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Hiking the Country of the Cedars on the Lebanon Mountain Trail
Hiking the Country of the Cedars on the Lebanon Mountain Trail
Sara Lebbos

The Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) is the first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon. This 470-km (293 miles) path extends from Andqet in the north, to Marjaayoun in the south. It transects more than 75 towns and villages at altitudes ranging from 670 meters to 2,011 meters (about 1,840-6,000 feet) above sea level. We gave it a try... and we don’t' regret it! Along the way, we met some hikers that reached the last village marking out the path that crosses the country from South to North. They shared their impressions with us.

The hikers are exhausted yet beaming with joy as they reach their destination after finishing the last section of the trail. The mayor of the northern town greets them with a warm welcome and certificates in an official ceremony. champagne, fresh homemade Saj, and a group of cheering local scouts are awaiting the brave hikers who are sparkling with excitement and are happy to share their experiences of the walk with us.

“About three million Lebanese don’t even know that this exists”

Adrian, aged 72, came all the way from Hampshire in the UK to participate in the walk. This is the second time he has completed the giant hike. Initially he had come to Lebanon to visit his son who works in Beirut. Once in Lebanon, he decided to go on the hike in 2010 and immediately fell in love with Lebanon’s “magnificent scenery.” He is amazed about the fact that “about three million Lebanese don’t even know that this exists.” A passionate hiker, Adrian has gone on many hikes around the globe yet this is the first time he has gone on the same hike twice. When asked about the reason, he smiles and responds “I particularly enjoy the hospitality here. Everywhere we’ve been to people were hospitable, they invited us for coffee. This is something I particularly appreciate.” Also “the project [LMT] joins all the local communities together down the trail. For example, a guide we had four days ago, came all the way up to see us.”

Rosine, a fellow hiker of Adrian comments “I don’t wanna go home, I want to stay here in nature. This is a very strong and beautiful experience.” She adds “it was so much fun to see all the beautiful nature, the sound of the birds, the smell of the plants, even that of the path and the soil, everything was such a wonderful experience.”

Supporting the local rural economy

The LMT original project, the first of its kind in Lebanon, was inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the United States. It was finished in 2007 (with the help of a grant from USAID).

The noble aim of the LMT project can be summed up in three words: “conservation, education and development,” the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association explains. “We aim to support the local rural economy. Eco tourism is one way of supporting the economy without degrading the landscape. We have a different Philosophy. We protect what we have. We are not building concrete buildings and roads.” The association also whishes to “turn the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association into an educative system” to sensibilise the Lebanese on whose list of priorities environmentalism and conservation have been low.

The Lebanon Mountain Trail can be hiked at any time of the year. Maps and guidebooks can be bought from the LMTA’s office in Baabda. Their friendly staff, all of which are experienced hikers, can give helpful advice on hiking the LMT. Contact details of local guides and accommodation can be found on their website alongside practical tips on hiking equipment. The annual ‘thru-walk’ of the entire trail with guides, accommodation and transport arranged by the LMTA is an excellent opportunity to explore the trail. Those who cannot spare a month to complete the entire walk can join the walk for any length of time.

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