Winter casts a veil of snowy white upon our mountains, as spring breathes life into our rivers and waterfalls. Listening to the sounds of nature and discovering hidden gems make life in this small country an absolute dream. As you drive up from Batroun along a scenic road up the hills and mountains, Tannourine with its entire natural splendor opens up like a woman’s bust embracing the horizon beneath it.
Tannourine is located in the highest mountains of the Batroun District, in the North of Lebanon. The town includes five villages: Tannourine El-Tahta, Tannourine El-Fawqa, Houb, Shatine and Balaa connected to each other with a breathtaking series of sculpture-like mountains.
Tannourine’s name stems from the town’s geography, which resembles the convex form of an oven called the tannoor. The “ine” is probably in proportion to the presence of 2 areas that make up this town, the Lower Tannourine and the upper Tannourine areas.
Tannourine is the plural of the Syriac word Tannour. A Tannour is an old stone oven used in ancient times. The very first settlers established a number of Tannours in Tannourine-Al-Fawqa, and later settled down the valley in Tannourine-Al-Tahta, where a more fertile landscape allowed local agriculture to thrive. However, in Aramaic “Tannourine” means two mountains and this reflects more accurately the geographic nature of Tannourine, which is surrounded by high mountains.
The village also shares its name with a cedar forest of some 60,000 trees, The Tannourine cedars forest nature reserve, making it the largest and densest cedar reserve in Lebanon. Ninety percent of the trees in the forest are cedars. The landscape overlooking the historic valley of Ain-Al-Raha is ideal for the culture of cedars, which grow in abundance. These cedars can be seen along the road that goes north to Hadath al-Jebbeh, which winds its way through wild and isolated scenery up to the Kadisha Valley gorge, leading to Bsharri.
The Nahr-Al-Joze (the walnut river) originating from two springs above Tannourine, the 30km long river lined with walnut trees, serpents through the valley, bordering a number of Lebanese Restaurants, flows its way into the sea, offering along the way magical scenery and beautiful old water mills and bridges. The river has formed a number of natural pools of stagnant clear water that can be explored higher up towards the source.
In the valley of Tannourine-Al-Tahta lies a nearly-intact Roman aqueduct and a decrepit reservoir and Roman Cistern at its side. It is a testament that the fertility of that valley was being exploited since at least the 1st century AD.
Higher up in the mountains, in the now abandoned village of Ain-Al-Raha are found a number of 6th century and Crusader-era churches that many scholars believe to be one of the earliest known proofs of the presence of Christianity in the upper Levant. Indeed, according to the legend, Ain-Al-Raha (literally: source of relief) was during the 11th to 13th century a safe haven for defeated crusaders.
Above on a hill, stands an abandoned monastery sheltered in the hollow cave on the face of the mountain. It is believed that the 16th century remains were constructed in a way to meld into the mountain to create a “camouflage” of sorts; and indeed unless you intend to search for it, you’d be hard-pressed to locate it immediately. Such caution was employed in order to thwart Ottoman army, which wished to seize the Levant and eventually did.
There is something quiet spiritual about the high open country that leads to the cedar forest of Tannourine before dropping into the rocky valleys that find their way to Tannourine el Faouqa. The entire area is covered by snow in winter and turns into a rejuvenating lush green tapestried land in spring and summer. Tannourine, opens up to the Mediterranean sea sheltered by the exposed skies, is a true verdant treasure with its stunning mountainous landscapes, with cedars seemingly defying gravity and growing on extremely vertical slopes.
Mountain climbing in Tannourine: