Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Promised Paradise

Here we go again: Five Majestic Outdoor Destinations in Lebanon. Every country has Majestic sceneries.

The Wilderness Project. June 30, 2020

Nature is a gift to us and we should preserve it well! If you go on an amazing hike do tell us about it and share any pictures, too. We always love to hear from you!

Lebanon is a country truly blessed for its unique topography rich with gorgeous green landscapes throughout, and unlike the rest of the Middle East, it has no desert. (Though desertification and polluted water sources are catching up)

Its temperate, weather and abundance of lush rolling hills, natural waterways and diverse flora makes it an ideal country to explore by foot, pretty much anytime of the year. (This lush rolling hills and natural waterways are exaggerated description with the failure of this pseudo-State to shoulder its responsibilities)

While hiking and camping outdoors have always been popular activities in Lebanon, since the pandemic, more Lebanese than ever before have turned to nature looking for safe ways to unwind and to get some exercise.

As a hiking enthusiast myself, I always suggest to others that the best remedy for stress is a long walk amid beautiful surroundings. It certainly works for me.

In Lebanon you also get to see ancient ruins along the way thanks to the country’s rich and storied past. This could be anything from centuries old water mills, Ottoman arched stone bridges, Roman era terra cotta pottery pieces embedded in the soil to rock structures engraved in Latin letters

(During the second century A.D. the Roman Emperor Hadrian carved more than 200 rocks as boundary markers to control the logging of Lebanese Cedar trees, which were the most highly sought after building materials at the time).

Many hiking trails are also adjacent to historic Lebanese villages, which means if you finish your walk early you can benefit from additional sightseeing for the day (visit the local landmarks), stop by for a beverage or a meal or buy some local Mouneh (homemade preserved delicacies) before heading back home.

Now let me share with you five wonderful places in Lebanon that are definitely worth walk touring “à pied”.

Cedar Tree in Tannourine

Cedar Tree in Tannourine

Mill Trail

Mill Trail

1- Tannourine

Tannourine is perhaps most famous for its cedars forest covering 12 square kilometers which is also one of the country’s most picturesque and pristine areas for walking, some even growing on extreme vertical slopes),

You can spot grottos and plenty of vibrant wild flowers. If you prefer a more rugged terrain with some sightseeing, try the Mill Trail of Tannourine.

You can start this hike at the centrally located historic Medieval Church of Mar Challita (famous for having two alters). Then head towards the nearby Mill Trail, which is alongside the picturesque Walnut River (Nahr el Jawz).

Like the trail’s name suggests, you will come across several old mills (Al Aabara, Al Nsoub and Emm Zahra). You can also visit the impressive Baatara Sinkhole, a natural phenomenon, and sit and marvel at the 255-meter-deep Jurassic limestone cavern.

While it is mainly dry during summer, in winter and spring a dramatic waterfall flowing into the sinkhole can be enjoyed. After a long morning hike this place is great to rest and have your picnic lunch (it also has a few snack areas serving sandwiches and mezza).

2- Qadisha Valley (Holy Valley)

Also referred to as Wadi Qannoubine (Valley of the Saints), this place has an incredible vibe, landscape and legacy (all three).

This place is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (Lebanon has five in total) so it is a protected zone, with the few people living on the premises comprised of those in the monasteries and churches.

Qadisha valley is a breathtaking gorge marked by rocky hillsides covered with natural caves, which have been used as shelters and burials going back to the Paleolithic period. Later on it became a refuge for those in search of solitude or escaping religious persecution, from Sufis to Christians (It has hosted monastic communities since the earliest years of Christianity, and again in the 12th, 17th and 18th century, for those fleeing persecution at the hands of the Mamluks and later the Ottomans).

Often penned the Lebanese mini Grand Canyon, this utterly peaceful sanctuary is 1,400 meters above sea level with sweeping views all around and has a river that carves out the floor of the valley with water flowing through it in the springtime.

There are various entrances to begin a hike in this valley, but the most commonly used is Mafraq Qannoubine (the main road in Bcharre).

Once you enter Qadisha you can follow the signposts and walk towards Mar Elisha monastery or Qannoubine monastery. Otherwise you can plan ahead and seek the advice of Lebanon Mountrail Trail (LMT) which has mapped out most hiking trails in the country www.lebanontrail.org.

