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Lebanon: Switzerland of the Middle East


"QUANTUM SHOT" #481
Article by Rachel and Avi Abrams, link


Outside of wars and politics: Lebanon's natural beauty is second to none

"Switzerland" comparison does not exactly come to mind when you consider how war-torn and miserable this nation has been in the recent years. But cast a longer look around you while visiting this incredible spot in the Middle East - and the ancient, spectacular beauty of the place will start to haunt you, bless you, and lift you above political agendas and human strife.


Bsharre and the Kadisha valley, photo by lux-lucis-pictor

Bsharre village, photo by Pierre Yaacoub

Those who still remember times of peace before the Civil War (1975-1990) would say that comparison with Switzerland is not so far fetched. Many banks made home there and the cultural diversity and color was simply astounding. Combine it with natural grandeur, and there you have it - something to be treasured in the heart of anyone who experienced it.



In this article we only going to show the nature side, but trust us - the cuisine and intense culture of the region is still vibrant and unforgettable today.

Landscapes of Biblical Proportions

Pascal Beaudenon shows the epic qualities of Lebanon's landscape. With his exclusive permission here are the highlights: Denniye and Aqqar valleys, Aamiq region, Mount Lebanon's range, Junipers of Mount Aammar, The Pigeons Grotto, Batrun area beach:










(photos by Pascal Beaudenon)

Pure, White, Ancient - it's all in a name

The fascination and beauty of Lebanon has historically lured many visitors to its mountain slopes and coasts. The name "Lebanon" is a very ancient name, which comes from an Aramaic root which means "white", probably referring to the snow-capped peaks of Mount Lebanon. The mountains of Lebanon have been split into two ranges, separated by the Great Rift Valley (which stretches into Africa) with the valley of Beqaa in between.


(images credit: habeeb.com)


(image via Bassem B.)


Solomon considered these trees worthy of the Temple

The famous Cedar of Lebanon grows high on the mountain slopes; forests at lower altitudes consist more of oak and pine. The cedar groves are mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bible, the Talmud and other ancient writings; the resin has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. The wood was prized for building & used in such structures as the Temple of Solomon and the palaces of David and Solomon.




(photo by Pascal Beaudenon)

"The most famous cedars, known as Arz el Rab or Cedars of the Lord, are those of Bsharre. Only this grove, the oldest in Lebanon, gives an accurate idea of the stature and magnificence these trees attained in antiquity. About 375 cedars of great age stand in a sheltered glacial pocket of Mount Makmel." (source)


(photo by Pascal Beaudenon)

Another preserve is found on the northwest hills of Mount Lebanon, called Horsh Ehden. This forest is home to a great number of unique plants, 10 of which are endemic to this nature reserve alone. Another one is found in the Chouf District of Lebanon, on the slopes of Barouk mountain, called the Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve. It covers over 5% of Lebanon's total territory.


Barouk Cedars in the Chouf region, photo by habeeb.com


Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, photos by Ashraf Khunduqji

Even though such cedars can be found in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus, overall forest volume has been greatly depleted, and active restoration and conservation of the remaining cedar forests is of utmost priority. An interesting pine forest in Jezzine, South Lebanon:


(image credit: Resmi)

The mountains in Lebanon are made up chiefly of limestone, which makes them riddled with caves and underground rivers. Some 9 km of passages can be found in the Jeita Grotto; boat tours of the underground lake begin at a waterfall and take you into a wonderland of cave formations:


(image credit: Ala' Dababneh)

Some of these aquifers spring up in the Bekaa Valley, which is near the border with Syria. They feed the Aammiq wetland, which is the largest remaining freshwater wetland in Lebanon. Bekaa Valley is also home to many wineries:


(images credit: Hani London and Piax)

Streams in the desert... human kindness vs. cold strife

So much of the land has seen the suffering; so much of this land still blooms and brings joy, faithfully providing reast for the weary traveller... Baakleen river falls - with its Zarka pool (gorgeous color):



(images credit: Asaad Saleh)

Spring brings many flowers to Lebanon:


