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Do you believe in fairy tale stories? What about the Princess, prince charming and his castle? Well I do and itís not a fairy tale, itís a real story about a simple man who built his own castle with his very hands. If you think this is an ordinary castle then think again! This is an amazing castle built by a person named Moussa Al Maamari in Lebanon.
Moussa Al Maamari
Itís only fair to talk a bit about the person who built the castle, after all no one managed to do that on his own. I wish Guinnessís book of records recognised him as the only man in history who had actually built a castle on his own.
Moussa Abdel Karim Al Maamari AKA Moussa Al Maamari or the Moussa the engineer was a Lebanese man who was born on July 27th, 1931 in a small village named of Harat Al Saraya near to Al Hosn fortress.
Moussa wasnít the brightest kid in the school. He came from a very poor family but that never stopped him from dreaming. His dream started as a teenager, at the age of 14, when the girl that he loved told him that she will only marry a man who had a castle which was mission impossible. However, Moussa started to dream about building his own castle to give to his sweetheart and the love of his life.
Moussa was caught by his strict teacher several times a day, day dreaming or sketching his dream castle. As a result of those acts he was beaten with a ďKhizaranaĒ or a bamboo cane while his class mate mocked him and so was his sweetheart. He wanted to fulfil his dream whatever it cost so he left the school and his family and walked by FOOT to Sidon (Saida) to his uncle and started his journey toward his dream castle.
He worked with his uncle for many years restoring old buildings, ancient forts and castles. He worked for years until he gained enough experience and money from his work in restoring castles.
Back In 1951, He was paid fifteen thousand Lebanese pounds, which was a lot of money back then, now it is equivalent to 6 quid, for restoring an old castle own by a prince. It was then that he started to accomplish his dream. He bought a suitable land on a hill between Deir El Kamar and Beiteddine and then he started planning and getting legal permits to build his life-time castle. Unfortunately it took him over 9 years to get things right, he faced many complications until finally the foundation stone was laid and the real task had begun in 1962.
He worked hard to build the castle with support from his wife (not his teenage love by the way) and little help from his
neighbours until the castle was built. He then added some glass painted windows and clay statues and figures.
It took him over half a century to get his castle ready.
Some people didnít believe that he designed and built his castle single-handedly , they claimed that there must be some hidden spiritual force like spirits and ghosts that helped him finishing his master piece. So do you believe in determination or in ghosts? Personally I admire the guy.
He received many honours and badges and his castle was recognised by the country as one of most visited castles in Lebanon. It was visited by presidents and other national and international celebrities.
Moussa is the founder of the first touristic site to be built by one man single handily, he worked day and night and engraved every single stone by hand and that didnít come easy; it cost him a whole 60 years of his life and health with the blessing and love of his parents, determination and faith in God, he didnít stop until the dream of his life came true.
He wrote a book to summarise his half a century journey with its ups and downs, tears and laughs, sweat and blood. The book "The dream of my life" is sold in the castle as a CD or a paper book.
Moussa is available in person, so if you want to talk to him you can. I met him and talked to him and he is a polite and a down to earth person.
How to get there?
Moussa Castle is situated in the heart of the Shouf territory between Deir Al-Qamar and Beiteddine at a height of 900m. It is 40 km away from the capital Beirut. You can get there by car or public transport but I highly recommend taking the car because some buses donít drop you off at the castle. Of course you can call for a taxi; you will be charged something between £20-£30.
Moussa Castle opens 7 days a week and on national holidays.
They have summer opening hours and winter opening hours
May-October: from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. November-April: from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Entering and exploring the master piece doesnít cost you much, you pay around 10,000 LL for adults which is £4 and 5,000 LL for children which is £2
I visited the castle in 1991 when I was a teenager; nineteen years later I came back with the kids to show them one of my favourite places in Lebanon. The castle had changed a lot since my last visit; he added many new features and expanded it a bit.
Outside the castle
The castle is located on the top of the hill so you can see the mountains and some beautiful breath-taking scenes. It was built with big stones; beautifully designed and decorated each was engraved with letters, drawings and some quotations and old sayings.