(I did this hiking expedition with the steepest and awkward of stairs for many miles)

Rocky cliffs dotted with ancient natural caves

Rocky cliffs dotted with ancient natural caves

St. Marina the Monk Church

St. Marina the Monk Church

3- Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve (JMBR)

Our next hiking gem is a biosphere reserve. JMBR has an exceptionally rich biodiversity hosting 750 species of flowers and trees.

In addition, 137 migratory and soaring bird species and 25 mammal species make this mountainous area their home (among them are foxes, squirrels, hedgehogs, wild boars and the very rare striped hyenas).

You can also find historic sites, such as Roman era stone stairs, a Byzantine church, a centuries old watermill and olive press, several ruins of old houses, an abandoned Ottoman settlement and rocks with the famous Emperor Hadrian’s inscriptions.

The reserve covers an area of 6500 hectares and offers 10 different trails, which can be accessed from three main entrances: Qehmez. Mchati and Chouwen.

I highly recommend the hike to its highest summit Qornet el Mzar (1600m) that shelters the ruins of a Roman temple; it offers sweeping panoramic views of the entire country, and on a clear day you can see as far as Cyprus and Syria.

There is a small entrance fee of 8,000 Lira (4,000 Lira for the under 16) to enter Jabal Moussa. On your way out check out their kiosk selling Mouneh and handicraft products made by local women. You can support them with your purchase!

Floral diversity of Jabal Moussa

Floral diversity of Jabal Moussa

Remains of an old house

Remains of an old house

Forest boundary marker of Emperor Hadrian

Forest boundary marker of Emperor Hadrian Picture Credit: https://followinghadrian.com/tag/jabal-moussa/

4- Jannet Chouwen

If there is a place to be crowned heaven on Earth, Jannet Chouwen on a sunny day might come pretty darn close. This stunning area is ideal for hiking, camping out, going for a swim and just basking in nature for as long as possible.

The hiking hotspot is most famous for its stream that runs down the mountain and flows into the Nahr Ibrahim River, also known as the river of the God Adonis (a.k.the river of immortal love!)

A year ago I swam in this pristine stream and I can assure you, being in this fresh invigorating natural bath outdoes any spa! This river is accessible through JMBR’s Chouwen entrance. From there you need to walk downhill for about 45 min until you reach the area.

(You may read my humoristic trekking adventure on this supposed Promised Paradise)

https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/trekking-to-the-promised-paradise/

Aerial view of Nahr Ibrahim

Aerial view of Nahr Ibrahim

5- Darb El Mselha (Mselha Walkway)

This hiking destination takes its name from the Mseilha Fort in Batroun, which was built by Emir Fakhreddine II in the 17th century to protect the city from enemy attacks.

The actual walk begins from the Mseilha Fort and is parallel with the picturesque Nahr El Joz so you can also enjoy the beautiful water canals as you stroll along. The trail can take you all the way to Kaftoun village, which is approximately 12 kilometers away.

This is actually a new hiking spot in Lebanon and has been immensely popular with hikers and families alike looking for areas to have a nice walk and even stop for a picnic along the way.

Parts of the trail have cement blocks with small gaps in between which can be unsafe for younger children, so just make sure they are well attended to if you bring them along with you. Dogs are also forbidden on this trail.

Darb Mseilha is easily accessible from the Batroun highway before Chekka. You can conveniently park your car at the entrance of this well maintained public trail and see where it takes you!

Glad you enjoyed reading about five of my favourite hiking areas in Lebanon. While I only mentioned a few, the country has countless excellent nature destinations so you are spoilt for choice.

You can read more about the various trails via LMT, which I previously mentioned. So, wishing you all happy trails if you go for an outdoor adventure! Remember wherever you go, keep the area clean and respect the rules in any reserve or outdoor area.

References:

First Picture: Arz Hadath El Jebbeh in Bcharre taken by Alia Fawaz. All pictures (with the exception of Hadrian’s Rock in Jabal Moussa) have been also provided by the author taken during her hikes.