(image credit: Asaad Saleh)

A land of ancient castles, a wealth of history

Most of them are in ruins... showing the "wear and tear" of thousand of years. Shika Castle (Tripoli, Northern Lebanon) -


(image credit: Asaad Saleh)

Sayda Castle, built in 1228:


(image credit: M. Abbas)

From a neat photo collection "A Window on Lebanon" by Natasha Tynes:



No wonder this land abounds in castles: so many armies passed and fought here throughout the ages... See for example the site of this Beaufort Castle - "Crusaders, Saladin, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ottomans, Palestinians, Israelis, Hezbollah have fought over this piece of rock"


(image credit: Julien Harneis)

Even the churches retain a distinct feel of a castle: St. Paul's church in Harisa, facing Jounieh Bay:


(photos by Asaad Saleh and Joerg Muehlbacher)


(image credit: habeeb.com)

Sometimes the terrain itself protects: little town cradled in the gorge - check out the narrow winding road leading to it:


(image credit: habeeb.com)

Downtown Beirut retains European style of architecture:


(image credit: Ashraf Khunduqji)



Typical Lebanese appetizers (known as meza):



And the glory of the place reaches deep, the roots are planted solid into the heart of human emotion - something that many consider a holy ground, and rightly so.


(image credit: Piax)

(image credit: Ala' Dababneh)

(image credit: habeeb.com)

(image credit: Resmi)

The sacred places in the mountains provide a transcendental moment:


(image credit: Piax)

Certainly the mixture of beautiful nature and awesome history is seductive -


(image credit: lux-lucis-pictor)

...but peace and quiet in Lebanon can be a balancing act, a precarious moment which may not last long:


Jeita Grotto, photo by Ashraf Khunduqji

See also great photography pool on Flickr: Lebanon

Also Read: Armenia: The Epic Land, Discovering Iran, Trek Across Turkey

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YOUR COMMENTS::

37 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful! I'd love to travel there someday, as well as Turkey and Jordan... if only the political atmosphere was a little more confidence-inspiring.

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Anonymous Rowan Bulpit said...

Avi, your posts on the beauty of Middle Eastern countries has been very inspirational, I am all ready to do a full tour.
Has anyone had any experience traveling to these parts? Would it be a very bad idea at the moment? I really want to go! Stupid wars...

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OpenID piknyc said...

Fantastic pictures. Thanks

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it. I have been to the cedars. Absolutely Amazing

http://www.bucketbeats.com

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, I'm from Lebanon and these pictures brought tears to my eyes. The people of Lebanon are Beautiful as well. It's a tragedy what that the world has decided to use it as a battleground for Israel and Syria related conflicts.

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Anonymous Marilyn Terrell said...

Just stunning. What a magnificent place.

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Anonymous joshyMinor said...

Wow, those are some absolutely stunning photos! Amazing!

Jlff

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

By far the most beautiful place in the middle east. Great People and Food as well.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! Gorgeous! I've been there before the war (70's) and I always wanted to go back. Amazing, fun, open-minded people.

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Anonymous David said...

Marvelous! I been to Lebanon, and I think it's even more magical when you're there!!

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Blogger Leila said...

I was just in Lebanon this past August, and I spent a year there from 2004-2005. I figured it was time to get the hell out when the ex-prime minister was assassinated. During the summer, Lebanon seemed stable enough to visit. I don't think it would be bad at this very moment to visit, but because it's so unstable, there's no way of really knowing. Ugh... indeed, stupid wards.

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Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you all - glad you like the article.

Leila, these are "wards" (creatures like goblins) who wage wars, correct.

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Anonymous Gladys said...

Thank you. It is refreshing to find a positive article and photos from Lebanon. As usually, people in the Media are always covering and portraying the negative aspect of the country.Please keep up the good honest work.
We look forward to seeing more good coverage from you on this beautiful country. Thanks again.
Gladys M. Wehbe

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Turkey and I had the luxury of seeing most of these beautiful countries, the security is not an issue, the government takes care of security unlike USA military is very active which is not scary but comforting so don't let ifs and buts stand in your way of seeing these beautiful places.

