This article first appeared on the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.lebanon on 5 Jul 1996
HIKING IN LEBANON-LAKLOUK
Last August, I went to Lebanon for a few weeks. I discovered a hiking group called "Club de Vieux Sentiers" that went somewhere every Sunday. In summer, they hike in the upper elevations where it is cool; in winter, they go cross-country skiing. I had always wanted to hike Lebanon but had been unable to because of the war and my reluctance to go alone. I was glad to see that other Lebanese cared for something other than beaches and restaurants.
We met in Antelias at 7:30 where we paid our fee and arranged carpooling; at 8:00, we left and headed into the mountains above Jubail. We started our 10-kilometer hike around 10 from an area of Laklouk north of the skiing center, called Arab el-Lheeb, at 1860 meters. I was amazed at the size of the group; there must have been around 50 of us. We walked through orchards before climbing up a rocky, barren slope to the top of Jabal Tannourine. On the west side was a panoramic view down a very steep slope towards Tannourine and its terraced orchards. To the north was Qornet el-Sawda, with some snow still on it. To the east were views of a huge flat "jurd" extending to infinity.
We descended towards the jurd and soon realized its unique charcterisitics. Instead of the usual stream channels, it is full of hundres of sinkholes, some perhaps a dozen meters deep, where the corroded limestone beneath has collapsed. This is the "rooftop" of Lebanon, the reason Lebanon exists. Snow accumulates in these sinkholes, and when it melts, it slowly sinks into the acquifer to emerge as springs year-round. We eventually emerged from the sinkhole area and followed a road that took us down Wadi el-Safir past a herd of goats and two springs, one of which had a stoen reservoir from the days of the Romans. In Lebanon, it is possible to hike all day long with one bottle of water, thanks to the springs.
We ate lunch in the shade of poplar trees at a third spring in a secondary wadi draining into Wadi el-Safir. (Wadi el-Safir eventually drains through Acqoura and into Nahr Ibrahim.) The dry areas on the slopes are covered with scattered ancient juniper trees, some with considerable trunks, that are not seen in the lower parts of the country where most people live. The small Wadi took us back to the base of Jabal Tannourine, thus completing our loop as fog drifted in from the sea and cooling the atmosphere. :-)
The "Club de Vieux Sentiers" hikes are announced in L'Orient-Le Jour paper (on no specific day of the week), but they always meet in Antelias on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. For more info, call Joyce Tombi at (01) 443753. (I don't think you need to dial the area code from within Beirut); she is a frequent hike leader and can probably tell you the latest.
ENVIRONMENTAL ATROCITY #1
Between Ehmej and Laklouk, the narrow, winding road passes through a narrow valley. A clear stream flows through lush vegetation. The steep, rocky slopes are covered with forests of various trees. Flowers bloom in profusion in spring against a background of leftover snow. Lebanon as praised in poetry and song! :-)
This idyllic wadi has not escaped greed. Someone decided to milk a few liras out of it. He bulldozed a road zig-zagging up a steep slope, dumping the soil down over the old trees and weathered rocks. The road reaches a gravel quarry (kassara) where hungry machines crush Lebanon's mountains into gravel for use in those ugly buildings sprouting all over the countryside. Nearby along the same main road, a garbage dump (mazbaleh) spews dense clouds of suffocating toxic smoke. :-(