Trekking to the “Promised Paradise”. This “Trekking syndrome”

Note 1:  Re-edited version of the previous post “Promised Paradise way on Nahr Ibrahim (Lebanon), April 2010”

Note 2: I opened a special category on my blog “Travel/Excursion” to collect all my trips stories.

My body is aching from yesterday horrendous adventure.

In the last three weeks, my nephew William has been trekking sections of Nahr Ibrahim (Abraham River, in the district of Byblos) in company of the wonderful and non complaining dog Misha.

Last Friday, my nephew blundered in my earshot that he is going trekking on Saturday.

I invited myself to be part of the trekking party.  My nephew didn’t respond: he was hoping that probably I am jesting. The next day I got my tiny backpack ready for the adventure; my nephew was pretty much lukewarm confronted with this readiness on my part.

(He might have had serious reservations (you might read my post on trekking in Sad Shabrouh for preliminary reasons.)

Obviously, I am wearing my swimming trunk: It is a matter of trekking by a river bed, but my nephew warned me that we will have to “wade” in sections of the river.

In my mind, wading means being submerged to the waist at best; I didn’t take into account reasonable factors such as slipping or falling into deep holes.

We left around 12:30 pm and quickly the mobiles brought news of a jammed highway which means most of the members will be late a couple of hours to the meeting place.

The Armenians in Lebanon were demonstrating/“celebrating” the holocaust they suffered by the Turks around 1915 and on.

William, Hanane, Misha, and I parked on the road of Nahr Ibrahim and ventured to the river shores.

William, Hanane, and Misha decided to push forward in the jungle; I opted to dip my feet in the cool water.  Half an hour later a group of five showed up; among them Clown Me Sabine and her Mexican assistant Gabie.

I told Gabie: “Ahora, me lise Jorge Amado, el Brazilian de Bahia”:  I am currently reading the French version of “Navigation de cabotage” (navigating along the coastal ports of seas or rivers.)

The newcomers promptly clowned lizards on the river rocks for 20 minutes (sunbathing). Then, feeling degraded by lizard behavior, they raised their adventurous spirit by one notch: They started to move from one rock to another very cautiously.

The mobiles brought news that the larger body of the trekking party is heading toward destination, to the lonely small village of Chowan in the bottom of the river valley.

Thus, William, Hanane, Misha showed up and we got on the move.  We met two men carrying towels where we parked: they are to simply descend a few stairs, reach the river, take a swim and leave.

The party was of around 20 members in 5 cars.

We parked in the lowest valley village I know.  It was a road to damnation, fit for barely one car but you had to backtrack for miles to let the opposite cars pass you by.

To my surprise, we were not to head straight to the river but along a long detour of 45 minutes walk: This is called “trekking syndrome” to first base.

We reached a section on the river to cross; it is about only ten meters wide; it is not a roaring Amazon by any stretch of the imagination.

Big George hopped leisurely to the other side; he is wearing just a swimming trunk and a tiny backpack.  I was encouraged to be among the first strong hearten members of the trekking party, as is usually the case.  I tied my old pair of khaki sneaker around my neck and raised my jeans to the knees; that should do the trick.

The first few steps got me face down; I am all wet and thus nothing mattered anymore.  I hurried my “wading” exercise and fell down several times before I reached destination.  I am bruised, physically and emotionally.

The few cigarettes I had in my shirt pocket are ruined; I decided to remove the cigarettes from the wet box to dry out the cigarettes. I gently picked one cigarette from the box; the filter part did easily separate from the body of the cigarette; it was the same case for the other cigarettes one by one. I had the pleasure of a discovery: the process of manufacturing local made cigarettes is basically gluing the filter part to the finished cigarette.

I undressed completely save my swimming trunk.

A few members were aligning a tree trunk to permit female members to cross the river safely.  Someone said to wait for my nephew since usually he brings a rope for that purpose. I cursed my hastiness, only to realize that my nephew wanted to emulate this adventure as Seal or Marine exercise: “you have got to feel the pain!”

George was in the middle of the river playing the school or scout guard in case of emergencies.

Suddenly, George exclaimed “I feel cold.” George remedy to warming up was to run like Tarzan to the promised paradise.

