The largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south and overlooks both the Bekaa valley to the east and the Shouf valley to the west. Blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes, the reserves most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Al-Shouf, Barouk, and Ain Zhalta. At the local level several of the cedar stands are recognized as outstanding scenic landscapes, the larger cedars contributing in a most distinctive way to the landscape. It covers an area of 50,000 hectares, equivalent to about 5% of the overall area of Lebanon, making it one of the largest mountain protected areas in the Middle East.
The western slope of the mountain, with the different patches of cedar forests gives way to the surrounding villages. There are 28 villages in the transition area. It also includes two protected areas, Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve and Ammiq Wetland. The area encompasses a number of important vegetation zones and represents one of the few remaining natural landscapes of Mount Lebanon that were described in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament as well as in countless documents throughout written history.
The Shouf Biosphere Reserve has special significance for the maintenance of wildlife habitats. In addition to its cedar (25% of the remaining Cedrus libani forests in Lebanon) and oak ecosystems, it represents the best prospect for the long-term conservation of the larger mammal species such as wolf, wildcat and striped hyena. The area is also rich in archaeological and cultural heritage with sites such as Niha Fort and Mukhtara Palace. The project helps ensure the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the region by encouraging wise use of natural and human resources.
As you walk trough this reserve, and it really doesn’t matter by which entrance you enter, you can’t help but feel astounded by nature’s fine composition. Its music so close to the heart hums along with nonchalance. Swaying branches join the harmony. Winds dance to the timeless rhythm. Silent echoes from the mountains call out to solitary souls. There is a spiritual solitude to this whole area, an eternal bliss in tune with nature.
I love everything about this massive project that aims to safeguard a natural treasure that was handed to us to care for. The most amazing thing in all nature is nature herself. The trees, the birds, and the flowers are all connected as one. Standing there somehow among this dazzling creation, humbled by those epic tall trees, one can’t help but feel a connection to it too, like roots that suddenly become interwoven in land.
As you walk through it, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but the pride in belonging to a land with such magnificence.
the picture I posted is taken by Fadi Masri in the Barouk Reserve