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Blogger Beach Bum said...

A truly awesome place, a damn shame it been used as a pawn in whatever geo-political, religious struggle that might be going on that day, week, month, or year.

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Anonymous shaalan hares said...

Gracias por esas preciosas fotos del paraiso terrenal destruido por el odio , las guerras injustas y el fanatismo.
ya era hora de hacer justicia y enseñar el verdadero Líbano, antigua Fenicia, cuna de la civilizacion, inventora del alfabeto, la moneda, la purpura y transmisora de las culturas de oriente para el mundo entero. allí se encuentran las ciudades de Biblos, Baalbeck, Sidon y Tiro. fundaron Cartago (actual Tunez), Cadiz, Cartagena y Sagunto entre otras muchas ciudades a las orillas del Mediterraneo. de Tiro viene el nombre de Europa ( hija del rey Ahiram. Carece de petroleo pero por su suelo fluyen 14 rios principales ademas de sus afluentes y regatos.

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Anonymous yoxx said...

thanks for sharing. it was a piece of heaven...

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OpenID zilam428 said...

Thanks for these pictures. They are very beautiful and only make me dream of being in Lebanon all the more. :)

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Blogger Cristh said...

Thank you for these pictures, my late father was of lebanese ascendence and told me stories about the land, it saddens me to see how the wars are affecting such a beautiful country

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Blogger Baboon said...

I really want to travel there, and Syria too. I'm a little daunted by the language barrier, and how a Brit would be seen in the region. I wonder if we're seen as supporters of Israel, or aggressors in Iraq. Both are totally understandable, thanks to Tony Blair!

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Blogger nedaa said...

thx 4 these amazing pic. im lebanese i adore lebanon itis a peace of paradise god bless lebanon and keep it always beautiful

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Blogger asaadsaleh said...

Thank you for posting some of my images.
A.Saleh

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So in all these pictures, not one mosque ? You show the church in Beirut which is less then 30 meters away from the blue mosque.

You had to choose the angle to make sure that the mosque does not show !!!!!

67% muslims who live there, are they slave?
Or they have underground pagan temple where they worship !!!!!

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Anonymous William Wallace said...

I have never had the desire to visit Switzerland, but I look forward to travelling to Lebanon sometime soon.

All those amazing pictures have opened my eyes to the many wonders of Lebanon.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

really anonymous, you want to make this a ´there are no mosques so the muslims are being ignored slaves´ thing?

That´s just sad...
Anyway, I looked up pictures of the mosque and it is very great too, thanks for pointing that out. Would´ve been better without the strange fingerpointig though.

I am definately putting Lebanon on my list of places to visit!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"67% muslims who live there, are they slave?
Or they have underground pagan temple where they worship !!!!!"

actually.. there are a lot of beautiful mosques, and in most areas, Mosques are right next to Churches :)
and no.. they don't have an underground pagan temple Mr. Anonymous, they're quite "out there" for your information, and have an effect on Christians as well. So stop making them look inferior cause they're not, neither are Christians, Lebanon is full of sects and variety, and they're all respected equally... The coexistence gives the country more charm , this is a very nice article which u should appreciate, for if you are a Lebanese person saying this, it's despicable to do so, cause FIRST AND FOREMOST, you're Lebanese, and secondly you're a member of your sect.

Thank you for the amazing pictures and article, highly appreciated :)

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Anonymous Samer said...

