Cedars to Sea: The ancient Phoenician playground

Shouf Biosphere Reserve & Tyre Coast Nature Reserve

This package was coordinated by MEET project parnter Al Shouf Cedar Society and MedPAN and created by the managers and the people of the protected areas of Shouf Cedar Biosphere reserve and Tyre Coast .

The tour is provided by the local tour operator Responsible Mobilities. 

This test tour is a result of the MEET project’s objective to develop an integrated strategy to settle an Eco-Tourism Development Model for the Mediterranean Protected Areas that boosts a better seasonal distribution of tourism flows. By participating in this tour you will be part of a small group contributing to the development of a new sustainable travel concept which aims to support conservation and benefit the local communities…

NOTE: This tour is designed for curious, open-minded travelers willing to learn from and share with locals. Natural, gastronomical, historical and cultural discovery (approx. 5 hour hikes).

Country Profile: Lebanon

Lebanon is essentially a mountain, situated on the eastern side of the Mediterranean sea and composed of two chains running north to south: the green Mount Lebanon and the semi-arid Anti Lebanon, with the fertile Beqaa Valley in the middle. Lebanon is famous for its biblical cedar trees and snow summits worshipped for thousands of years by Phoenician ancestors.

Today all cedar forests of Lebanon are protected, with the Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve, playing a leading role in protecting the landscapes and preserving the local culture among the populations of the villages, and flagging a growing mobilization for sustainable development .

Discovering Lebanon is experiencing the evocative force of Mount Lebanon and its millenary cedars, the spectacular remains of Byblos and Baalbek, the cheerful mood and legendary hospitality of the Lebanese people, who has an extraordinary capacity of adaptation, a boundless creativity.

A wide range of hiking trails is waiting for the visitor to stride the mountains and valleys, protected areas and villages partners with the MEET network. Pristine nature, rich culture, abundant history, mouth-watering gastronomy and lovely people compose an astonishing setting for the heart of the traveller.

Welcome to Lebanon.

The Protected Areas

Al-Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve globes the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, the Aammiq wetlands Protected Area and more than 24 villages in the vicinity of the Barouk mountain which culminates to 1980 meters above sea level.

The nature reserve has an area of 550Km2. The western slopes of the Barouk mountain are mainly covered with cedar forests while the eastern slopes overlooking the Beqaa Valley are covered mainly with oak forests. Among the 500 species listed by scientists, the reserve is habitat to 214 species restricted to the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle East area; 25 internationally and nationally threatened species, 48 species endemic to Lebanon, especially the Luke sub-species of the Brant’s oak. The reserve forms the last natural limit of the Lebanese cedar (Cedrus libani) on the globe.

Another interesting feature of the reserve is the fauna (32 mammals) and birds (200 species) diversity. The quiet visitor would cross a group of wild boars or watch the traces of the grey wolf, which came back to the Barouk mountain after long efforts of management and protection to the natural habitat.

The reserve is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and has a wide range of important cultural sites to be discovered.

The Tyre Coast Nature Reserve is a coastal protected area covering 3,8Km2. It is situated south of Tyre city and its sandy beaches are divided into three main zones: the conservation zone, the agricultural zone, and the tourism zone. The reserve is designated a RAMSAR wetland site and is an important sanctuary not only for migratory and local birds, but as well for the loggerhead and the green sea turtles. The flora biodiversity is very important in the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve and is mainly composed of sandy beach species such as the sand lily (Pancratium maritimum).

The reserve contains historical fresh water sources called Ras el-Aain, which flows towards the sea creating a fresh/marine water interface.

A huge cultural heritage embraces the TCNR, and stretches over centuries from the era of the Phoenician ancestors to today’s local fishermen descendants.

LOCATION


How this tour embodies the MEET Values

Soft discovery, rythmed by hiking trails of easy and medium level difficulty, leads the visitor to meet with the local inhabitants of Lebanon. In the vicinity of the protected areas or in the main cities and remote villages of Lebanon, authentic discoveries are carefully tailored by the local tour operator. Responsible attitude is the main focus of the travel, allowing nature laws understanding, environment respect and protection activities, besides understanding of the local traditions of local inhabitants.

