Hasbaya is an attractive town full of history. A good deal of this history transpired at the huge citadel that is today Hasbaya’s chief claim to fame. Owned by the Chehab emirs, the citadel forms the major part of a Chehabi compound – a group of buildings surrounding an unpaved central square 150 metres long and 100 metres wide. Several medieval houses and a mosque make up the rest of the compound, which covers a total of 20,000 square metres. The citadel is situated on a hill overlooking a river which encircles it from the north. A site steeped in mystery, the citadel is so old its origins are uncertain and so big that even today no one is sure how many rooms it contains. The known history of the structure begins with the Crusaders, but it may go back even earlier to an Arab fortification or a Roman building. Won by the Chehabs from the Crusaders in 1172, the fortress was rebuilt by its new owners.
Since then it has been burned many times in battle and was often the scene of bloody conflict. In the 20th century, it was struck by rockets during the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. Amazingly, for almost all of the eight centuries since it fell to the Chehabs, the citadel has been occupied by members of the same family. Today actual ownership is shared by some fifty branches of the family, some of whom live there permanently.