There are lots of places to see outside the castle, there is a cart mobilised by two horses so you can get a tour around the castle for only 1000 LL which is less than 25p. You can also explore the surroundings of the castle. There are some beautiful ornaments of animals like lions, cannons and engraved wooden panels along with beautiful pained glass windows that shine all around the castle. If that is not enough for you, you can simply enjoy the sunshine and sit there and adore the beautiful scenery but hey do you want to miss seeing the castle from inside? I wouldnít.
There is a small wooden bridge leading to the entrance of the castle, just like the old castles. At the entrance, there are a conductor who STAMP your hand with red ink to make sure that you paid for your entrance and you can get in and out the castle as much as you like. I know itís not the best way to do it but there you go. He asked us to pay 30000 LL, 2 adults me and my son who is only 14 and my two younger kids. After a few minutes haggling I only paid 20000 LL :)
Inside the castle
I was so excited, I know I did go but that was 2 decades ago so I considered myself as a first time visitor. The boys were excited, my eldest son wasnít that excited he is a grumpy teenager and nothing pleases him but deep down I noticed that he had started to look interested.
The castle inside were like opened rooms, you get from room to room through a stunningly decorated arches just like the Middle Ages. Surprisingly the rooms were so spacious and sometimes crowded with figures especially the one with the wedding or the souk (shopping town) The castle was well illuminated by small chandeliers and some small lamps on the wall however at some places it was dark and the light was dim. Thankfully taking photos was allowed so I took plenty inside and outside the castle.
Each room was filled with small and big statues made out of clay. I canít describe how accurate and beautiful they were. There were perfectly modelled and each one has a story of its own.
On the first room you can see Moussa Al Maamari
Pictures of Moussa Castle, Lebanon
On old Lebanese village
as a child, his story modelled by the statues. How he was beaten by his teacher and his class mates laughing at him. You can see Moussa and his family. On the other rooms you will amazed to see the Lebanese folklore, how they used to dress, eat, work and many other Lebanese traditions. There is also a big collection of old weapons and swords. Wild animals, horses and camels statues were there.Itís prohibited to touch any of these statues, all of them are surrounded with electric wires or iron cages.
There are some stunning glass works and woodworks for the windows and doors; even the ceiling was a master piece on its own. I wonder how he managed to build it alone. I started to believe maybe the spirits helped him because no one would believe how accurate and solid his castle was, it was incredible.
The boys were stunned and never stopped asking questions about the castle and the man who build it so I decide to take them to the man himself at the end of our visit and make their dream come true.
In the castle, there is a long corridor leading you to another part of the castle which is slightly separated from the main castle. You can find their all kinds of souvenirs, figurines, replicaís postcards and many other things all at cheap and affordable prices, you can find his book on sale as well and if you are lucky enough you can see the castle owner Moussa Al Maamari greeting you with a cup of strong Lebanese coffee, he is so modest and a down to earth kind of person.
Eating and drinking
Just outside the castle, you can find a small restaurant and cafťí selling fast food and sandwiches along with refreshments, the prices are very good, the food is good and the place is clean. The staff are helpful and polite and more importantly they are quick to serve.
You can eat inside or simply enjoy the sunshine outside. The outside plot is so spacious sometimes weddings or informal meetings are carried out there
There is no special parking spacing however there are ample spaces next to the castle for free but sometimes itís overcrowded and you can hardly find a close place to park your car.
If you are visiting Lebanon, I highly recommend putting Moussaís Castle on you must see agenda. Jeita Grotto might be Godís natural creation but Moussaís castle is manís creation, it shows how determination as well power can be stronger than poverty. It shows us that even the most impossible dreams can be true, never say never.
If outside the castle isnít enough to take your breath away; inside the castle is like entering a magical world bearing in mind that he only designed and build the castle with his hands, the least thing I can say that ďitís a miracleĒ
I really wish that Guinness book of world records recognises Moussaís Castle as record breaker because up until now NO ONE EVER built a REAL castle on his own, I guess he deserves to be recognised by the whole world.