Simply known as "The Cedars", this resort settlement in
Lebanon's highest range is one of the most dramatically beautiful spots in
Its centerpiece is an ancient grove of cedars, a tree synonymous for
millennia with Lebanon itself.
Just below The Cedars is the town of Bsharre, birthplace of Gibran Khalil
The most exciting way to get to The Cedars is from Deir
al Ahmar in the Beqaa valley. The road snakes up the bare eastern slopes
of Mount Lebanon presenting marvelous views at every turn. As you get
higher, at the crest you look down the other side into a gigantic bowl
where the ski resort, the cedar grove and the Qadisha gorge lie before you
in a wide-angle panorama. Plan this route for summer or fall because snow
closes the pass in winter.
more direct way to The Cedars is from Chekka (south of Tripoli) to Bsharre.
Two roads lead from Bsharre village to the cedars, about seven kilometers
up the mountain. The older road, known for its hairpin curves, leads past
the entrance path of the Qadisha grotto. The new road, with more gentle
engineering, is kept clear in winter for painfree ascent. Whichever way
you take, the vistas are beautiful, especially when fog rises from the
You first arrive at a large assortment of hotels, chalets, night clubs and restaurants, which thought not a village, does
form a local community of residents, visitors and local proprietors. About a kilometer further on is the famous Cedar grove
where the road is lined with the inevitable souvenir stands and small
restaurants. the same road continues to the ski area at 2,066 meters and
goes over the mountain and down into the Beqaa valley.
The Cedars is a resort for all seasons. In summer the
high elevation makes it a wonderful escape from
| the humid coast while in
winter skiing is the favorite activity.
Bsharre Cedar Grove
Cedars of Jaj
|The Cedars in History
As remote as they are, the cedars are not untouched by
history. The grove we see today descends from an immense primeval forest of
cedars and other trees such as cypress, pine and oak that once covered most of
Mount Lebanon including part of its east facing slopes.
The Cedar is an historical entity mentioned often in the
Bible and other ancient texts and it played an important part in the culture,
trade and religious observances of the ancient Middle East. Serious exploitation
of these forests began in the third millennium B.C., coastal towns such as
Over the centuries,
Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians made expedition to Mount Lebanon for timber
or extracted tributes of wood from the coastal cities of Canaan-Phoenicia. The
Phoenicians themselves made use of the cedar, especially for their merchant
fleets. Solomon requested large supplies of cedar wood, along with architects
and builders from King Hiram of Tyre to build his temple.
Nebuchadnezzar boasted on a cuneiform, inscription: "I brought
for building, mighty cedars, which I cut down with my pure hands on
Mount Lebanon". Prized for its fragrance and durability, the
length of the great logs made cedar wood especially desirable. Cedar
was important for shipbuilding and
used for the roofs of the temples, to construct tombs and other
The Egyptians used cedar resin for mummification, and pitch was
extracted from these trees for waterproofing and caulking.
In the second century A.D., the Roman Emperor
Hadrian attempted to protect the forest with boundary markers, most
carved into living rock, others in the form of separate engraved
stones. Today over 200 such markers have been recorded, allowing
scholars to make an approximate reconstruction of the ancient forest
boundaries. Two of these markers, carved in abbreviated Latin, can
be seen at the American University of Beirut Museum. In the centuries after Hadrian, Lebanon's trees
were used extensively as fuel, especially for lime burning kilns. In
the Middle Ages mountain villagers cleared forests for farmland,
using the wood for fuel and construction. The Ottomans in the 19th
century destroyed much of the forest cover and during World War II
British troops used the wood to build railroad between Tripoli and
Cedar Tree Itself
Of the immense forests of history only isolated
patches of cedars are found in Lebanon today. Growing at high
elevations, often in craggy difficult-to-reach locations, these
majestic trees still stir the imagination.
In the north of the country, stands of cedars
grow in the Horsh Ehden Nature Preserve. More inaccessible
are the trees near Hadeth al-Jubbeh, whose shape has been
changed by trimming, and the cedars near Tannourine.
In Jaj near Laqlouq isolated specimens of
cedars are still scattered on the rocky peaks above the town. Deep
in the Shouf district on top of Mount Barouk, cedars some 350
years old grow in an enclosed grove. These trees, which are in
pristine condition, can be easily admired from outside the
protective wall. Above the town of Maaser esh-Shouf, there is another cedar forest, which has an
extended view of the Beqaa valley.
Cedar trees also grow in nearby Ain
The most famous cedars, known as
Arz el Rab or Cedars of the Lord, are those of Bsharre. Only
in 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
Four of them, many hundreds of years old, have reached a
height of 35 meters and their trunks are between 12 and 14 meters around. They have straight trunks and strong
branches that spread their regular horizontal boughs like fans. Also among the inhabitants of the forests are
some thousand young
The Cedar at the entrance
recent decades to ensure the future of this national resource. The
slow-growing cedar, with its long life span, requires at least 40
years before it can even produce fertile seeds. Like any other
treasure of great antiquity, the Bsharre cedar grove requires
special care and protection. Concern for this modern remnant of
historic cedars goes back to 1876 when the 102-hectare grove was
surrounded by a high stone wall.
Financed by Great Britain's Queen Victoria, the
wall protects against one of the cedar's natural enemies, the goats
who enjoy feasting on young saplings.
