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Tour the Shouf region in Lebanon.

December 4, 2016

We finally made it out of Beirut again and into the mountains for a long overdue hike!

Well, to let you in on a little secret, in fact we already had a go at hiking some time ago but that ended in an Almaza (the local beer) fiasco, …not in a bad way though, it was actually quite funny. We agreed to hook up with a group of British and Australian “hikers”. Arriving half an hour early at the rendez-vous point (you know me) I should have immediately guessed that there was something wrong. Half of the hikers were still missing at the time we were supposed to start walking but that didn’t seem to overly worry the organizers, who were much more concerned by the late arrival of the pickup truck carrying … the beer!

When the Beer-SUV finally arrived we moved on to the briefing, which, who could have guessed, was all about the locations where we would have access to the all-important resupply of fresh beer. By the time the briefing was finished a few of the more experienced Ozzie hikers were already guzzling down their third beer  ;-) Not surprising then that barely fifteen minutes into the hike we had to turn back twice because the guides took a wrong turn. Reason enough for me to stop and head back to my car, I didn’t want to end up in Syria by mistake, meeting face to face with one of our Belgian jihadists/barbarians looking around for an easy target to behead...

So we changed tactics and company and went into the Shouf with a local guide from a tour company.

Located south-east of Beirut, the Shouf region comprises a narrow coastal strip notable for the Christian town of Damour, and the valleys and mountains of the western slopes of Jabal Barouk, the name of the local Mount Lebanon massif. Shouf is the heartland of the Lebanese Druze community, with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt residing at the Jumblatt palace in the town of Moukhtara. Despite a bloody history (more on that later), the Shouf is one of the best-preserved Lebanese districts and its nature has been generally spared from the intense building frenzy that has spoiled most of the rest of Lebanon.

On the way to the location where we would start the hike the guide told us a little bit more about the history of the region. It went a little bit like this (beware: science content!)...

… Around 60 BC the Romans arrived in the region and killed the Phoenicians. Then the Sunni Muslims came and killed the Romans, followed by the Shia who killed the Sunnis. Not wanting to stay standing useless at the sidelines the Maronites then swooped in and killed the Druze after which the Christian crusaders marched in and did what they were excellent at: killing all of the above.

After that the Ottomans killed the Christians … and it went on like this for some time. I must confess that it all got a bit confused and blurry who exactly was killed by whom and when after the Ottomans; I might have skipped a few killing sprees; but you still get the picture I guess? There has always been and still is a lot of killing going on in the Middle East. Bis repetita non placent – history repeats itself.

Also, apparently and despite being very occupied bashing each other’s head in, they all still found enough time in their busy killing schedules to cut down most of the giant Cedar Tree forests that covered the area now known as Lebanon. Leaving only a few of the famous Cedar Trees standing, most of them on the Lebanese flag.

Back to our hike then which started at the village of Mrusti and headed toward the village of Baadarane. I’m not going to bore you with too much detail, just to tell you that it was a 12 Km peaceful hike, which took us to some really spectacular and relatively pristine landscapes. Sonja brought her macro lens and her camera, spent some time on her belly ;-) and made a few splendid photos of flowers not bigger than a few mm.

But enough verbal diarrhea, I’ll let you enjoy the views.

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