The tall pines pick at sunlight piece by piece. The light splinters branch by branch lies scattered on the forest floor beneath. The innocence of the pines is obvious in this serene place.
Driving down from Jezzine, a pine tree forest stretches as far as the eye can see. Bkassine, south of Jezzine, located 70km away from Beirut, is a peaceful village gifted by nature with a large and exquisite pine forest, covering an area of 3 million square meters, making it the largest pine forest in Lebanon and the Middle East and the last to the south of Turkey.
Walking through this beguiling forest, the sun filters its warm rays through the tall pine trees, slightly brushing their feet. Crisp light snaps handsome pinecones from their place throughout the day where the fresh mint green scent of pines lingers.
In 2001, the National Institute for Heritage awarded Bkassine the first prize for its preservation as a typical traditional village. Bkassine is known for its magnificent forest, red-tile roof houses and narrow streets, the church of Our Lady of Salvation built in 1855, and Saint-Takla Church regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in Lebanon. A highlight of Bkassine’s activities is its yearly Mar Takla festival, which celebrates tradition in a magical, entertaining atmosphere at the end of September, making it one of the most popular events in south Lebanon.
Bkassine has a population of around 6,000 persons, among which only 500 live permanently in the town that extends over 507 hectares. The Bkassine Pine Forest is owned by the Municipality of Bkassine and is protected since 1997 by Decision #3 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. The forest is managed by the local community in partnership with the Union of Jezzine Municipalities UJM. “La Maison de la Forêt” is an ecotourism project launched in 2013 that serves as the main tourism information and services center for the whole Jezzine area. It contains an information center, accommodation facilities, eco-restaurant, and tourism activities.
The Village of Bkassine and other surrounding villages of the BPF are known for their mild climate, welcoming community, charming landscape, traditional architecture of stone houses topped with red tiled roofs, and a wide variety of local food and handicraft products.
As you walk through this true place of isolated beauty, its whispering pine bows caught in the slightest breeze shift gently, from right to left. Their dry needles float effortlessly to settle on the forest floor giving new depth to its thick carpet.
The pines so lofty and wise, ever stretching and growing, reach for the sky. Tender young saplings cry out for the light only to be shaded and trampled by night. A fading sky an orange glow draws on the horizon as pine trees lead the way back home, back to where nature is left to its beautiful meanderings.
And so we stood there, in this forest, predators of might yet creatures of prey. They say that the space between every pine tree is a chance to start anew. The summer drags its feet as the days pass by. My boys draw sunsets on their palms as the day stretches into night with the overwhelming scent of pine.
Those pine trees are emerald guardians of the forest, virtuous, protective, refreshing and invigorating. Rising in solitary splendor, their lofty height allows a broader view and larger perspective of things.
If they could lift you and carry you, you would pass from arm to arm, a child running from father to father, lost in a world left on its own.
With this post I bid you farewell for now, as we are going on our yearly summer vacation with the boys. I will be back on the 23 of July to Beirut, and i will be back to writing on the 25th.
Wishing you all a great summer, until we meet again, virtually that is on the 25th of July…