More recently, a "Committee of the Friends of the Cedar
Forest", organized in 1985, is attempting to deal with the
damage and disease - brought by both man and nature - that afflicts
the trees. To improve the general health and appearance of the
forest, the Committee has removed tons of dead wood and fertilized
the soil. Various pests and diseases are being treated and lightning
rods have been installed for further protection. Three thousand
meters of attractive pathways have been built so visitors can enjoy
the grove without causing damage.
Also due for attention is a Maronite chapel in the center of the
forest. Built in 1843 when these cedars were under the protection of
the Patriarchate, the chapel is the scene of a special annual celebration on the
6th of August.
Cedars forest may be visited daily except Monday.
A moderate entrance fee is charged. Guides are available for
the pleasant walk through the grove.
in The Cedars
The scenery and the quality of the snow make
The Cedars an exceptional skiing venue. The pistes form a natural
amphitheater, and the high elevation means the season usually lasts from
December through April.
A French army ski school opened here in the 1930's and
the handsome building, which now belongs to the Lebanese army, can still
be seen near the cedar grove. The chair lift, installed in 1953, is no
longer in use but the main runs are equipped with five T-bar lifts. There
are also four baby slopes with lifts. Ski rentals are available from local
shops, which also arrange ski lessons with qualified instructors. Snack bars, hotels and restaurants service the ski area.
More facilities are available at The Cedars "village" and in
Bsharre, 15 minutes down the mountain.
The Cedars Ski Resort
The Cedars Area
The Cedars resort is set in an area of unusual
natural and historical interest. In only 30 minutes you can drive from the crest of the mountain which
soars nearly 3,000 meters above the resort, down to the bottom of the
steep-sided Qadisha gorge at less than
1,000 meters. Within this area are rivers, springs, waterfalls, caves and
other natural formations as well as rock-cut churches, monasteries and
interesting villages to visit. There is always the promise of a friendly
welcome from the hospitable people who live there.
details on how to visit
the monasteries and cave churches of Qadisha,
see the Ministry of Tourism's brochure, "One Day in Lebanon:
you have time
An interesting tour can be made of the
villages around the horseshoe-shaped rim of the Qadisha valley. if
you are driving to The Cedars via the village of Qnat, the
first village you come to on the south side of the gorge is Hadeth al-Jubbeh,
a town which goes back to at least the early 6th century A.D. A stop
here is recommended for the wonderful view of Qadisha.
Next comes Diman, the summer residence of the
Maronite Patriarch since the 19th century. The sites overlooks the
Monastery of Qannoubin, an early seat of the Patriarchy. From
Diman a steep path takes you down to the gorge.
The Gibran Museum
far from Diman is Hasroun, a red-roofed town that hugs the
edge of the Qadisha valley. This village is known for its
picturesque dwellings, old churches and gardens.
A pleasant pathway descends from here past several ancient churches
into Qadisha valley. Bqaa Kafra, reached via a turnoff from Bqorqacha,
is the highest village in the country at 1,600 meters.
This picturesque town is also the birthplace of Lebanon's Saint
Charbel, born in 1828.
At the head of the gorge is Bsharre the hometown
of Gibran Khalil Gibran.
Gibran Museum in the monastery of Mar Sarkis is open in
winter from 9 am to 5 pm daily, except Monday, and everyday
Bsharre you go around the horseshoe to Hadchit, dramatically perched on a
ledge over the gorge. If you get off the main road and into the older part of
town you'll find traditional houses and streets, the typical town square and
some old churches.
| A path starting from the lower town level, goes to bottom of
the valley. Anyone looking for souvenirs of cedar wood would do well to
stop at the workshops of Blawza before heading up to The Cedars resort.
This small town not far from Hadchit, is also the starting point for walks to
Diman or the Qannoubin Monastery in the valley.
On the old road between The Cedars and Bsharre
a long path on
the side of the cliff leads to the small Qadisha Grotto. Below the cave gushes
out a powerful waterfall, especially full in the spring months. It is possible
to visit the limestone formations.
The Cedars of Barouk
|Climb Lebanon's Highest Peak
You can ascend the 3088-meter high
(or Black Horn), by foot or take advantage of a rough track suitable for
four-wheel drive vehicles.
Allow a whole day if you want to make the entire ascent and
return by foot. The initial climb, following the path of the chair lift, takes
you about two hours and brings you to a small hut at the end of the lift. From
here you hike north along the top for another hour. Look for patches of last's
winter snow and porcupine quills along the way.
| An easier way to the top is to take a road suitable for
four-wheel drive vehicles that starts at Dahr el-Qadib on the highest point on
the road between the Cedars and Yammouneh in the Beqaa. From the summit, which is marked by a large metallic tripod,
you have a panoramic view of the coast of Lebanon towards the west. It is said
that on a clear day the island of Cyprus can be seen.
From the Cedars, a summer excursion takes you east over
the mountain towards the Beqaa valley to Ouyoun Orghoch. Here tented
restaurants cluster around a large spring fed wetland where trout are farmed.
Cold waters keep drinks chilled on the warmest days. In the spring an dearly
summer expect to be presented with snow instead of ice for your arak.
- BYBLOS -
GROTTO - TRIPOLI - SIDON
(AANJAR - BAALBECK - TYRE
EGYPT - SYRIA - JORDAN