It goes without saying that I was the first to follow George.  I was not running at all: my wet sneakers weighted 20 pounds.  Then, I saw George hiding behind a bush up a mount like Tarzan; I was climbing to rejoin him when he pre-empted me: “Don’t climb. I lost my way” (Or maybe he was pissing?

Now George climbed a high rock in the river watching for any arriving company.  I ended “wading” my way by the river side to paradise land..

I am glad to report that “bodily navigation of cabbotage” by river side made much sense to me.  A few members of the party advanced me by using a secret path to a meeting location.  I said: “Better not stop. Let us move on to the Promised Land.”  Karim said: We have reached destination!”

That was a major letdown.  Apparently, the goal was to reach a puny and sickly waterfall.

George hopped behind the Nahr Ibrahim “Water fall”, climbed a rock and sat like a Buddha.  I lacked the energy to remove my sneaker and my Jean (weighing 50 pounds), then climb a slippery stupid rock and emulate Buddha.

I was the first to vacate Nahr Ibrahim Paradise and got lost on my way back; I got entangled by lichen and other sorts of nasty prickly branches.

Here, I am back to “wading” by the river side. I realized that both my sneakers’ soles are floating free; held miserably by the tip of the shoes.  I was no longer fooling myself: a military helicopter should land and take me home.

I reached first “base” wetter than a disgruntled cat.

One of the soles had vanished in the river. I didn’t wait and immediately re-crossed the Rubicon wading using my favorite technique known around the world as “Adonis super efficient wading technique”, to be emulated by Marines and Seals.

I reached second base and harangued the dozen members who smartly refused to cross the ridiculous ten-meter wide section to get going and follow the leader: I wanted to locate a sunny spot to dry my clothes.  A smart girl reminded me that the sun is no longer in vigor and barely could warm an ant.

Nothing could assassinate my plan: I have got to be first back to the parked car.

On second base there was a dying bonfire left by two dozens of foreign youths we met previously.  A plastic bottle was still sending fumes; someone said: “You are burning toxic materials”.  Oh, I forgot to mention that most members of the party are lovers of ecology and of the strictest kinds; many are by far more vegetarians than cows.

I lost my way again and waited for a member to show me the correct secret path.

My nephew picked up the second sole on his way and volunteered to relieve me of my weightless backpack: any pound less is a great boost to my morale. The last 100 yards to destination was the most voluptuous and rewarding trip stretch ever.

When we arrived home my nephew placed my sole-less sneakers on my room threshold along with one sole.

I asked him: “Why did you do that?”

I thought that I left my useless sneakers where we were parked as a warning to trekkers in the village of Chowan to cancel their project.

Devilish William refused to leave any material evidences that might discourage trekkers in those damned vicinity.

I made the last effort to visit my sister just to tell her “I think it is a miracle that I am back”.  My sleeping sister could not but chuckle and interject: “You are supposed to know better than anyone what a trekking project means to William.”

This trekking was a well planned project to inflict most pains and humiliation, but I turned out to be a leader on my way back; and second to the leaders in most of the adventure.

Promised Paradise way on Nahr Ibrahim (Lebanon); (Apr. 26, 2010)

My body is aching from yesterday horrendous adventure.

In the last three weeks, my nephew has been trekking sections of Nahr Ibrahim (Abraham River, in the district of Byblos,) in company of the wonderful and non complaining dog Misha.

Last Friday, my nephew blundered in my earshot that he is going trekking on Saturday.  I invited myself to be part of the trekking party.  My nephew didn’t respond, hoping that I am most probably jesting.

The next day, I got my tiny backpack ready for the adventure.

My nephew was pretty much lukewarm when confronted with this readiness on my part: he might have serious reservations (you might read my post on trekking in Sad Shabrouh for preliminary causes)

Obviously, I am wearing my swimming trunk: It is a matter of trekking by a river bed, but my nephew warned me that we will have to “wade” in sections of the river.  In my mind, wading means being submerged to the waist at best; I didn’t take into account reasonable factors such as slipping or falling into deep holes.

The party was of around 20 membersand in 5 cars.

We parked in the lowest valley village I know; the village is called Showan (I might edit this post for further details later on).

