March 29, 2009

Tannourine Cedars Nature Reserve
Beit Meri, Lebanon

A particularly special (and rather physically strenuous) day trip occurred today: a visit up to a mountainous nature preserve containing the famous cedar trees of Lebanon—some of the only remaining remnants in the country after several millennia of harvesting.

The Lebanon Cedar is an evergreen that can grow up to 130 feet tall, with a trunk up to 8 feet diameter. The tree is cone-shaped when young, becoming broadly tabular with age with generally level branches.

The trees were used by the ancient Phoenicians for building trade and military ships, as well as houses and temples. The Egyptians used its resin for mummification, and its sawdust was found in pharaohs' tombs. Kings far and near requested the wood for religious and civil constructs, the most famous of which are King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and David's and Solomon's Palaces. It was also used by Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians.

The cedar tree is a prominent feature of the Lebanese flag. It has been used as a symbol by the Christians of Lebanon since the 18th and 19th centuries. The tree represents peace, immortality and tolerance. The red stripes symbolize self-sacrifice, and the white represents the snow-capped peaks of Lebanon's mountains.

And it was today, atop one of those icy snow-capped peaks that Riyad, my seasoned mountaineering host, and I trudged around in the often waist-deep snowfall to get some better off-trail views of the cedars—akin to climbing a Stairmaster in the freezer.

I was leant a pair of slightly too small but still wearable boots for the excursion (soaked to the bone with melted snow/ice within 30 minutes), and wished for a pair of snowshoes every time we crossed the lightly depressed tracks of more prepared individuals with my wildly sunken strides.

Feet wet and heart frantically pounding (from a lack of cardio endurance these days), I basked in the green and white beauty of the Lebanese forest. What an amazing experience.

Riyad told me that the only reason this reserve of cedars escaped the ravages of the civil war and general deforestation is because of all the landmines (now mostly cleared) that were dumped into the area during the war. The mines saved the forest, which eventually became a nature reserve a decade ago.

…Makes me wonder how long it'll be before a group extremer than Greenpeace starts mining parts of the rainforest in the name of preservation.




May 30th, 2009

Hi Craig, The pictures are stunning. I knew about snow in Lebanon but not so much! Wow!



May 31st, 2009

Looks great man. Keep up the great posts!

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