It’s my second day in Lebanon and my hosts suggested the Chouf valley. Bassam drove us through the mountains so that we can get a feel of how the mountain towns and villages look. It’s a very pleasant drive and we got to taste some of the local fruit along the way.I also discovered that Chouf is the heartland of the Lebanese Druze community. We visited several places throughout the day. This post focuses on my favorite one: Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve.
It is important to understand the significance of the cedar tree to Lebanon. The Lebanon cedar is the national emblem of the country and is displayed on their national flag and their coat of arms. One of the reasons is that the cedar forests of Lebanon enjoy the unique distinction as the oldest documented forests in history. The cedars were important enough in the history of man to be traceable to the very earliest written records, that of the Sumerians in the third millennium BC. They used the sturdy wood of the cedars to build ship among other things. This popularity nearly proved to be its downfall as the cedars were nearly wiped out due to over logging. Extensive deforestation. Over the centuries, extensive deforestation has occurred, with only small remnants of the original forests surviving. The reserve is one of the steps taken to preserve them.
We arrived at the entrance of the park and discover that the Italian government is taking part in the recovery efforts much to Sergio’s delight. We drive further up where a guide is waiting for us. The takes us on a 30-minute walk along the trails. We get to see a few trees that are between 100 and 300 years old. We learned how squirrels play an important role in distributing the seeds of the trees.
During our walk, we saw several butterflies. The guide acted very surprised saying he had never seen any there before. We found this strange as we saw them constantly all over the park. We also learned there are many surprising species of mammals living there: wolves, jackals, deer, boars even porcupines. The most surprising of all? Striped Hyenas..I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this fact. In the winter the forest is covered with snow, how do they survive? And also…what do they eat? Sergio and I just kept imagining them surviving on a steady diet of squirrels. Hyenas chasing squirrels…I’m sure someone will do a cartoon about it someday. Oh, by the way, the striped hyena is also Lebanon’s national animal.
Al in all it was a very nice experience. I would like to visit again in the winter and probably do one of the longer trails as well. Now let’s see what the rest of the day brings
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