We reached a section of the river to cross of about only ten meters. It is not a roaring Amazon by any stretch of the imagination.

Big George hopped leisurely to the other side; he is wearing just a swimming trunk and a tiny backpack; he looked like Tarzan.

I was encouraged to be among the first strong hearted member of the trekking party, as is usually the case.  I tied my old pair of khaki sneaker around my neck and raised my jeans to the knee. And that should do the trick.

The first few steps got me face down; I am all wet and thus, nothing mattered anymore.  I hurried my “wading” exercise and fell down several times before I reached destination.  I am bruised, physically and emotionally.

The few cigarettes I had in my shirt pocket are ruined; I decided to remove the cigarettes from the wet box to dry out the cigarettes. I gently picked one cigarette from the box by the filter part and the filter easily separated. And it was the case for the other cigarettes one by one.  I had the pleasure of a discovery: the process of manufacturing local made cigarettes is basically gluing the filter part to the finished cigarette.

I undressed completely, save my swimming trunk: Health dictated that the swimming trunk should go too.  A few members were aligning a tree trunk to permit female members to cross the river safely.

Someone said to wait for my nephew since usually he brings a rope for that purpose. I cursed my hastiness, only to realize that my nephew wanted to make this adventure a Seal or Marine exercise: you have got to feel the pain!

George was in the middle of the river playing the school or scout guard in case of emergencies.  Suddenly, George exclaimed “I feel cold.” George remedy to warming up was to run like Tarzan to the promised paradise.

It goes without saying that I was the first to follow George.  I was not running at all: my wet sneakers weighted 20 pounds.  Then, I saw George hiding behind a bush, up a mount like Tarzan; I was climbing to rejoin him when he preempted me: “Don’t climb. I lost my way.”

Now George climbed a high rock in the river watching for any arriving company.  I ended “wading” my way by the river side to paradise land..

I am glad to report that “bodily navigation of cabotage” by river side made much sense to me.  A few members of the party were advancing ahead of me, using a secret path to a location.  I said: “Better not stop. Let us move on to the Promised Land.”

Karim said: We have reached destination!”  That was a major letdown.  Apparently, the goal was to reach a puny and sickly waterfall.

George hopped behind the Nahr Ibrahim “Water fall”, climbed a rock and sat like Buddha.  I lacked the energy to remove my sneaker and Jeans (weighting 50 pounds), climb a slippery stupid rock and emulate Buddha.

I was the first to vacate Nahr Ibrahim Paradise and got lost on my way back.

I got entangled by lichen and other sorts of nasty prickly branches.  I am back to “wading” by the river side. I realized that the soles of my sneakers are floating free; held miserably by the tip of the shoes.  I was no longer fooling myself: a military helicopter should land and take me home.

I reached first “base” wetter than a disgruntled cat.

One of soles had vanished in the river. I didn’t wait and immediately re-crossed the Rubicon wading in my favorite technique, world known as “Adonis49 super efficient wading technique” to be emulated by Marines and Seals.

I reached second base and harangued the dozen members who smartly refused to cross to get going and follow me: I wanted to urgently locate a sunny spot to dry.   A smart girl reminded me that the sun is no longer vigorous and barely could warm an ant.

Nothing could assassinate my plan: I have got to be first back to the parked car.  I lost my way again and waited for a member to show me the correct secret path. My nephew picked up the second sole and volunteered to relieve me of my weightier backpack: any pound less is a great boost to my morale.

The last 100 yards to destination was the most voluptuous and rewarding trip stretch ever.

When we arrived home, my nephew placed my “sole-freed” sneakers on my room threshold, along with one wet sole.  I asked him: “Why did you do that?  I thought that I left my useless sneakers where we were parked” (as a warning to trekkers in the village of Shwan to cancel their prospective projects).

Devilish William refused to leave any material evidences that might discourage trekkers in those damned vicinities.  I made the last effort to visit my sister just to tell her “I think it is a miracle that I am back”.

My sleeping sister could not but chuckle and interject: “You are supposed to know better than anyone what a trekking project means to William.”

This trekking was a well planned project to inflict most pains and humiliation, but I turned out to be a leader on my way back; and second to leaders most of the adventure.


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adonis49

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