Friday, January 24, 1997
GRAND TOUR OF KESERWAN
text and photographs by Fareed Abou-Haidar
This was the first of a series of photographic and discovery trips that I made with a cousin of mine in 1983 and '84. This trip aimed at getting good pictures of the sculpted limestone rocks of the Keserwan region, which were being plundered by development (as well as getting out of the claustrophobic confines of Beirut).
On Sunday, March 27, 1983, we left home at around 8:45 a.m. From Zouk Mosbeh, we went up the Faraya road, taking a few pictures on the way, including one looking across the verdant valley of Nahr el-Kalb from S'haileh to Beit Shabab. Our first major stop was just beyond Faitroun, well above the snow line. This area contained one of the most beautiful concentrations of sculpted rocks, formations that in other countries would have been made into a National Park. Instead, a Swiss (of all things) company, in partnership with Lebanese developers, was building the infamous Satellity development. Newspaper ads showed a concentration of high-rise buildings flanking a road, totally out of place with the character of the area. I drove in partially on the newly bulldozed road and we got out. Bulldozers had already flattened a large area, and concrete foundations lay amidst piles of upturned soil. We took pictures of the rocks in the area and views of Mount Sannine.
We drove on to Faraya, and up to the skiing center. Back below the center, we took the narrow road towards Faqra. We stopped at the natural bridge. This impressive limestone formation, with its near-perfect arch and angular sides, almost looks man-made. It was about a hundred meters away to the north. My cousin stumbled in the deep snow to get closer to it; I was satisfied with a picture from the road.
We got into the car, and as I was maneuvering to get out, one tire fell into a roadside ditch that had been hidden by the snow. After a struggle, we were able to free the car and avert a major disaster in this remote area.
As we drove through the Faqra area, we took pictures of the snow-covered valley. The snow had the nice property of hiding some of the man-made blemishes on the landscape. We continued through Mazra'at Kfar Debian and through the deep gorge that separated it from Faitroun. Looking north across the gorge, the scar of Satellity stood out all too well, too big for the snow to hide; the picture I took would become a warhorse of all future Lebanon slide shows as an example of the rape of the environment. This gorge had also been scarred by an incomplete boondoggle of a project aimed at replacing the present country road with a near-freeway. We stopped again near the junction with the Faraya road for more pictures of rocks.
From Ashqout, we took the road to Bzoummar and Jounieh. I finally got to see this area in good weather; the first time, the area had been covered by fog. At the west end of Ashqout, we examined the ruins of an old abandoned house, taking more photos. At another spot, I took a picture of a cyclamen growing out of a rock. This area, away from the busy main road to Faraya, had experienced somewhat less environmental damage. Above Ghosta, the steep mountains abruptly sloped down to the bay of Jounieh. Roads scarred the once-pastoral, postcard (literally) view. In Harissa, my cousin took a picture of an old multi-arched house after taking permission from the friendly owner.
We arrived in Beirut surprisingly early, at around 3 P.M.