| 20.08,09. 01:15 PM |
Chouf's Cedar Reserve lures 20,000 tourists
CHOUF: Tourism in the Chouf region this summer has been primarily environment-friendly as the region’s Cedar Reserve had recorded 20,000 visitors since the start of the summer season. The Chouf Cedar Reserve offers a special program this season dubbed “Ecotourism Package” for its tourists who come to enjoy one of UNESCO’s declared biosphere reserves
As part of the package, tourists and locals get the opportunity to discover the largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves and to experience life in the countryside.
Visitors can not only enjoy walking between the historic cedar trees but also discover the traditions, cuisine and folkloric artifacts found in neighboring villages.
Stretching from Dahr al-Baidar in the north to the Niha Mountain in the south, the reserve offers the best of Lebanon’s beautiful scenery. Hikers are able to walk from a couple of hours to five days as part of the Lebanon Mountain Trail, the first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon.
“You can enjoy nature’s flowers and birds here and then head to a nearby village to savor a home cooked traditional meal in one of the local houses” says the reserve’s scientific coordinator Nizar Hani.
Hani explains that five guest homes in the villages of Niha, Baatharan, Khraybe, Maaser and Barouk are equipped to host tourists and offer them food and shelter.
“We have organized the tours in a way to introduce visitors to the villages’ traditions, literature, poetry and artifacts,” he adds , while highlighting that one of the guest houses on the tour was built 200 years ago.
The tours organized by the reserve can also be considered a useful history lesson. The village of Niha, for example, holds a fort from the time of the famous Lebanese Prince Emir Fakhreddine and the village of Barouk is the birth place of renowned poet Rachid Nakhle.
“You can spend up to five days discovering the region,” says Hani, adding that 12 new artificial lakes had been built “under the care of Progressive Socialist Party leader and Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt.”
The lakes can hold thousands of cubic meters of water and were able to contain 90 thousand cubic meters this year according to Hani.
Development projects have been ongoing in the Chouf region and this summer’s tourism season has more than benefited from the artificial lakes.
The number of tourists to visit the Chouf Cedar Reserve has reached 20,000 visitors and is still expected to go up to 30,000 thousand.
The reserve had witnessed a record number of 28,000 visitors in 2004 but the 18-month political deadlock between 2006 and 2008 caused that number to decrease in the following years.
“This year’s ecotourism package aims at protecting the environment and benefiting the local communities,” says Hani, who is pleased that the reserve is receiving support from the Tourism Ministry.
The Chouf Cedar Reserve also collaborates with the Tourism Ministry and the Italian Embassy to promote forest fire prevention projects