Kaftoun is a small Lebanese village located along the north bank of the Nahr el Jaouz (Walnut River), in the District of Koura , North Lebanon [Kaftoun satellite map]. The houses of Kaftoun number seventy, and its inhabitants number about three hundred. They are mostly Greek Orthodox Christians, who are peaceful, respectful of others, and generally well educated. The name "Kaftoun" in the ancient Aramaic language means "dug from" or "sculpted from" a cliff. In the ancient Syriac language (Kftuna) it means "the domed". Both roots of the word lead us to believe that the village was named after the domed Theotokos Monastery which is carved in the red rock cliffs by the banks of the Jaouz River.
Kaftoun and its surroundings are steeped in history. This can be evidenced from the names of some of its families: Kanaan (canaan), after the Canaanites who dwelt in the region during the earlier Bronze Age (3000-1200 H.C.) and from which the Phoenicians of the Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) descended. The Semaan Family traces its roots to the Ghassanid dynasty. The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to the Hauran in southern Syria, Jordan and the Holy Land. It is said that the Ghassanids came from the city of Ma'rib in Yemen. There was a dam in this city, one year the dam was carried away by the ensuing flood. Thus the people there had to leave. The inhabitants emigrated and became scattered far and wide. The emigrants were from the southern Arab tribe of Al-Azd الأزد of the Kahlan branch of Qahtani tribes.
The Sarkis Family, takes its name from Saint Sergius (Mar Sarkis). Sergius an officer in the Roman army and Bacchus, an officer under him, were both friends of Emperor Maximian (284-305). They were scourged to death when they refused his orders to offer sacrifice to the pagan god Jupiter. For nearly a thousand years they were the official patrons of the Byzantine armies. Many Eastern Christians still continue to revere them as their special patron saints. Their feast day is October 7th. The old Mar Sarkis Church by the banks of the Jaouz River, which is presently being excavated, was erected in their honor (600-700 A.D.).