Anonymous said...
"67% Muslims who live there, are they slave?
Or they have underground pagan temple where they worship!!!!


for that who is arguing about the religion, churches and mosques you and the people of your kind are the reason of all the problems in Lebanon and if you should have learned anything from all of the misery that we passed through and still suffering is how to live together hand by hand one for all and all for one, he is one god we worship no matter what way we pray and in what direction we knee, nevertheless it is this site you should cherish and thank while all people pointing at us (Lebanese) as terrorists and uncivilized barbarians this site is pointing at the glorious true beauty that no one sees anymore blinded by all the poisoning lies that media is spreading everywhere.
SHAME ON YOU anonymous SHAME ON YOU
You should raise your head and say am Lebanese and I am from Lebanon. Not am Muslim and why you avoided showing mosques!!! You are being so silly Islam is about being good to other people against discrimination and we Lebanese supposed to be much brighter and open minded I’m Muslim by the way and am ashamed of people like you I hope you read my comment.
GREAT THANKS FOR THE PUBLISHER YOU MADE MY EYES TEAR…
FINALLY SOMONE SEES THE TRUE ABOUT OUR COUNTRY.

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Anonymous Jen Pruett said...

wow amazing photography, so inspiring for any photographer, Jen

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Blogger Canadian Muslim said...

Why do you call yourself "Switzerland of Middle East", a copy of the best, but not quiet the best. YOU ARE THE BEST. You are LEBANON

ThirdWorldCharlie

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: Nancy SHAIA. My grandmother and grandfather were both from Lebanon. Immigrated to USA in 1900 to escape religious persecution. My grandmother was Maronite, fathers name was Medsie Khier. Grandfather was from coast, Frank Elias Shaia. I remember the stories about the Cedars of Lebanon, the beautiful coastline, and wonderful people and food. I'm 62 and have NEVER FORGOTTEN these stories...and still cook Lebanese food. My grandmother taught me when I was 5 years old !! I LOVE these pictures, as I never got to go to Lebanon...but my HEART and SPIRIT lives there. It brings my grandmother & grandfather back to life ! Thank You. Nancy (Shaia) Windancin@aol.com

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Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you Nancy, this was most touching story and comment.

All the best,
Avi

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

from my house in beyrouth, overlooking the sea i sent u kisses and hugs ...
lebanon is indeed blessed with astonishing beauty that taught us lebanese to be grateful and thankful ...
never miserable, our blessing comes with big burden that we learned to live with, in order to conquer one day, always hoping for the best ...

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Anonymous jen said...

from my house in beyrouth, overlooking the sea i sent u kisses and hugs ...
lebanon is indeed blessed with astonishing beauty that taught us lebanese to be grateful and thankful ...
never miserable, our blessing comes with big burden that we learned to live with, in order to conquer one day, always hoping for the best ...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares about seeing mosques anyway?!? Glad that Ari chose the proper angled photos

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Blogger Elie Jammal said...

@Baboon: I really hope you read this: You are most welcomed anytime you may wish to visit. And don't refrain from asking for any help we could give you on your trip. We learned to differ between political views of some country leaders and the actual views of the people.
As for Anonymous, I am a Christian - Maronite and I'm really proud we have churches next to mosques. Cut down on the negativity of Lebanese Politicians and you will see that we live perfectly well without their views, just like the people of the west would do.
Great Article, Great pictures! Thank you Very much!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful words Jen.. you have described our feelings well...

The word Lebanon is mentioned 77 times in the old and new testaments; Holly it was created yet Holly it shall remain; the Lebanese have went through hundreds and maybe tousands of wars through history, yet the Cedars and Lebanon are still standing.. why ? coz it's Holly ... even the 1st miracle by Jesus Himself was in Qana at south Lebanon; turning water into wine... St. John Paul II said: Lebanon is a message for the east and the west... Contemplate on these words my friends; what can war do.. we are Lebanese, we are far stronger than wars and tragedies.. we have faith.

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Anonymous Ferial said...

Lovely pictures... thanks for posting them.
To Baboon I say: don't worry about the language barrier, for most Lebanese speak French and English alongside Arabic. Plus, you shouldn't worry about your British nationality and your being secure in Lebanon... We are a warm, hospitable and peaceful people (except when we are killing each other... lol)
To Nancy: I hope you can, some day, visit your ancestors' homeland to have a first-hand experience of the beauty of this country. The beauty is not only in the landscape, which is destroyed in many places due to a haphazard way of building, but to the people themselves (even with all our shortcomings, which are many)and their warm and amicable character...

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