel, King Bargis, is firmly based in local oral history, of which only a few elders maintain and is in danger of cultural loss.
Tabarja is also unique due to its unique composition of foreign originating Maronite families, such as the Houses of Azzi and the House of Nakouzi respectively, and the large number of immigrants which still inhabit the area. It is also unusual in its large amount of Russian, Romanian and other Slavic inhabitants that arrived as victims of human trafficking during the Civil War, but have since settled in and become members of the community.
Tabarja is a historically relevant town of immense cultural value, but has been frequently threatened by modernization and reckless disregard for the local history and architecture, as well as geographic features. Centuries old limestone churches and manor homes upon the seaside and limestone formations stand beside contemporary construction that dates only to the latter part of the Civil War and has fallen to decrepitude. Cobblestone and dirt streets have been replaced with crackling tarmac, and new construction continues to threaten the town's rich history as many pursue economic opportunity. No conservation efforts have to date been put in effect, and the town is considered by many to be an example of unregulated modernization destroying historic sites and culture.
Tabarja was also one of the last towns in Lebanon to host a public execution, prompting the de facto abstinence from the death penalty. Tabarja was also, unlike many isolated villages, struck hard by the Lebanese Civil War.