Conservation Challenges & Opportunities

The park area is characterised by a high diversity of environments. Proceeding from the sea inland there are the beaches, the dunes, the wetland area behind the dunes, fossil dunes and ancient olive groves. In the protected area there are several natural habitats, some of which are likely to disappear from the EU territory and require a special attention.

Lebanon is classified as one of the 25 biodiversity hot spots on earth by IUCN due to its special geophysical and topographic features.

There is a considerable number of endemic species distributed in different habitats of Lebanon. Among these the visitor finds the Brant’s Luke oak subspecies in the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve and the Lebanese cyclamen (Cyclamen libanotica) or peony (Paeonia Keserouanensis) in Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve or the wild white orchid in Ehden Forest Nature reserve.

The cedar tree in Lebanon is endangered: the reason why since many decades it is subject to protection by the government and different associations. Among them and as a leader is the Al Shouf Cedar Society who manages the Al-Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve, and succeeded in allowing the come-back of the grey wolf.

Other endangered species is the sea turtles which are protected in the waters of southern Lebanon due to the efforts of many associations, among them the Tyre Coast Nature reserve conservation team.

PRE DEPARTURE GUIDE

View the tour itinerary and route map here.

Before you depart, please consider the following:

Visa requirements

USA, Canadian, Australian, British, Netherlands passports holders can have their visas for free at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport upon arrival.

Currency

Lebanese Pounds. But US dollars are widely used as well.

You can exchange in Beirut led by your tour leader

1 US$ = 1500 LBP

Weather Conditions

Depending on the season, the weather changes significantly. Check the weather here.

Clothing tips

To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip, please take with you:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hat
  • Water flask
  • Fleece
  • Winter windbreaker jacket
  • Rain coat/Poncho
  • 30litre back-pack

Insurance, Health and Safety

An insurance covering each participant during transportation and all activities which are part of the program, is provided. Participants are also advised to take out their own personal travel insurance.

No photography is recommended near military zones or check points

Tap water is not drinkable in Lebanon, but you can bring your own water bottle and refill from large bottles.

Important Religious & Cultural Considerations

No special concerns concerning women in Lebanon other than the common sense. Guests will need to cover up for any visits to religious churches or mosques. Women live very normally in Lebanon.

No special recommendations or concerns other than the common sense, when entering a private house or a cult site.

In Christian communities one can act similar to the western world, while within Muslim communities, sometimes one has to expect that men do not shake hands with women especially in rural areas, or separate rooms between men and women; your tour leader will lead you in this.

Electricity/adaptors

Residential voltage: 230 V, Frequency: 50 Hz, Plug type: C, F, L, Plug standard: CEI 23-34 CEI 23-50

ON ARRIVAL

Transportation

Pick-up at reception area inside the airport, corresponding to the time of flight arrival to Beirut. Drop-off at departure area at airport, corresponding to departure flight time from Beirut. Your tour operator will contact you to arrange arrival and departure transfers.

Accommodation

Hotels in Beirut (double occupancy in twin bed rooms, bathrooms and toilets in each room, towels and bed linen are provided)

Guesthouses, family run hotels in villages (shared rooms and bathrooms, bed linen are provided, towels are not provided)

Tipping

Tips are expected in restaurants, but not in guesthouses.

Tipping the driver is not compulsory, and is upon satisfaction of visitors (in general it represents 10US$ per day for the group)

The tour leader do not expect any tipping from visitors

Food

Food in Lebanon is very diverse and healthy – Mediterranean style (Vegetables, fruits, grains (lentils, wheat, bourghol…), meat (veal, sheep, chicken) fish; pork exists but is rare. We use sesamy oil in many dishes.

Lebanese traditionally eat a lot of meat (at every meal) but vegetarian and vegan food is always available.

Shopping & Local Products

During the trip, there will be a lot of opportunities to buy local food products, especially in the nature reserve’s shops.

Souvenirs are found in tourist markets such as in Byblos or in Cedars region.

Your MEET Tour Leader

Your MEET tour leader will meet you upon your arrival and be with you until your departure. They will be the connection between you – the traveller – and the local people & territory, sharing their local knowledge and advice on how best to enjoy your unique experience. Their role is to ensure that all aspects of your trip run smoothly. It sometimes happens that unexpected situations may occur, in which case your leader will keep you well informed and may require your cooperation and understanding. If you have any questions or concerns at any point, they are there to assist you, so don’t hesitate to ask!